For the second year in a row, Ray Graham Jr. is a Race of Champions winner.
Graham passed Joe Gosek on lap 42 and then breezed on to lead the final 20-laps to garner the Novelis Supermodified portion of the 62nd annual SUNOCO Race of Champions at Oswego Speedway Saturday.
Not only is Graham’s victory his second in a row in Race of Champions competition, it is his second consecutive win in 2012 at Oswego Speedway and his eighth career Oswego Supermodified victory.
Gosek held on for second ahead of Pat Lavery, Randy Ritskes, and Mike Barnes in the Top 5 positions. Otto Sitterly, Brian Sobus, Dan Connors Jr., Stephen Gioia III, and Kody Graham completed the Top 10 finishers.
Graham started eighth on the grid in the 62-lap main event and methodically worked his way through the pack before making the lap 42 pass on pole sitter Gosek.
Gosek would then have to battle Lavery for the runner-up position in the closing stages, but was able to hang on.
A total of 24 Supermodifieds were in the pit area, all taking the green, with 13 finishing on the lead lap. There were no major accidents in the event.
Gosek and Jerry Curran would bring the Novelis Supermodified field down to the Cam’s New York Pizzeria green flag with Gosek blasting out into the early lead in the No. 00.
Gosek, a heat race winner earlier in the night, would quickly build a sizeable lead over the field in search of his 42nd career Oswego win.
Curran was left to hold off the advances of Dan Connors Jr., Shaun Gosselin, and Graham. Graham had quickly moved his way to fourth in the lineup after starting in the fourth row behind the wheel of the No. 90.
At lap 20, Gosek had mounted a full straightaway lead and Connors finally managed to work his way past Curran into the runner-up spot after working him on the low side the entire race.
Gosselin and Graham would quickly slide past Curran as well to move to third and fourth as Curran would then continue to back slide through the field before pulling in on lap 24 driving No. 24.
With the field working the 27th circuit, Gosek continued to apply the pressure, now over a full straightaway ahead of Connors, Gosselin, Graham, Jeff Abold, Ritskes, Lavery, Sitterly, Dave Gruel, and Sobus.
Connors, Gosselin, and Graham were in a heated battle for second through fourth, until Gosselin lost the handle out of turn four on lap 33.
The lap 33 caution for Gosselin would be the first of the night, ending a great run for the No. 26. With Gosselin to the tail, Gosek would now lead Connors, Graham, Abold, and Ritskes in the Top 5.
Before the field could complete a lap, another caution would hit on lap 33, this time for Lou LeVea, who had a wheel center break on the back stretch. It was under this yellow that it became evident that the right side section of Abold’s rear tail was flapping. The Abold No. 05 would continue.
As the green lights came back on, Lavery moved high on Ritskes at lap 34 to move to fourth in the No. 22 and, just one lap later, both Lavery and Ritskes somehow managed to avoid a spinning Abold down the front straight which brought out yet another caution on lap 35.
Amidst the string of cautions and restarts just past the halfway point, Graham was able to size up Connors and move into the second position behind Gosek.
Gosek, Graham, Connors, Lavery, and Ritskes would show the way on the latest restart and again it was Lavery making moves high in the No. 22.
As the field came to green, Lavery drove around the Connors No. 01 to move to third, which showed the way for Ritskes to do the same in the No. 88.
For a series of laps Gosek, Graham, and Lavery would check away from the field with Ritskes a few cars back in tow.
Ritskes was eventually able to chase down the Top 3, but another caution at lap 38 erased his hard work as the field would bunch up yet again. The yellow lights were again for Abold, this time spinning in turn three in the No. 05.
After a great run early, Abold would eventually call it a day at lap 46 with a 16th-place finish.
With 24 laps remaining, Gosek led Graham, Lavery, Ritskes, Connors, Sitterly, Sobus, Barnes, Kody Graham, and Gioia to the restart.
As the green lights came back on, Gosek appeared as though he may have something for the charging No. 90, however, Gosek’s car was tight the entire race and only got tighter.
On lap 42, Graham was able to work his way past into the race lead and immediately pulled away in the Xtreme racer dropping Gosek into the clutches of Lavery and Ritskes.
With second through fourth positions settled out nose to tail in tow behind leader Graham, the battle was on further back for a Top 5 position and the man on the move was Barnes in the No. 99.
Barnes and Sitterly battled relentlessly for several laps behind fifth place running Connors, and on lap 46, Barnes was finally able to make a move stick driving past the Speedway point leader to move to 6th in the rundown.
The following circuit Barnes would make a move on Connors, pulling the No. 99 into the Top 5 several car lengths behind Ritskes in fourth.
As the laps wound down Graham would build a full straightaway lead by lap 50.
“The first half of the race we were loose, but we had the full fuel load, so I just wanted to ride it out and hopefully it would tighten up as the race went on and it did, and came in where we hoped it would,” said Graham. “He (Gosek) was running the exact same groove that I needed. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have got by him. I thought something broke because he went way up the track but I see he finished second.”
Lavery came home with another podium finish, and sliced further into Sitterly’s championship lead.
The next event on Oswego Speedway’s schedule is the $10,000 to win Mr. Novelis Supermodified Saturday, Aug. 4. Graham is also the two-time defending winner of this event in the No. 90. Only Mike Ordway (2002-2004) was won the event in three consecutive years.
Racing will begin at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 4.