By – Chris Porter
Oswego’s Randy Ritskes and Mexico’s Michael Barnes became the first repeat winners of the 2014 season Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway, each taking a winning share of Novelis Supermodified Twin 35-lap features.
As is all too often part of the story on Twin-35 nights, attrition was high. Ritskes would take the checkered flag with only half of the field remaining on the track. However, he did so in solid fashion, leading all 35 trips around Oswego’s fast five-eighths mile. Pressed by Liverpool’s Kody Graham for much of the way, Ritskes would eventually gain the upper hand and earn his 11th career win. He would later drive the same Ken Locke-owned No. 37 to a sixth-place finish in the second 35-lapper.
Listen to – Randy Ritskes
Fresh off his win last Saturday night, Barnes was in the midst of a three-way battle for the lead in the first main event, but fell victim to a wrong lane choice that ended up damaging and sidelining his No. 68 super. However, he returned strong in the second 35-lapper, bolting from the 12th starting spot into contention for the win, with under 10 laps to go.
He would take the lead on a heart-stopping move in turn No. 3, going from third to first, but a caution flag would negate the pass. However, Barnes would not be denied, retaking the top spot in another dramatic pass on the ensuing restart. He would race the Syrell Racing No. 68 the final laps unchallenged en route to the win.
Listen to – Michael Barnes
Ritskes would nab the lead at the drop of the green to start feature No. 1. Tim Snyder, Dave Danzer, Graham and Barnes would command the top five positions after their maiden lap. Ritskes jumped out to a quick 10-car advantage over Snyder. By their seventh circuit, both Graham and Barnes had moved around Snyder and had begun cutting into the race leader’s advantage. That margin was eventually erased after the Shaun Gosselin walloped the outside wall on the backstretch. Heavy front-end damage would put an end to the Chicago resident’s night.
The caution on the 15th lap would tighten the field. Ritskes led Graham, Barnes, Snyder and David Gruel. Danzer, Michael Muldoon, Otto Sitterly, Keith Shampine and Dan Connors, Jr. filled out the top 10.
A mechanical failure on Pat Lavery’s Double Deuce Racing No. 22, sent it hard into the outside, third-turn wall on the following restart. A complete rebuild of the front end of the potent super was in store for Lavery’s crew if they wanted to start race No. 2.
Ritskes looked solid on the restart, while Gruel shot underneath Snyder to take over fourth. The lead trio would enter lapped traffic on the 29th lap. While Ritskes and Graham took the open high lane around the slower cars, Barnes would take a shot down low in hopes of besting Graham for second. However, he would only find the rear of Brian Sweeney’s No. 3. Barnes would make contact, sending Sweeney around and damaging his own No. 68.
Just a lap into the ensuing restart, Bobby Haynes spun his No. 44 in front of Lou LeVea Sr.’s No. 66. The two would come together, with Lou LeVea, Jr. and Brandon Bellinger nosing into the fray. Fireworks would erupt between pilots of the No. 66 and No. 44 and punches were thrown. LeVea Jr. would eventually get involved as well. The night was over for all three drivers. Bellinger and his No. 02 would later return, but at less than 100 percent.
Ritskes would look strong on the restart and that was all he would need. He raced unchallenged the rest of the way to pick up the win.
Graham, Gruel, Sitterly and Danzer would complete the top five.
Snyder wouldn’t be denied at the drop of the green flag in race No. 2, taking the point away from Stephen Gioia, III. The Tilton, N.H. resident would lead Shampine, Muldoon, Gioia and Connors to complete lap No. 1.
Graham was on the move early. Starting ninth on the grid, his No. 90 busted into the top five on the third lap, taking over fourth one trip later. He would chase third place for a few rounds before sailing around Shampine’s No. 55 to earn it on the seventh lap.
On Graham’s heels, 12th-place starting Barnes would work his way underneath the No. 55 for fourth on lap No. 9. By the race’s 10th circuit, Snyder held a 10-car length lead over tight-running Muldoon and Graham. Fourth-place Barnes was quickly closing in on the runner-up duo.
