Ritskes Crawls to Oswego Grand Prix Win on Fumes; Bond Makes Final Turn Pass for .001 Second SBS Victory

OSWEGO, NY (July 1) – After a bout of poor luck to start the 2012 Novelis Supermodified season at Oswego Speedway, luck finally turned to the side of Randy Ritkses during the Davis Bros. Inc. Grand Prix 75 on Saturday night.  Driving the Darratt Farms No. 88 Supermodified, Ritskes inherited the lead from a fuel starved Ray Graham on lap 72, then managed to nurse his own mount across the line on his final drop of methanol to claim the 9th win of his career at the Steel Palace.

As Ritskes weaved his car back and forth trying to savor every last drop of fuel on the race’s final circuit, Brian Sobus closed in driving the No. 60 but came up just short, possibly finishing just one lap shy of his first career Supermodified feature win.  Joey Payne, Shaun Gosselin, and Mike Barnes completed the Top 5 order in the 75 lap feature event.

“Just before the last caution we were out of fuel,” said Ritskes in Chris Nelson Insurance Victory Lane.  “It was really dying coming out of three and four so I started shaking it and running half throttle to try and save as much fuel as possible, and it lasted.”

Ritskes was elated to be able to turn the tide after a very rough start to the season.

“We’ve had such a terrible year, this is so nice to have,” said Ritskes.  “This all proves how great of an owner I have in Randy Darratt.  I got really down, not on the team, I just got down on the situation and he (Randy Darratt) is the one that turned it around.  He said we’re not quitters, we aren’t going to quit on you, and we did it.  He is a great leader.”

Gosselin and Graham started the 75 lap Davis Bros. Inc. Grand Prix from the front row, bringing the field to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag and it was Graham immediately shooting out to the early race lead in the No. 90.  Behind the wheel of the new Xtreme Chassis design, Graham showed his might in heat race competition with a time of 16.488 seconds at 136.463mph and no doubt intended to continue that streak in the main event.

By lap 15 Graham had built a full straight away lead on the remainder of the field, and looked to be in a class of his own leaving the battles behind him.

With Graham well out in front, Ritskes and Otto Sitterly began moving their way through the field to try and put themselves in striking position.  By the race’s 20th circuit Ritskes managed to move past Gosselin for 2nd, while Sitterly picked his way to 4th in the order ahead of Jerry Curran.

After several weeks of early cautions in Supermodified main events, Saturday night’s first caution flag would not be waved until lap 24 as Clayton Brewer spun the Jake’s Automotive No. 23 in turn four.  With the yellow lights on, Graham’s dominating lead was erased allowing Ritskes to close on his back bumper for the restart.

Graham and Ritskes led the field back to green with Gosselin, Sitterly, Curran, Bobby Haynes, Sobus, Payne, Dave Danzer, and Jeff Abold in tow.

As the field roared to life out of turn four, Graham again showed his might in the No. 90 and in just eight laps once again mounted a full straight lead on runner-up Ritskes.

As Graham continued to pull further into the lead, lapping slower racecars at will, Sitterly again began to climb up the order.  On lap 34 the No. 7 of Sitterly dove under Gosselin for 3rd down the front straight and then began to draw in on Ritskes.

Sitterly would manage to work his way past Ritskes for 2nd on lap 54, followed by a lap 63 caution which would come out for Joey Payne and Kelly Miller, as the two made contact in turn three with Payne trying to put a lap on the Miller No. 81.  As a result, the many fans in attendance would now be treated to yet another Ray Graham vs. Otto Sitterly battle.

With just 12 laps to go the Top 10 order showed Graham, Sitterly, Ritskes, Gosselin, Sobus, Haynes, Curran, Pat Lavery, Dave Gruel, and Barnes.

Graham had managed to build such a lead that on the lap 63 restart several lapped racecars sat between himself and Sitterly.  One of those lapped machines happened to be the son of the race leader, Kody Graham.  As the field came out of turn four and the green lights turned on, Kody Graham tried to make a move on another lapped car for position and in doing so lost the handle spinning around in front of nearly the entire field.

