One week after seemingly nothing could go right at Oswego Speedway, nearly everything did during the Toys for Tots ‘Christmas in July’ event Saturday.
Starting from the sixth position, Fulton driver Dave Gruel sped through the field to take the lead from Jerry Curran through lapped traffic on the 18th of 75 circuits to claim his third career Novelis Supermodified victory.
At one point, Gruel built a dominating half-track lead in the Lighthouse Lanes No. 50 before lapped traffic allowed runner-up and championship point leader Joe Gosek to slightly close the victory margin. In the race’s final laps, Gosek appeared to be the fastest car on the speedway, needing a caution to close further ground on Gruel. Championship contenders Otto Sitterly and Shaun Gosselin would trail both Gruel and Gosek to the line with Curran completing the top five in the No. 24.
With the victory, coming just one week before he looks to defend his ISMA Supermodified King of Wings title behind the wheel of the Steve Miller Sweet 16, Gruel has visited Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane in each of his first four seasons behind the wheel of a Supermodified dating back to 2010.
“I think the car was taking me for a ride,” said Gruel. “The car was set-up awesome. I was just trying to do everything I could once I knew I was out there in the lead. Bill Samuels gave me an awesome car; he is the set-up guy. “I have to thank Bob Hoefer, Bill and Linda Samuels,” he added. “This is just awesome for both sides of this team. I was starting to conserve a little bit later, but I am really glad there were no cautions, because I did not have much left the last couple laps.”
Lapped traffic played a key role in the event, helping Gruel to snag the race lead, and later on caused some tense moments in the closing laps. Just one week ago, Gruel spun in the 50-lap Supermodified feature attempting to lap a slower car.
“I usually like to use that (lapped traffic) as an opportunity to try and get ahead of the guy I am racing with,” said Gruel. “Luckily, it paid off this week, last week it didn’t work out too well.”
With another consistent finish in the No. 00, Gosek will head to Race of Champions Weekend at the Speedway in two weeks still on top of the Novelis Supermodified standings. “I think a lot of guys slowed down a bit, but our car was pretty consistent throughout,” said Gosek. “We gained big from warm-ups, to the heat, to the feature and that is a plus.”
With a long green flag stretch run, Gosek said his philosophy is rather simple in those situations. “Basically you just keep picking them off and go as fast as you can”, said Gosek. “I couldn’t see the leader but I figured it was the 50, he was the only one I didn’t pass. I didn’t really look at the board, I saw I was second, but didn’t look at the lead.” Sitterly wrestled the No. 7 home with a third place finish. “The track changed a lot and the car has been really tight,” said Sitterly. “I talked with a lot of guys; Pat Lavery, Joe Gosek and everyone has been really tight the last few weeks. I imagine it has something to do with the heat, track change, or what? Joe was going awful good tonight, and Pat was good early, but we just sort of stayed mediocre the whole race but we’ll take it.”
A fourth place finish for Shaun Gosselin continues his banner season as well as keeping him in the championship battle with Gosek and Sitterly. Gosselin would end the night as both the Lightouse Lanes Hard Charger and Up & Comer. Shell Shock Custom Helmet Paint heat race challenge victories would go to Devendorf, Connors, and Bellinger.
Pat Lavery, Dan Connors Jr., Brandon Bellinger, Kody Graham, and Tim Snyder completed the top ten order. Toys for Tots “Christmas in July” at Oswego Speedway kicked off with a visit from Santa Claus to the “Steel Palace” along with a very successful toy drive in both the grandstand and pit areas. A total of 12 Toys for Tots toy boxes were filled for donation to Toys for Tots of Oswego County. Oswego Speedway took on a winter’s touch throughout the evening with a plethora of Christmas decorations and activities for the young ones, headed up by Christmas in July coordinator Lisa Sova and her helpful volunteers.