Ritskes Wins Duel With Sitterly, Tightens Points Chase With Gosek

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

Oswego’s own Randy Ritskes wheeled the Daratt Farms No. 88 to its second feature win of the season in dramatic fashion Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway. A mid-race restart saw Ritskes vault under Otto Sitterly’s No. 7 for second place and early race leader Dave Danzer for the lead one lap later. Once besting Danzer for second, Sitterly would take chase on the No. 88. Passing him low for the lead in lapped traffic on the 42nd lap, Sitterly would drift high and watch the No. 88 power back underneath him to reclaim the top spot the very same lap.

Ritskes (88) leads Sitterly (7) in the closing laps of their 50-lap feature

“When Otto pulled up aside me, I actually let off the gas to pull behind Steve (Abt), because the first car that Steve would’ve seen, he would’ve went the other way,” Ritskes said of losing and regaining the lead. “Otto went by him first, so I knew I was kind of in trouble there, if I had tried to stay on the outside. So, I thought, I’ve got to dive to the inside. He threw it in so hard that, it wasn’t easy, but it was an area that I could get into anyway.”

Ritskes would hold off the defending track champ in the remaining laps en route to the win. Coupled with points leader Joe Gosek’s third-place finish, Ritskes moved to within just nine points of Gosek in the 2011 title hunt with just one week to go.

“What are we,” Ritskes asked, “in like a three-way tie for the points lead now? I gained a couple of points on Otto in the feature. I think I’ve got to screw up for Otto to pass me, but Joe and I, my gosh. The heat race can tie us up for the feature. The points race is awesome.”

Ritskes credited his crew with helping find where his No. 88 works best. He admits the setup wasn’t really one for weekly racing and that it’s in fact, one more suited for the International Classic.

“I’ve got to hand it to Johnny Richichi,” he said. “We were working on our own tonight and we tried things during the week that were different and we tried things tonight that we haven’t tried. I’m so glad that we hit it. We’ve been praying for this one and it finally worked out. It’s a good car for Classic too. It’s just not a good car for a Saturday night. It tightened up as the race went on and that’s what you need for Classic and we haven’t had that all year.”

Listen toRandy Ritskes

Stephen Gioia, III took command at the start of the race. After losing and then re-taking second back from Dave McKnight, Jr., Danzer put his No. 52 around the outside of Gioia’s No. 9 on the 20th lap. Third-place running Sitterly was quick to follow. Danzer and Sitterly began to pull away from the field, running laps in the 17.1 second range and leaving Gioia to battle with Michael Barnes and Ritskes for third.

Steve Abt would stop the action after running into trouble in turn No. 2 on the halfway mark. Behind Ritskes, Jerry Curran, Tim Snyder, Gosek, Dave Gruel and Pat Lavery completed the top 10.

Looking for win No. 1, the rookie racer held off the No. 7 on the restart. While Danzer and Sitterly began to walk away again, Gioia’s No. 9 suddenly skated high between turns one and two, allowing Barnes and Ritskes to slip underneath. One lap later, the caution flew again. This time, for a tangle between rookies Michael Muldoon and Brian Sobus. Veteran driver Bentley Warren caught a piece of Sobus’ No. 79, putting an early end to his night as well.

Danzer led the field to a slow restart, which saw Barnes catch a wheel from the back of Sitterly’s No. 7. The Barnes No. 98 shot up into the air before landing and popping the fourth-turn wall, ending another good run for the Strong Racing No. 98.

The ensuing restart would see the Ritskes machine come to life. Surprising Sitterly down low for second, his No. 88 then dove underneath Danzer’s No. 52 for the race lead on the 29th lap in turn No. 3. Sitterly disposed of Danzer on the 30th lap and the race was on to the finish.

Sitterly looked low on the No. 88 off of the fourth turn on lap No. 35, but nothing was to be found. Seven laps later, the duo approached Abt’s No. 85. Ritskes took the high route, and as soon as Abt drifted up and in front of the race leader, Sitterly shot low, besting both cars as he raced hard into turn No. 1.

However, his momentum carried his No. 7 up one groove too many, allowing Ritskes to pull back underneath him in turn No. 2. The two raced side-by-side, with Ritskes winning the battle back to the line the next time by.

The caution flag put the action to rest after third-place running Danzer slid to a stop just shy of the front stretch water barrels with seven trips remaining.

Ritskes poses in victory lane after winning his second supermodified feature of 2011

Sitterly would hound Ritskes most of the rest of the way, but would drop back the final five-eighths, watching No. 88 take the win.

Finishing behind Sitterly, Gosek continued to chase an ill-handling No. 00. The 2003 Oswego Speedway Track Champion will be looking to add both, his second track title and his first feature win of the year next weekend.

Listen toJoe Gosek

Gruel drove the Double-Deuce Racing No. 50 to a fine fourth-place finish.

Listen toDave Gruel

Tilton, N.H.’s Snyder collected another top-five finish, piloting his No. 0 to a fifth-place run.

Listen toTim Snyder

Heat race wins went to McKnight, Snyder and Sitterly. Kody Graham won the consi.

Supermodified Feature 50: 1. Randy Ritskes (88), 2. Otto Sitterly (7), 3. Joe Gosek (00), 4. Dave Gruel (50), 5. Tim Snyder (0), 6. Jeff Holbrook (35), 7. Pat Lavery (22), 8. Jerry Curran (24), 9. Kody Graham (21), 10. Shaun Gosselin (26), 11. Dave Danzer (52), 12. Steve Abt (85), 13. Bobby Haynes, Jr. (44), 14. Brian Sobus (79), 15. Brandon Bellinger (02), 16. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 17. Michael Barnes (98), 18. Michael Muldoon (20), 19. Joey Payne (99), 20. Bobby Bond (05), 21. Bentley Warren (11), 22. Dave McKnight, Jr. (08), 23. Ray Graham, Jr. (90), 24. Mike Bond (25), 25. Joe Chillemi (14) DNS – Guard Nearbin (78) & Kelly Miller (81)