Otto Sitterly put an exclamation point on an incredible season at the Oswego Speedway on Sunday night, adding a fifth International Classic 200 win to the eighth Novelis supermodified track championship he’d earned just two weeks ago. Sitterly finished the 2018 season winning five of the final seven races, including the last three on Oswego’s schedule.
Listen to Otto Sitterly:
Starting third on the grid, the pilot of the John Nicotra-owned black No. 7 never slipped out of a podium position all race. Sitterly would first take the lead from Michael Barnes on lap No. 53’s restart. He would pick up the pace of the race, eventually joined at the front of the field by Doug Didero.
From the 85th lap forward, it would end up being a two-man race. They would pull away from the rest of the field. Didero would find room under Sitterly and take the point on lap No. 122. Never falling off the pace of the race leader, Sitterly would sit patiently behind Didero’s No. 3 for the next 55 laps.
With 23 laps to go, Sitterly decided it was time to “go.” On a restart, he would begin aggressively pressing the race leader. Looking high and low he would find room under the No. 3 as the duo raced off turn No. 4. Sitterly moved into the lead, but his momentum would take him high heading into the first turn. Didero would slip back underneath and the two raced side-by-side down the back straightaway. However, Sitterly would end up powering his way around the outside, taking full command as they completed the 186th lap of the race.
With laps in the upper 16 second range, he would quickly put distance between himself and the No. 3. Surviving a potential fuel shortage and a green-white-checkered finish, Sitterly would cruise to his fifth Classic win.
Barnes and defending Classic winner, Dave Shullick, Jr. led the 35-car field to the green to start the 62nd annual event. Barnes would take the point, bringing Shullick, Sitterly, Davey Hamilton and Didero with him across the checkered stripe to lead lap No. 1.
All was well until Chris Perley’s No. 44 found the outside wall as he headed off of the fourth turn on the 17th lap. With a badly damaged super, the multi-time ISMA champ’s night was over.
Barnes would bring the three Nicotra-owned cars back to racing on the 23rd lap. However, Bill Sharkey would soon run into trouble in turn No. 2, putting the race back under caution.
On the restart, Barnes was good to go. Setting a slow pace, the field remained knitted together. It also kept Barnes from leading the pack into lapped traffic. Behind him, Sitterly would make his way around Shullick on the 49th lap, taking over the runner-up spot. Just a handful of laps later, a massive pile-up between turns three and four brought out the red flag.
Joe Gosek and Aric Iosue would come together heading into the third turn. As they slid their way towards the fence, Dan Connors, Jr., Tim Snyder, Pat Lavery, Logan Rayvals, Mike McVetta, Jeff West and Brian Osetek would join the fray. Iosue, Connors, Snyder and Gosek (having started his 39th connective Classic) would all see their race end.
Barnes would lead the field back to racing on the 53rd lap. However, his lead would quickly disappear as Sitterly zipped by to take the lead. A few laps later, Barnes would try and reclaim it, but Sitterly would end up picking up the pace (mid-17s) and pulled away.
A few laps later, Shullick would take second away from Barnes. Up front, Sitterly commanded a 20-car length advantage. At this point in the race, his only challenge seemed to be keeping fuel in his No. 7. Overflow is common for the first few laps of the 200-lap event. However, 60 laps into the race, it could still be seen “misting” out of the No. 7.
Back in the pack, Didero would slip under Barnes for third on lap No. 73. Soon after, he would mirror the move on Barnes to take second place away from Shullick. Didero would begin cutting into Sitterly’s massive lead, but a caution for Michael Muldoon’s No. 15 would erase the margin between the two leaders.
As the field headed back to racing on the 85th lap, Sitterly led Didero, Barnes, Shullick and Hamilton. Brandon Bellinger, Keith Shampine, Shaun Gosselin, Dave Gruel and Tyler Thompson completed the top 10. Jeff Abold, Dave Danzer, Tyler Shullick, Bob Bond and McVetta filled out the top 15 – all on the lead lap.
Sitterly would lead the pack back to racing, fuel still seen spraying from atop his No. 7 on the 90th lap. He and Didero would pull away from the field.
Hamilton would get Barnes for third on the 93rd lap. The lead duo would continue to race away, commanding a half-lap advantage over Hamilton by the 96th lap. They would soon find themselves on the heels of the main pack with a massive advantage over their nearest chaser.
Once coming up against the tail-end of the field, the two seemed content to just sit and ride. With a rule change to not using a passing for this event, venturing into a thick pack of cars racing one another this early in the race didn’t seem appealing.
On the 112th lap, Bellinger would best a fading Shullick for fifth place. A few rounds later, Shampine would move past the defending race winner for sixth.