Just as soon as he caught him, Barnes took a shot down low on Graham for third. The two would race side-by-side until Graham reclaimed his ground. Snyder’s laps would begin to slow as his nearest chasers would draw him in at the halfway mark. Behind them, Gruel and Sitterly had just begun reeling in the lead foursome.
Barnes finally found room under Graham on the 19th lap and wasted no time on going to work on Muldoon’s No. 51. Snyder’s lap times continued to slow, as seeking his first win, Muldoon was feverishly searching for away around the No. 0. However, on the 28th lap, Muldoon took to the outside of Snyder for the lead. Instantly, Barnes pounced on the open ground and dove under, both, Muldoon and Snyder as the trio raced three abreast into turn No. 3. Barnes would claim the lead, but a precautionary yellow would fly for Muldoon’s No. 51.
Caught up in the marbles high on the outside, Muldoon’s No. 50 would get squirrelly, but come back under control. However, his near incident summoned a caution flag, sending him to the rear of the field and Barnes back behind Snyder’s No. 0.
Snyder regained the lead, but was now all but a sitting duck to Barnes’ No. 68. Graham, Gruel and Sitterly filled out the top five behind them. As the green flag flew, Graham knew he would only have one shot at Barnes on the ensuing restart. Shooting to the outside of the No. 68, he and Barnes would end up going high and low around Snyder, with Barnes coming out ahead of the pack.
Once out in front, Barnes was untouchable. Graham would have nothing for the race leader. Snyder would fall into the clutches of Gruel and Sitterly and continue to fade.
Barnes would eventually build a 15-car advantage over the No. 90. Graham would hold the same over Gruel and Sitterly. The foursome would remain unchanged the rest of the way. Graham, Gruel and Sitterly would end up having identical finishes in both races, earning pairs of second, third and fourth-place finishes.
Listen to – Kody Graham
Listen to – Dave Gruel
Listen to – Otto Sitterly
Snyder would earn two, top-10 finishes on the night – sixth and eighth.
Listen to – Tim Snyder
Shampine was one of only six drivers landing two, top-10 finishes as well.
Listen to – Keith Shampine
After pounding the wall in feature No. 1, Lavery and the Double-Deuce Racing team did an incredible job repairing the mangled front of their No. 22 racer. Lavery would bounce back with a seventh-place finish in the second feature.
Listen to – Pat Lavery
Novelis Supermodified 1st Twin 35: 1. Randy Ritskes (37), 2. Kody Graham (90), 3. David Gruel (50), 4. Otto Sitterly (7), 5. Dave Danzer (52), 6. Tim Snyder (0), 7. Michael Muldoon (51), 8. Keith Shampine (88), 9. Joe Gosek (00), 10. Jessica Zemken (11), 11. Tim Devendorf (5), 12. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 13. Bobby Haynes (44), 14. Lou LeVea, Sr. (66), 15. Brandon Bellinger (02), 16. Michael Barnes (68), 17. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 18. Brian Sweeney (3), 19. Joey Payne (99), 20. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 21. Shaun Gosselin (26), 22. Pat Lavery (22), 23. Hal LaTulip (56)
Novelis Supermodified 2nd Twin 35: 1. Michael Barnes. (68), 2. Kody Graham (90), 3. David Gruel (50), 4. Otto Sitterly (7), 5. Joey Payne (99), 6. Randy Ritskes (37), 7. Pat Lavery (22), 8. Tim Snyder (0), 9. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 10. Keith Shampine (55), 11. Tim Devendorf (5), 12. Dave Danzer (52), 13. Michael Muldoon (51), 14. Joe Gosek (00), 15. Dan Connors, Jr, (01), 16. Hal LaTulip (56), 17. Jessica Zemken (11), 18. Brian Sweeney (3), 19. Brandon Bellinger (02)
Heat race wins were collected by Ritskes, Snyder and Graham.