Trying to avoid the spinning Graham No. 21, Sitterly moved to the low side, but could not move low enough.  Sitterly’s right rear tire made contact with Graham’s right rear causing the No. 7 to spin and collide rear first into the inside hub rail.  After making contact, Sitterly’s car flipped up and over on the roll cage coming to a stop at the start/finish line.

With the red flag in the air the Speedway track safety crew quickly made their way to Sitterly, who was awake and alert but was temporarily trapped inside the racecar.  After a few tense moments, Sitterly was eventually freed and able to climb out of the crippled Nicotra Racing ride.

“Everything is so tight in there,” said Sitterly at the start/finish line, immediately after climbing out of his car.  “I wanted to jump right out, and I am not that big of a guy, but you just can’t physically get your legs out from all the stuff that’s in there.  It started to get hot in there when all those fluids came rushing out, I don’t know what they were, but the vapors were getting pretty hot.”

Sitterly would be credited with a 16th place finish overall, losing several points yet again to Championship runner-up Lavery.

With Sitterly out of the event Graham would now lead Ritskes, Gosselin, Sobus and Curran to the stripe.  On the restart Graham again blasted away while Curran battled Sobus for the 4th spot, but Curran would eventually spin the No. 24 down the back straight in the heat of battle.

After yet another late race restart the Lavery No. 22 again started to make high side moves, working up and around Sobus.  With Lavery on by, Sobus and Payne began to battle until Sobus lost it and did a complete 360 to keep going on the Speedway.  A precautionary yellow would wave with only three laps to go and under that caution both Lavery and Graham would sputter to a stop out of fuel.

With no methanol left in the tank, a sure victory for Graham was washed away, leaving Ritskes as the race leader.  Graham pulled head first into the pit area after running dry, ending the night 13th. Lavery was able to get back in action without losing a lap.

With just three laps to go Ritskes, the new race leader, jumped to a healthy lead on Sobus, Payne, and Gosselin.  That was until Ritskes too could feel the fuel slipping away in the No. 88.

As Ritskes began to shake the car, side to side, in an attempt to gather more fuel both Sobus and Payne closed in.  As the final two laps clicked away Ritskes was able to hold on by a mere tenth of a second over the Sobus No. 60 for the Davis Bros. Inc. win.

“Randy pulled away and left me there on that last restart and then all of a sudden a lap into it I started gaining on him,” said Sobus, after his career best runner-up finish.  “I could see him swerving back and forth on the straightaways and I knew what that was all about, but unfortunately we just needed one more lap.”

Payne, who ended the night with another podium finish, was pleased with his performance from a Championship perspective.

“It feels good to be up here,” said Payne of his podium performance.  “I’ve driven this car (Muldoon No. 20) six times now and every week we keep gaining in the points.  For a deal that was supposed to be week to week and just a couple races, we’re in the fight for a championship now.”

Gruel, Curran, Lavery, Joe Gosek, and Abold completed the Top 10 in the Novelis Supermodified feature order.

After two DNFs in a row for Sitterly his once sizeable point lead is now down to just six points over Lavery.  Payne now stands just 10 points out of the lead in 3rd ahead of Sobus and Gruel in the Top 5.

A total of 27 Supermodifieds attempted to qualify, including Davey Hamilton and Jarett Andretti.  Each would have to run the consolation event, which Hamilton won, in order to gain starting spots in the main event.  Andretti ended the night in the 12th position, one lap down, while Hamilton pulled in early for a 21st place finish.

Bond Slips By Andrews in Final Turn for .001 Second SBS Win

Before Saturday night Mike Bond had 26 career SBS wins to his credit at Oswego Speedway.  None of those previous wins however may prove to be as memorable, or long lasting, as his last lap heroics during the Davis Bros. Inc. Grand Prix 35 on Saturday.  After running the consi as a result of a heat race accident, the No. 26 of Bond started 18th on the grid for the main event, and proceeded to climb his way through the field on his way to passing JJ Andrews coming out of the final turn nipping the No. 93 by .001 seconds.