The long stretch of green would produce great racing all around the lakeside oval. On the 122nd lap, Didero would find room under Sitterly’s No. 7 and take command. Hamilton and Barnes continued to race tightly for third. Bellinger and Shampine were emerged in a great battle for fifth, while a surging Danzer had just taken seventh from Shullick.
In lapped traffic, Shampine would eventually win the battle for fifth on the 127th lap. Running in sixth, Bellinger would try and slip under Pat Lavery’s lapped No. 12, but found contact instead. The two would slide into the outside wall. With both cars too damaged to continue, their races came to an end.
The race would restart on lap No. 139. Didero would lead Sitterly, Hamilton, Barnes and Shampine. Danzer, Gosselin, Abold, Gruel and Thompson commanded the top 10.
Once again, the lead duo would begin to leave the field behind. However, the caution flag would fly again on the 144th lap. Gruel would make contact with the lapped Jeff West No. 1, sending West around and collecting Thompson’s 10th-place running No. 98. Thompson’s contact with the wall put the nail in the coffin of a race weekend that the Jason Simmons-owned team found themselves in constant battle with.
While under caution, Shullick, Gosselin and Gruel would all pit and return to action. However, shortly after the race restarted Shullick would pull pit-side, nose first. He would note handling issues as the culprit.
With just 40 to go, the front three would ease away, albeit, spread a part. Behind them, pressured by Abold from behind, Shampine would move under Hamilton for fourth on the 163rd lap. Shortly after losing fifth to Abold, the Indianapolis resident would find the outside wall off turn No. 2. Hamilton’s day was done.
With only 23 laps remaining, Didero led Sitterly and their chasers back to racing. No longer content to run in second, Sitterly began pressing the No. 3 for the race lead. Recenly discovering his tires had worn, Didero did all he could to hold off the eventual Hall of Famer.
However, Sitterly’s No. 7 would have a run under the No. 3 on the front straightaway with 15 laps to go. He would move ahead as they reached the first turn, but Didero would make one last gasp as they switched lanes between turns one and two. They’d race side-by-side around Oswego’s five-eighths mile one last time before Sitterly would come out on top as they reached the front straightaway.
Sitterly would pick up the pace, running laps in the upper 16 second range. He would lead Didero by 25 lengths with just 10 laps to go. However, that advantage would be sliced in half with five to go, leading some to believe the overflow issue was finally taking its toll.
Running in the top 10, Gosselin’s No, 77 would bring out the race’s final caution with just six laps remaining. It would lead to a green, white, checkered finish.
Sitterly would put any fuel questions to rest on the ensuing restart. Speeding away and holding nothing back, he would cruise the final laps and be crowned Classic Champion.
Making his return to racing at Oswego with only one goal in mind, Didero’s Classic run would come up one position short.
Debuting his team’s new car, Barnes would race its maiden voyage to a podium finish, landing the No. 68 in third.
Slipping underneath Shampine in the final laps, Abold scored a fine fourth-place finish.
Reaching his goal to simply finish this year’s Classic, Shampine drove the Chris Osetek-owned No. 55 to a top-five run, crossing the checkered stripe in fifth.
Making a late-race charge through the field, Danzer put his No. 52 in sixth place.
It was a an end of an era and as well as a new beginning for Jack Patrick. Patrick raced for the last time in the SBS division and for the first time as a car owner in the International Classic.
62nd Annual Budweiser Classic 200:1. Otto Sitterly (7), 2. Doug Didero (3), 3. Michael Barnes (68), 4. Jeff Abold (05), 5. Keith Shampine (55), 6. Dave Danzer (52), 7. Dave Gruel (50), 8. Bob Bond (47), 9. Tyler Shullick (25), 10. Logan Rayvals (94), 11. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 12. Shaun Gosselin (77), 13. Jeff West (1), 14. Jack Patrick (5), 15. Davey Hamilton, (6), 16. Dave Shullick, Jr. (2), 17. Tyler Thompson (98), 18. Brandon Bellinger (02), 19. Pat Lavery (12), 20. Mike McVetta (21), 21. Brian Osetek (69), 22. Michael Muldoon (15), 23. Hal LaTulip (56), 24. Aric Iosue (11), 25. Joe Gosek (00), 26. Tim Snyder (0), 27. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 28. Lou LeVea, Sr. (96), 29. Jerry Curran (73), 30. Bill Sharkey (71), 31. Mark Sammut (78), 32. Camden Proud (22), 33. Chris Perley (44), 34. Tony Pisa (66), 35. Dave McKnight (70)
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.