Liverpool’s Michael Barnes parked the Syrell Racing No. 68 upon Oswego Speedway’s checkered stripe twice on Saturday night, sweeping two 35-lap main events. Not since his infamous track championship charge from the back to the front of the field in 2016’s regular season finale had Barnes returned to victory lane.
It was a nice recovery from the motor woes that led to an early departure the previous week. The twin killing bumped him up to third in the title chase. Barnes is the first to sweep both races on a Twin-35 night since Greg Furlong did it in 2005.
In the first 35-lapper, Barnes would inherit the lead with just a few trips to go after early race leader Dave Shullick, Jr. suddenly found himself parked in the pits and second place-running Otto Sitterly was ordered to the tail of the field. Barnes would end up cruising the final few laps to earn the win. In the second feature, the pilot of the No. 68 would choose the right lane in lapped traffic to conquer Joe Gosek in the late stages of the race.
If not for some late-race dramatics, Barnes would’ve most likely finished third in feature No. 1. Having started on the front row, Shullick had built a commanding lead. On the 25th lap, he raced into lapped traffic with a 15-car length advantage over Sitterly. However, with just four laps remaining, Sitterly would find himself on Shullick’s rear bumper as the race leader struggled to put Brandon Bellinger’s No. 02 a lap down.
The lead duo would first come together racing out of the second turn and recover, before making contact again between turns three and four. This time, Shullick’s No. 2 would lose its grip and tag the outside wall – but continue on. However, the yellow flag would fly and while under caution, Shullick would let Sitterly know his opinion of their meeting with a square shot on the rear bumper of the No. 7.
Shullick would pull pit-side. Sitterly was sent to the rear of the field. With both of the John Nicotra-owned cars out of contention, Barnes would be able to capitalize and fend off Aric Iosue to claim victory.
The two-time International Supermodified Association champ, with 22 ISMA feature wins under his belt, including an Oswego track title and 6 non-wing victories took a hard hit in the 2018 points chase. Shullick would not start the second feature and dropped to eighth place in the standings. To say the Ohio invader was upset with Sitterly would be an understatement.
After Shullick’s track championship run last season, Sitterly decided to focus his full attention on his own racing campaign. The two are no longer teammates, but that in itself was the plan at the start of the year. Nicotra still owns both machines, but Shullick’s car is being housed and prepped by its own crew led by Jim Paternoster. They no longer pit alongside one another, which on Saturday night was probably a good thing.
Sitterly is looking for his first feature win since the end of the 2015 season and is seeking an eighth track championship. Equally frustrated, he was critical of the his former teammate, Shullick, as well as the reasoning behind why he was sent to the rear.
Providing the rides for both of the drivers, Nicotra says he knew the potential for conflict between the two was there simply because they are two of the best who are fighting for just one thing. He says he disagrees with the call from above for the No. 7 to be penalized, but also says that it’s the track’s decisions to make.
Ending his night in the pits for an entirely different reason, Dan Connors, Jr. had the distinction of having had the hardest hit of the 2018 season, so far. Hovering around the top 10 near the halfway point of the first feature, Connors’ No. 01 took a sudden right turn into the outside wall on the front straightaway. The wounded super would end up in the first turn with its driver a bit shaken. Thankfully, Connors was OK.
The Oswego native says the car is damaged enough for them to turn their focus to their backup supermodified, which he says shouldn’t necessarily be a step backwards once it hits the track. The second car is not race-ready, but should be good to go come June 30.
Canada’s Logan Rayvals made his season debut this past weekend. The 2017 Novelis Supermodified Rookie of the year says he plans to be a weekly entry moving forward. The sophomore competitor said it didn’t take long to get the hang of things again and he’s hoping to improve in 2018.
Another driver making his season debut was 2014 Small Block Supermodified Champion, Andrew Schartner. There will be no title run in 2018 for the pilot out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Schartner has a busy season ahead of him off the track. An upcoming wedding in September coupled with sponsor needs has him picking and choosing his race dates this year.
Schartner’s day started off pretty rough, but he ended up scoring a top-five finish for the Karl Schartner, home-built No. 18.
Taking the checkered flag in the SBS 30-lap feature event, Anthony Losurdo propelled himself into the lead of the Pathfinder Bank SBS point standings. He would muster his way under teammate, Dan Kapuscinski in the second half of the race to take the checkered flag.
Owned by Mark Castiglia, the Losurdo-driven No. 1 is the only 2018 chassis in the division. The team knew their FFB had something to work with in early May, after kicking off their racing campaign by winning the Lighthouse Lanes SBS Series opener at Evans Mills Speedway. Losurdo backed that win up on Saturday night, winning his sixth feature event at Oswego.
Chris Porter is a motorsports journalist whose reporting has been published in multiple print and online media sources since 2004.
Chris has primarily covered Oswego Speedway, ISMA and other asphalt auto racing in upstate New York.