OSWEGO, NY (September 4) – For the first time since 2009, the Oswego Speedway Novelis Supermodified track champion, is also the Budweiser International Classic 200 champion.
After starting 14th on the grid, Canajoharie, NY driver Otto Sitterly passed Joe Gosek on lap 154 to take the lead in the annual Super special and never looked back on his way to his third International win and second consecutive.
Sitterly’s third career Classic victory (2009, 2011, 2012), worth $15,000, puts him on an elite list of drivers including Gosek, Jim Shampine, Eddie Bellinger, Greg Furlong, Bentley Warren, and Nolan Swift to have won more than two Classic titles.
Sitterly managed to outlast his teammate Davey Hamilton for the win after Gosek vapor locked on a red flag at lap 156. Gosek would eventually re-fire but ultimately lost a lap with a pit stop during a lap 163 caution. Dave Gruel chased Sitterly and Hamilton across the line in third ahead of Tim Snyder, Joey Payne, Shaun Gosselin, Brian Sobus, Kody Graham, Gary Morton and Gosek in the Top 10.
“The biggest thing I have to say to anyone that’s helped me is, ‘Thanks a Lot’,” said Sitterly in Chris Nelson Insurance Classic Victory Lane. “I owe a lot of people everything; I wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for the people behind me. I owe a thanks to so many people, lot of gratitude right here.”
Sitterly went on to dissect the 200-lap race.
“We got off to a really good start. I really didn’t expect it that early in the race,” said Sitterly, to infield reporter Danny Johnson. “As soon as I saw Davey (Hamilton) a few cars ahead of me with Mike (Lichty) I figured we would all cruise for a while right there. I was worried about a couple guys. Ritskes is always tough, I didn’t want to stay behind him too long just because I didn’t want to have to use my car up late in the race to get by.”
The most tense moment in the event came passed halfway as Gosek, Hamilton, and Sitterly all ran in a tight bunch.
“When Joe and Davey were running together, if Davey could have got out in front I would have liked to have seen that,” said Sitterly. “As long as Davey was trying to get Joe, I was just trying to be patient. He (Hamilton) ended up slipping twice and the second time I got in there. From there, in clean air I could really run Joe down good.”
Gosek and Sitterly would then battle fiercely for the lead for several laps.
“I love to race with Joe. He is a hard racer, he is not going to give you an inch, but he’s going to race you fair,” said Sitterly. “With the career that he has had here, I have got to say that I am very proud to be able to race against him.”
Pat Lavery and Mike Lichty brought the 34-car field to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag on Sunday afternoon with Lavery jumping to the lead in the No. 22. Lavery, Lichty, Ray Graham, Gosek, and Hamilton quickly tucked into line and began to run the paces in front of the field. Further back in the pack Sitterly, who started 14th on the grid, worked to 10th by lap 11.
The race’s first caution came on lap 14 with a faltering Dave Danzer in the No. 52. Just prior to the yellow lights being triggered, Lichty found his way passed Lavery to take the top spot behind the wheel of the Nicotra Racing No. 2. At the restart Lichty led Lavery, Graham, Gosek, and Hamilton to the stripe.
Lap 21 saw Gosek begin to make his move to the front driving underneath Graham for third in turn three. Graham who began to slip back through the field would soon drop out of the event entirely on lap 23 when smoke began to pour from the rear of the No. 90.
After a short cleanup on the back straightaway the field came back to green with Lichty continuing to show the way as Gosek next charged under Lavery to second in turn three on lap 30.
Hamilton would also move passed Lavery and over the next ten circuits Lichty, Gosek, and Hamilton charged away from the rest of the field. As the front three charged on, they would soon hit lapped traffic on the 45th lap opening the door for Gosek to move to the point on lap 46 in the No. 00.
Gosek, Hamilton, and Lichty were the class of the field early on and soon Randy Ritskes would throw his hat into the ring as well. Ritskes moved passed Lavery for fourth on lap 55 as Lavery continued to back slide through the field from the pole position.
Only five laps later the next caution would fly, this time for Jerry Curran in turn two. The Nuclear Banana No. 24 spun just in front of the race leaders causing Gosek, Hamilton, and Lichty to all jam on their brakes to avoid. Each would make their way by and lead the field back to green on lap 67 ahead of Ritskes, Sitterly, Gruel, Connors, Johnny Benson, Lavery, and Gosselin.
After just one lap, the Benson No. 11 would next run into trouble heading to the pits bringing out yet another caution flag.
After coming back to green the Top 5 runners stormed away from the field with Sobus starting to make his presence known in the Mike Murphy No. 60. Sobus, who finished Top 10 in his first two International Classic starts, drove around Gosselin for ninth on lap 78 into turn one.
Lapped traffic would play a huge role in the 200 on Sunday and at lap 84 it first reared its head. Gosek closed in on the lapped machines of Brandon Bellinger and Curran closing the Top 5 even tighter and only four laps later in a mad scramble for position Lichty lost the handle on the No. 2 out of turn four spinning to the inside of the racing surface. With Lichty, who had finished 2nd in the 2011 Classic, now out of the action Gosek would lead Hamilton, Ritskes, Sitterly, Gruel, Connors, Lavery, Sobus, Gosselin, and Bob Bond in the order.