Career win number 27 for Bond will go down as the closest official feature finish in Speedway history since the inception of AMB digital scoring at the Speedway in 2005.  In the overall 62 year history of Oswego Speedway there was one scored tie, or “dead heat”, coming on June 28, 1997 between Ed Bellinger Jr. and Doug Didero.  At that time races were still hand scored, and a photo finish was used to determine the winner.

Tim Barbeau, Jason Simmons, and Kreig Heroth would complete the Top 5 finishers in the Pathfinder Bank SBS Series main.

“I have to thank my guys for getting the car back together, it was a mess after that heat race,” said Bond in Chris Nelson Insurance Victory Lane.  “I saw JJ was getting a little loose of off four so I figured I would try and get a run on him underneath.  I tried the outside earlier, but there wasn’t anything there, so I knew I had to go underneath.”

SBS Rookie Josh Kerr and long-time veteran John Ketcham led the SBS field to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag with rookie Kerr gaining the early edge in the No. 8.  Andrews, who started 3rd in the order, made quick work of Ketcham to get to 2nd followed by Andrew Schartner in the No. 18 to 3rd.

With the field in a good rhythm Kerr, Andrews, Schartner, Barbeau and Mark Castiglia all lined up nose to tail in front of the field on lap 20.  Kerr, a graduate of the Oswego Kartway, looked smooth in the race lead ahead of veterans Andrews and Schartner.

By the 23rd circuit Bond was really making moves through the field in a battle with Simmons for the 6th position.  At the same time 5th running Castiglia broke and pulled to the pit area allowing Simmons and Bond to gain one more spot each.

As the field approached just five laps to go the Kerr No. 8 continued to lead the pack, as he had done since the drop of the green.  Andrews and Schartner began to press harder and harder, which Bond could see.  With five to go Bond was finally able to make the pass on Simmons, but his most important pass would come on lap 32 as he made his way passed Barbeau for 4th.

The pass would prove crucial as on lap 33 Andrews made a daring low side move on Kerr to take the races lead into turn three.  The No. 8 of Kerr washed high leaving room for Schartner as well, but the two cars touched resulting in Schartner sliding up and over the top of the motor of the Kerr machine ending the night for both drivers.

Kerr, who drove a brilliant race for 32 circuits, would have to head pit side ending his day.

With Bond passing Barbeau on lap 32, he would now restart on the back bumper of Andrews with just two laps to go.  When the race came back to green Andrews initially pulled away but Bond managed to close right back in at the white flag.

As the two drivers came out of turn four on the final lap, Bond pulled low and managed to squeeze passed Andrews for the .001 second win.

“I don’t know if I want to puke, or die, or cry,” said Andrews.  “I screwed up.  I gave it to him.  I knew he was there, I knew I had to block him, but you don’t hold off Mike Bond with a little bit of a mistake.  He came from 18th, that’s why he is in the Hall of Fame and the best driver ever in this class.”

Tim Barbeau continues to have a banner year in the SBS division.

“This is the best we have ever started,” said Barbeau.  “It is a tough class and I have to thank Chris, Carlee, and Caylee Heagerty for giving me the opportunity to drive this car.  They have given me everything I need to be competitive this year, we’ve been in the Top 10 every week, and it is just hard starting in the back every week to get up front.”

Rob Pullen, Jack Patrick, Dalton Doyle, Ketcham, and AJ Bernys finished the Top 10 overall.

Bond now holds a 24 point lead over Heroth in the SBS Championship standings.  Pullen, Andrews, and Barbeau complete the Top 5.

Next week at Oswego Speedway will be the Burke’s Home Centers/CNY Central King of Wings IV on Saturday, July 7.  The night will feature the ISMA Supermodifieds, Xtreme Sprints Cars, and Pathfinder Bank SBS Series.

Grandstand gates open at 2 p.m., with racing getting under way at 5 p.m.