Sitterly & Schartner Soar at Oswego

Canajoharie’s Otto Sitterly and Charlotte, North Carolina’s Andrew Schartner collected Memorial Day Weekend victories at the Oswego Speedway on Saturday night. In doing so, both drivers padded slim points chase leads that each had carried in from the season-opener.

It was Sitterly’s sixth Jim Shampine Memorial win. The defending supermodified track champ has won the 75-lap event three straight years. For Schartner, it was his first Tony White Memorial victory in the lakeside oval’s small block supermodified (SBS) division. The win was also Schartner’s second feature win in as many races this season.

Though both pilots started deep in their respective fields, neither left any doubt as to who had the better mousetrap when the checkered flag flew.

After making her maiden voyage to victory lane by earning a qualifying heat race win earlier in the evening, Jessica Zemken took the early lead in the 75-lap Shampine Memorial. Randy Ritskes, Dave Gruel, Joe Gosek and Tim Devendorf filled out the top five behind her. After a seesaw battle with Gosek and Ritskes, Gruel took over second on the eighth lap before mirroring the outside same move on Zemken to take command on lap No. 9. Ritskes followed Gruel’s tracks around Zemken into second.

Once out front, Gruel would begin to pull away, but the caution would soon fly for Lou LeVea, Sr., Lou LeVea, Jr. and Tim Snyder after a third-turn tangle. Snyder would be pushed away but pull pitside, while father and son exited the racing surface via the hook.

Gruel and Ritskes began to ease away on the restart. Zemken would hold third until Bob Bond’s surging No. 47 catapulted past Gosek’s No. 00 and her No. 11 on consecutive laps to move into third. Bond would quickly set sail for the lead duo.

Wanting to keep the leaders in sight, Sitterly would maneuver his way around Gosek and Zemken to take over fourth. A spin by Joey Payne on the 29th lap would tighten the thinned out pack and kick off a string of caution flags.

Just over a third of the way through the main, Gruel led Ritskes, Bond, Sitterly and Zemken. Dave Danzer, Gosek, Jeff Abold, Pat Lavery and Devendorf filled out the top 10.

Just one lap into the ensuing restart, Danzer’s sixth-place running No. 52 suddenly shot to the outside and popped the frontstretch wall. The opening night feature winner saw his chances of back-to-back wins instantly come to an end.

Gosek would best Zemken for fifth on the restart, but the racing was short lived as Kody Graham’s No. 90 took a spin in the third turn. Gosek would see his top-five run end on next restart after his No. 00 lost its grip chasing after the front four.

When the green flag was finally able to stay afloat, Gruel would begin to pull away. However, Bond would find room under the Ritskes to take over the runner-up spot on the 40th lap and Sitterly would clear the same supermodified a few laps later.

10 laps into his chase, Bond had slashed Gruel’s 10-car length lead in half. Three trips later, Bond would find himself on the leader’s rear bumper and Sitterly’s No. 7 was poised to pounce on either. The lead trio would soon be diving into heavy lapped traffic running nose to tail.

In traffic, Bond would power past Gruel’s No. 50 and take over the lead. However, Gruel would reclaim the top spot on the outside half a lap later. Two rounds forward, Bond would appear to stumble coming off of the second turn, handing second over to Sitterly. Soon after, Bond’s No. 47 would slow and pull pitside – having run out of fuel.

With 12 to go, Gruel and Sitterly would dice for the lead. After multiple looks on Gruel’s No. 50, Sitterly finally found an open lane on the 69th lap, taking the lead. In the midst of the battle for the top spot, no less than three more supers would fall victim to an empty tank. While Sitterly looked to be on cruise control, Ritskes would attempt to re-enter the race after refueling. However, his car would not restart and end up rolling to a stop on the backstretch. This would bring out the race’s final yellow flag.

Having reached the caution lap limit, a red flag was flown for refueling with just three laps remaining.

Gruel would be given one more shot at Sitterly with the pack tightened up for the restart. However, Sitterly’s No. 7 would only use the clean track in front of him to his advantage. His blue No. 7 would cruise the final few trips to seal the win. He’ll head into next week’s event with a 37-point lead over Bond.

Having had to scramble to put his No. 50 back together after tagging the wall during practice, Gruel would make a dramatic recovery, but come up just short of the win.

Having started last on the grid, Ohio invader, Dave Shullick, Jr. drove the John Nicotra-owned No. 6 to a third-place finish.

Making his first start since suffering a concussion in an accident last season, Graham would rebound from an early spin to land the No. 90 in fourth.

Zemken, Payne, Gosek, Abold, Bobby Haynes and Ritskes completed the top 10.

After the race, Bond indicated that he was likely going to take a few weeks off. He hinted that he may strap a wing on either the No. 47 or his other car and run some ISMA shows. The Denise Merrill-owned supermodified is not an Oswego commitment car.

