For the second race in a row, Otto Sitterly parked his Nicotra Racing Supermodified on the front stretch at Oswego Speedway.
This time, however, Sitterly climbed out of the No. 7 as a five-time champion of the 75-lap Jim Shampine Memorial event.
With a 12th place feature finish May 11, Sitterly’s handicap placed him fifth in the starting order Saturday night. Methodically working his way to the runner-up position, Sitterly grabbed the point from early leader Kody Graham on lap 45 and steamed on untouched to victory lane to claim his second consecutive Jim Shampine Memorial.
Sitterly’s victory Saturday was his fifth Shampine Memorial title, joining wins in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2012. No other driver has scored more than three victories in the event which has been run at the Speedway since 1991.
Joe Gosek, Dave Gruel, Michael Barnes, Dave Danzer, Michael Muldoon, Tim Jedrzejek, Brandon Bellinger, Jeff Holbrook, and Tim Devendorf completed the top ten finishers.
At race’s end, Sitterly, who had an altercation two weeks ago in the Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’ with Gruel, still seemed visibly torn about the May 11 events, which saw him leave his racecar on the front straightaway on lap 66, retiring for the evening.
Barely cracking a smile for cameras in victory lane, Sitterly had little to say to infield announcer Keith Zehr after his victory.
“We just took it one lap at a time,” said Sitterly. “The car is good.”
When asked about his victory pulling him back into a battle for his sixth career Oswego Championship, Sitterly said, “We’re just going to take it one week at a time.”
With the victory, Sitterly now has 25 career Novelis Supermodified wins at Oswego Speedway — only one behind 1985 track champion Steve Gioia Jr.
A total of 26 Novelis Supermodifieds were in the pit area Saturday night with 25 taking the green flag in the Jim Shampine Memorial main event.
Last year’s championship runner-up, Pat Lavery in the No. 22, was once again one of the fastest racecars in warm-ups, but his night would come to an end as the engine expired under the hood of his machine dropping him out of the night’s action after the qualifying heats.
Graham and Bellinger would lead the strong Novelis Supermodified field to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria feature green flag on Saturday night with Graham quickly shooting to the race lead in the No. 21 Xtreme chassis.
Sitterly, who started inside the third row, immediately dove to the inside of Jeff Locke’s No. 37 to pull to fourth on the Speedway and not long after the race’s first caution would wave for a spinning Jerry Curran down the back stretch.
Curran made his Oswego debut on Saturday night in the No. 24, looking very good in early warm-ups, running in the 16-second bracket. After spinning backwards on the race’s first lap, Curran would continue on.
Another caution would wave on the race’s restart, this time for a spinning Jeff Holbrook down the front chute.
Holbrook, who won his qualifying heat race earlier in the evening, was running seventh at the time he spun. The No. 35 would head to the pits, but did return to action before the lights went green.
The next restart would stay green for a handful of laps and it would see the Gruel No. 50 hit the fast lane.
After starting seventh on the grid, Gruel shot to the topside of the Speedway powering around Locke to fifth, and just one lap later drove around Sitterly into the first turn to take fourth.
Just like two weeks ago, Gruel and Sitterly would now be bumper to bumper and together they worked through the field, next making quick work of the Bellinger No. 02 to charge to third and fourth with both Dan Connors Jr. and race leader Graham in their sights.
After five circuits, yet another caution would hit the Speedway and it was again for Curran entering turn three, but this time he would be joined by Dave Cliff in a much more serious incident.
Heading down the back stretch Keith Shampine, who debuted the brand new Chris Osetek No. 55 roadster Saturday, appeared to slow out of turn two moving to the bottom of the speedway.
As Shampine slowed down the back stretch, Cliff’s No. 06 caught the right rear tire of the No. 55 causing the front end of the Gnomey Racing machine to go air born and lose control. Cliff flew across the Speedway directly for the outside steel and caught Curran with him as he tried to roll by on the high side.
Each car would slam the outside steel, sliding passed the third turn pit gate, and eventually scattering a great deal of foam. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done to both the No. 06 and No. 24, who ironically park next to each other in the pit area, as both cars took on massive right front damage.
Both drivers exited their machines under their own power and were in good condition.
The race’s restart would see Graham out in front ahead of Connors, Gruel, Sitterly, Bellinger, Gosek, Locke, Muldoon, Shaun Gosselin, and Michael Barnes in the front ten.
