Ritskes Pockets Third Checkered Flag, Tightens Points Chase at Oswego

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

Randy Ritskes drove the Jeff Locke-owned No. 37 supermodified to its third feature win of the 2014 season Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway. Having started eighth on the grid, the Oswego resident used an early race restart to muscle underneath Brewerton’s Tim Devendorf to take the point. He would race the rest of the way unchallenged to claim victory.

With the win, Ritskes puts himself back in the track championship hunt, moving to within just 30 points of the lead.

Listen to – Randy Ritskes

Brian Sweeney and Devendorf led the field to the green to start the 50-lap main event. Devendorf would nab the early lead, but as he brought the field out of the fourth turn to complete the first lap, a mid-pack jingle would cause the field to jam and scatter. Otto Sitterly, Hal LaTulip, Michael Barnes and Shaun Gosselin all ended parked at the exit of the turn.

Minus LaTulip, all were able to make quick repairs and return for the restart. However, none would factor in the outcome. A repeat start at the front of the pack found Devendorf leading the way again at the drop of the green. Dan Connors, Jr., Sweeney, Brandon Bellinger and Michael Muldoon chased him across the checkered stripe to complete lap No. 1.

Ritskes would make his way to the front quickly, leaping into third by lap No. 2. Two rounds later, he had his No. 37 past Sweeney and Connors and into the runner-up position.

Having been enjoying a quiet ride up front, Devendorf would find Ritskes on his tail by the seventh lap. The duo would lead the rest of the field by a solid 15 lengths, but a light sprinkle from the overcast skies above would draw a yellow flag on the 10th lap.

However, the caution was short-lived, as the field would continue circling the five-eighths mile as the drops from above faded away. With nine trips in the books, Devendorf led Ritskes, Connors, Sweeney and Bellinger. Keith Shampine, Muldoon, Dave Gruel, Tim Snyder and Pat Lavery completed the top 10.

Known for being quick to pounce at the drop of a green flag, Ritskes would shoot under Devendorf’s No. 5 as the duo raced into the third turn as the field went back to racing.

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Ritskes quickly put five lengths on the Devendorf machine. However, just two laps into leading the way, a caution flag for Snyder’s stalled No. 0 would slow the race leader and bunch the field.

Ritskes was solid on the ensuing restart. Battling for fifth behind him, Shampine was all over Bellinger’s No. 02. The North Carolina invader would break into the top five with an outside move on the No. 02 off of turn No. 4 on the 15th lap.

By the 22nd lap Ritskes and Devendorf led third-place running Connors by a full straightaway. Sweeny and a surging Shampine continued to fill out the top five.

Trying to make his way back up through the field after his involvement in the opening lap jingle, Gosselin would end up clocking the outside wall at the end of the front straightaway. The Chicago resident’s heavily damaged No. 26 exited the speedway via the hook. This would end up being the final caution of the race.

Once again, Ritskes was flawless restart. Shampine looked racy at the drop of the green as well, besting Sweeney on the high side for fourth. The track would end up losing its outside groove for most of the race leader’s chasers, as much of the field appeared to struggle through the second half of the race.

From this point, the field would begin to stretch thin. Ritskes’ lead would fluctuate as the race wound down. He later revealed that he set the pace at will, based on signals his crew was giving him as to how big his lead was.

The lead duo would come up on a few lapped cars with a handful of laps to go, but Ritskes would have no problem navigating his way past them. His No. 37 would cruise the final few laps to secure the win.

Equaling a career-best finish, Devendorf crossed the line in second.

Listen to – Tim Devendorf

Collecting his first top-five finish and only second top-10 finish of the season, Connors held off Shampine to claim third.

Listen to – Dan Connors, Jr.

Landing the Chris Osetek-owned No. 55 in fourth, Shampine racked up his first top-five finish of the season, as well.

Listen to – Keith Shampine

Earning only his second top-10 finish of the 2014 season, Sweeney brought his No. 3 home in fifth.

Listen to – Brian Sweeney

By virtue of his heat race finish, Gruel headed into the feature tied with Sitterly for points in the title chase. Finishing behind Muldoon and Lavery with an eighth-place run, Gruel closed out the evening atop the points standings, with a four-point lead.

Listen to – David Gruel

Finishing behind Gosek’s No. 00, Sitterly drove the John Nicotra-owned No. 7 to a 10th-place run.

Listen to – Otto Sitterly

Novelis Supermodified 50:  1. Randy Ritskes (37), 2. Tim Devendorf (5), 3. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 4. Keith Shampine (55), 5. Brian Sweeney (3), 6. Michael Muldoon (51), 7. Pat Lavery (22), 8. David Gruel (50), 9. Joe Gosek (00), 10. Otto Sitterly (7), 11. Kody Graham (90), 12. Joey Payne (99), 13. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 14. Michael Barnes (68), 15. Brandon Bellinger (02), 16. Lou LeVea, Sr. (77), 17. Shaun Gosselin (26), 18. Mike Barbera (45), 19. Tim Snyder (0), 20. Bobby Haynes, Jr. (44), 21. Hal LaTulip (56), DNS – 22. Dave Danzer (52)

Bellinger, Lavery and Muldoon all pocketed heat race wins.