The Classic field took the green once again at lap 94 and from there Gosek would cross the line as the halfway leader, pocketing a cool $1,000 from Corr/Pak Merchandising. At this point Gosek looked like the class of the field in search of his fourth Classic win, but Sitterly was waiting in the wings. The No. 7 worked passed Ritskes for third on lap 104 and immediately drew in teammate Hamilton and Gosek up front.
With the front three again charging away all eyes were further back on the No. 60 of Sobus who dove under Ritskes in turn three for fifth on lap 120. From there he then attacked Gruel for fourth with the same move on lap 121, before Gruel returned the favor in turn one on lap 122. With Gruel feeling the pressure from Sobus, he turned up the wick, closing in on the front three to make it a four car battle for the point at lap 134.
Another lap later Michael Muldoon spun the No. 50m in turn two to bunch the field one more time. With this caution four cars took the opportunity to make pit stops including Lavery and Payne. Neither driver would lose a lap in the process and rejoined the field at the tail side of the lead lap. As the green lights came back on with only 60-laps remaning the Top 10 showed Gosek, Hamilton, Sitterly, Gruel, Sobus, Ritskes, Connors, Gosselin, Mike Barnes, and Bond.
Two laps after the restart, Sitterly got on his horse and made a bold move to the inside of Hamilton out of turn two to take second. From there Gosek and Sitterly hooked up and distanced themselves from Hamilton, Gruel and Sobus.
During this exchange Sobus developed front wing damage on the No. 60 which allowed Ritskes to take advantage and slip underneath into turn three to take fifth on lap 144. Sobus, who had put on a great charge through the field, would now stall out in the No. 60 but hold steady in the sixth spot.
At this point the battle was really shaping up out front as Gosek and Sitterly closed in on heavy lapped traffic around lap 149. The traffic allowed Sitterly to look low on Gosek out of turn four to lead lap 150, only to see Gosek pull the same move two laps later to retake the point using the Bellinger No. 02 as a pick. The lapped traffic would not stop there as on lap 154 Sittely would use Dave McKnight as a pick to again pass Gosek for the top spot going into turn one.
This time Sitterly was able to solidly retake the point and clear himself from Gosek to charge away into the lead.
The entire complexion of the event would change on lap 156 as something appeared to break on the No. 25 of Bond who went flying into the turn two wall causing his machine to turn over down the back straight. The flip would bring the red lights onto the Speedway forcing all machines to shut down on the racing surface. Bond, who was running 12th at the time, was clearly done for the day with considerable damage to the No. 25.
After a short delay cars were ordered to re-fire, but the No. 00 of Gosek would vapor lock causing the second place runner to be pushed around the Speedway for several laps waiting for the No. 00 to ignite and rejoin the field. Unfortunately for Gosek he was forced to head to the pits to back the car off in order for his racecar to start back up. The Oswego driver would not lose a lap in the process, but on lap 163 he returned to the pits after Lavery hit the second turn wall ending his day, and after making a right rear tire change Gosek would fall one lap down to the rest of the pack.
During the Lavery caution at lap 168 Ritskes, who was running fourth, brought the No. 88 to a stop in the front straight with an oil fire dropping him out of the event.
The field came back to green at lap 172 with Sitterly, Hamilton, and Gruel showing the way. Further back eventual Cleaning for a Reason Rookie of the Race, Jeff Locke, was running eighth but the driver of the No. 37 had fuel pick up problems and pulled into the pits on lap 173. Locke would end the day 18th overall.
With 20-laps to go the front three cars were spaced evenly apart leaving the battle further behind between Sobus, Gosselin, Snyder and Payne for fourth through seventh. Hamilton would get one last chance at Sitterly after the race’s final caution hit the Speedway at lap 189 after Connors made contact with seventh running Shawn Muldoon, sending him around in turn one.
With 8-laps to go the field came back to green with Sitterly clearly the favorite to go on and collect his third Classic title. While Sitterly charged away from the field the Snyder No. 0 began to barn storm the pack charging under Gosselin on the restart and then under Sobus at lap 196 to move to fourth in the final finishing order.
With Snyder charging hard late, Sitterly streaked under the checkered flag for the $15,000 pay day and his second consecutive Budweiser International Classic 200 title driving for John Nicotra. Hamilton, Gruel, Snyder, and Payne would fill the front five positions.
“It was another fun race,” said Hamilton. “I love coming to Oswego and Johnny Nicotra and Otto Sitterly, what can I say, they give me a great car. The race was a lot of fun but you know Otto was on rails. I had nothing for him, we were a little loose coming off the corner, but it was still a solid run. It was a good day though with Otto winning as my teammate, me running second, and I just got news that my Indy Car finished third today in Baltimore.”
Dave Gruel ended the day with his best career Classic finish in the Double Deuce Racing No. 50.
“I wish it was a little bit shorter race, and I used my car up sooner,” said Gruel to Keith Zehr. “We took it easy the whole race and just kept it on the bottom of the track and kept the car going straight. We didn’t abuse the tires but unfortunately at the end that No. 7 car was just in a different zip code. After about 10 laps after a restart I could kind of stay with him, but on the restarts they were just gone.”
Several special awards were handed out at the end of the Budweiser International Classic 200 including the renewed Eagles Fan Club AJ Michaels award to Davey Hamilton, for finishing in the runner-up position in the 200.
Jeff Locke was presenting the Cleaning for a Reason Rookie of the Race award worth $250.
Ray Graham earned $400 from Corr/Pak Merchandising as the 34th place finisher in the event, while Hal LaTulip earned $600 from Corr/Pak as the bubble car for the 2012 Classic.