Keith Shampine made his season debut in the Chris Osetek-owned No. 55. The nephew of the race’s namesake was another one of the unlucky pilots to have run his tank dry in the 75-lapper – relegating an otherwise top-10 run to an 11th-place finish. The most notable difference fans and fellow teams have seen with the No. 55 before it even hit the track was its paint scheme.

Shampine says it’s all in tribute to car owner, Chris’ late father, Tony Osetek.

In the small block 35-lapper, Schartner’s journey to the front of the pack was assisted by an opening lap accident between the two front row starters that ended up collecting nearly the entire field. Schartner’s starting spot of 12th on the grid actually ended up being a blessing in disguise as he was able to avoid the brunt of the damage associated with the melee.

A single-file restart put Tim Gareau, Josh Kerr, Mike Bond, Schartner and Kreig Heroth atop the field after completion of lap No. 1. Bond and Schartner scooted under Kerr’s No. 8 one lap later. Gareau, Bond and Schartner soon began easing away from the pack.

Looking both high and low for a way around Gareau, Bond suddenly found Schartner slipping past his left side as the trio headed into the first turn. Before Bond would have a chance to counter the move, Schartner would dip his No. 18 under Gareau’s No. 5 and muscle his way into the lead on lap No. 8.

Gareau would slide up the track and Bond would shoot past into second. In the midst of the lead duo pulling away Zach Amo and Camden Proud tangled in turn No. 3.

Just shy of the halfway mark, Schartner led Bond, Gareau, Heroth and Kerr. Jon Tesoriero, Jack Patrick, Dan Abt, Steve Abt and Mike Bruce rounded out the top 10.

With his nose glued to the rear bumper of the No. 18, Bond was unable to make a move stick on the ensuing restart. The two would tip-toe away, leaving their nearest chasers to tussle for the final podium spot.

Patrick would power his No. 9 under Tesoriero before besting Kerr for fifth. He was the only driver other than Schartner and Bond running under the 19-second bracket, but saw his run to the front come to an end a few laps later. Patrick would pull pit-side with mechanical woes.

Schartner and Bond would eventually build a full straightaway advantage over the rest of the field. Schartner refused to allow Bond a solid run on his No. 18 Hedger Racing Chassis and as the laps ticked away, Bond’s No. 74 would fall off the leader’s torrid pace.

Jesse Bearup’s lonely spin with three to go erased Schartner’s eight car length cushion, but Bond’s No. 74 wouldn’t be able be able to mount a charge on the restart. Schartner would cruise the final three laps en route to his 11th small block supermodified win and now holds an 11 point lead over Bond. The former native of Auburn is now sixth in all-time SBS feature wins.

Bond galloped home in second.

Gareau appears to be contending again. He raced his No. 5 home to a third-place finish.

Heroth raced his No. 04 into fourth place. He’s letting it be known that landing a big block supermodified ride is one of his primary objectives for 2014 and he has a strong support base to back him if the opportunity should arise.

Kerr scored a top-five finish on Saturday night. He currently sits eighth in the points chase.

Hoag and Doyle were the two front row starters that made contact early on, setting off a massive 20+ car pile-up between turns one and two. It was the first feature run for Hoag and the debut of Doyle’s much anticipated brand new small block super.

Jim Shampine Memorial 75 (Supermodifieds):  1. Otto Sitterly (7), 2. Dave Gruel (50), 3. Dave Shullick (6), 4. Kody Graham (90), 5. Jessica Zemken (11), 6. Joey Payne (99), 7. Joe Gosek (00), 8. Jeff Abold (05), 9. Bobby Haynes (44), 10. Randy Ritskes (37), 11. Keith Shampine (55), 12. Pat Lavery (22), 13. Bob Bond (47), 14. Hal LaTulip (56), 15. Tim Devendorf (5), 16. Brandon Bellinger (02), 17. Brian Sweeney (3), 18. Dave Danzer (52), 19. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 20. Lou LeVea, Sr. (66), 21. Tim Snyder (0), 22. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 23. Michael Barnes (68) – DNS: Michael Muldoon (51) & Dan Connors, Jr. (01)

Supermodified heat race wins were captured by Zemken, Gosek and Devendorf

Tony White Memorial 35 (SBS):  1. Andrew Schartner (18), 2. Mike Bond (74), 3. Tim Gareau (5), 4. Kreig Heroth (04), 5. Josh Kerr (8), 6. Jon Tesoriero (47), 7. Steve Abt (67), 8. Alex Hoag (7), 9. Dan Abt (57), 10. JJ Andrews (93), 11. Mike Bruce (22), 12. Barry Kingsley (23), 13. Anthony Losurdo (1), 14. Jason Simmons (98), 15. Scott Shafer (76), 16. Greg O’Connor (90), 17. Jesse Bearup (02), 18. Jack Patrick (9), 19. Camdon Proud (54), 20. Zach Amo (44), 21. Mark Castiglia (69), 22. Dalton Doyle (01), 23. Rob Pullen (2), 24. Cameron Rowe (77), 25. Dennis Rupert (99), 26. David LaTulip (27)

Heat race victories were collected by Hoag, Gareau and Bond.