As the lights went green, Gruel again found the outside lane, this time sliding passed Connors to take over the runner-up spot, now beginning to give chase to Graham for the race lead.
At this point, Gruel appeared as though he would be the car to beat, but Sitterly would soon also get around Connors to move to third in turn four, and the Gosek No. 00 was also lingering.
By lap 15, Graham and Gruel had settled into a bit of a lead over Sitterly, who himself had built a nice cushion over Connors, Gosek, and Gosselin running fourth through sixth. Gosselin, driving the family owned No. 26, looked very good early on but at lap 17 would bring out another caution as he broke out of turn four, stopping on the front straight.
The No. 26 would be pushed to the infield, parking nose first in his pit stall, done for the evening.
The previous restart belonged to Gruel, but the lap 17 restart belonged to the Gosek No. 00 as he pushed to the outside of Connors to move to fourth, now joining a tight four car battle for the race lead with Graham, Gruel, and Sitterly.
It was at this point of the race that dejavu began to set in with Gruel and Sitterly riding second and third, just as they did two weeks ago.
Each driver ran clean, leaving plenty of room between each other as Graham continued to power away out front.
A long green flag period would now set in, providing a clear indication of the drivers that had racecars to potentially battle for the win.
At one point, Graham built a sizeable lead over the dueling duo of Gruel and Sitterly as Gosek began to fade in the No. 00 running fourth. During this stretch Barnes and Muldoon would emerge as top runners after starting 8th and 12th on the grid, as they now rode 5th and 6th respectively.
As the cross flags went in the air showing half-way, Graham’s lead began to shrink, and on lap 40 both Gruel and Sitterly had tightened the gap.
On lap 44, Sitterly’s persistence would pay off as he pulled low on Gruel heading into turn one yet again, just like two weeks ago. But this time their cars would not touch and Sitterly would drive on by to the runner-up position.
One lap later as leader Graham and Sitterly hit lapped traffic, Graham would leave the door open for Sitterly on the low side out of turn two, which was all the No. 7 needed.
Sitterly would now be the race’s second, and final, leader at lap 45 quickly building a large gap over the field.
As Sitterly mounted as much as a full straightaway lead on the field, the trio of Graham, Gruel, and Gosek battled for second. By this time the Speedway had seen a green flag spell of almost 50 consecutive laps, which forced the handling on several cars to go away.
One car however seemed to improve as the race went on and that was the No. 51 of Muldoon. After a top five finish on May 11, Muldoon seemed poised to chase down Barnes for fifth in the late going, but just as that thought crept into the minds of some the No. 51 would spin out of turn four bringing out the yellow flag at lap 68.
With the long stretch of green flag racing, and an attrition filled night, only seven cars remained on the lead lap with seven laps to go, meaning Muldoon would restart seventh only losing one spot on the Speedway.
With just a handful of laps to go Sitterly led Graham, Gruel, Gosek, Barnes, Danzer, Muldoon, Jefrzejek, Bellinger, and Holbrook in the top ten with Jeedrzejek being the first car a lap down to the field.
It looked as though this order would hold, but that was until the field charged out of turn two on the restart.
The Graham No. 21, which had led 44 laps of the main event, suddenly faltered out of turn two jamming up Gruel on the low side of the Speedway.
With Graham and Gruel jammed on the bottom of the track, Gosek powered to the high side taking advantage and passing his way to second in the field behind Sitterly.
Graham immediately pulled the No. 21 pit side.
Initially it was believed that Graham may have run out of fuel, but that was not the case at all. Graham says it was an engine issue, which actually first appeared earlier in the race.
“At about lap 30 or so I lost oil pressure, it dropped to about 40,” said Graham. “It felt like I had a parachute behind the car heading down the straightaways and that’s when I think they starting to catch back up to me. While we were up to speed during that long run it was ok, but when we had that last yellow and everything cooled down, I pinned it on the restart (out of turn two) and nothing happened.”
Despite Gosek now moving into the runner-up position, Sitterly had already built an insurmountable lead, dominating the field for his fifth Shampine title and 25th career Oswego win.
Oswego Speedway will next be in action Saturday, June 1 with a 50-lap Novelis Supermodified main event and a 30-lap Pathfinder Bank SBS feature.
Grandstand gates will open at 4 p.m. with racing beginning at 6:30 p.m.