Weeks after a vicious hit in the second turn, which resulted in a near total rebuild of the No. 00 Novelis Supermodified, Oswego native Joe Gosek returned to victory lane at Oswego Speedway Saturday night.
Gosek, who came from the 17th starting position, sailed past longtime leader Dave Danzer to take the top spot on lap 33 and was never again confronted on his way to win number 42 all-time.
The victory breaks Gosek’s tie with Nolan Swift, now putting Gosek fourth on the Oswego Speedway Supermodified win list behind only Ed Bellinger Jr., Bentley Warren, and Jim Shampine.
“It has been a struggle but everyone stuck with us and we keep working hard,” said Gosek. “Some nights you hit the set-up and some nights you don’t. We searched around today and made some major changes before the main, and the car was there. Any driver could get it done with that kind of car.
“We have just been trying to come up with a combination where I could race,” he added. “You have to be able to race the car. Going fast and racing the car are two different things and we found a car in the main that had all kinds of traction, could cut the corner, and kind of made it look easy.”
Gosek’s victory marks the sixth different time that he has won the last regular season-point event leading up to the International Classic. In 1992, Gosek was able to back it up with an International Classic victory.
“This has happened quite a few times before, where we’ve won the one before the Classic,” said Gosek. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. There are 15 guys that could win that race, and we have to be strong at the end, and that is what we will work toward the next couple weeks.”
Saturday’s Novelis Supermodified main event marked the second week in a row that the winning driver came from outside the first seven rows of the starting line-up.
Mexico driver Mike Barnes earned the Aug. 11 main event victory from the 16th starting spot.
Chasing Gosek across the line were Danzer, Dan Connors Jr., Pat Lavery, and Otto Sitterly.
Sitterly’s fifth place effort in the Nicotra Racing No. 7 was enough to earn his fifth career Oswego Speedway track championship.
The Canajoharie driver now trails only Swift, Warren, and Shampine on the track championship win list at the Speedway. Swift took top honors eight different times, while Warren and Shampine each won seven Oswego track titles.
Sitterly, who entered Saturday’s racing with an 11-point edge on Oswego’s Pat Lavery, had a tense moment in heat racing action to start the night.
After watching Lavery drive to a fifth-place finish in the first heat race, Sitterly was involved in a turn three jingle with Michael Muldoon, which sent Sitterly pit side crediting him with just an eighth-place finish in the second qualifying heat.
The Nicotra team, which had a back-up car on site, went to work immediately on the No. 7 car and made repairs in time for Sitterly to start 20th in the main event, seven spots behind Lavery. Had Sitterly gone to his back-up car No. 6 the team would have relinquished the owner’s championship to Double Deuce Racing and Lavery.
Entering the main event, Sitterly’s 11-point margin had been cut down to only eight. Despite starting seven positions behind Lavery, it did not take Sitterly long to find the back bumper of the No. 22, which he stayed glued to for the majority of the event.
Lavery and Sitterly would cross the line in tandem in fourth and fifth, making the final count plus-five for Sitterly.
“We had an episode in the heat race there, it’s racing, it happens,” said Sitterly. “What an awesome crew, awesome owner, awesome wife. A huge thanks to everybody.”
Sitterly went on to comment further on the heat incident and how his team rebounded.
“I thought we were looking good at the beginning of the heat race,” he said. “it was just an unfortunate thing that happened there. Luckily there wasn’t a whole lot of damage and the team talked about it and we decided to straighten the axle instead of replacing it as I was really afraid we would lose the set-up if we changed it. This whole thing is definitely a team effort, there is not a single guy doing this deal.”
Earning a fifth championship and joining the likes of Swift, Shampine, and Warren all-time truly struck Sitterly.
“It’s wild and it really means a lot,” commented Sitterly. “As silly as it sounds it means a lot to be able to hold your whole hand up and show how many you have won. Never would I have dreamt, and I know it is an old story but it is my story, I never would have dreamt to be doing this kind of stuff ever.
“I am very fortunate,” he continued. “We work hard, but I know that I am a very fortunate man to be able to do this stuff.”