Jeff Abold and Dave Danzer each captured a checkered flag in Saturday night’s twin Novelis supermodified 35-lap events at the Oswego Speedway. Both drivers would end up staving off challenges from eight-time track champion, Otto Sitterly en route to their respective wins.
At the drop of the green in feature No. 1, Abold would wrestle the lead away from opening day winner, Alison Sload. He would stay atop the field, fending off Sitterly in the final stages to grab the win.
In the second 35-lapper, Danzer would inherit the lead just before the halfway point after Lou LeVea, Jr.’s No. 83 overheated and pulled pit-side. Danzer would watch Sitterly slip underneath him on the final lap, but skate to the outside, leaving room for him to reclaim the lead with an inside pass to earn the win.
Winner of the 2016 International Classic 200, Abold would follow up his fourth career win with a fourth-place finish in the second 35-lap main. It was his third top-five in four feature outings.
Listen to – Jeff Abold
Unlike Abold’s strong opening to the 2019 season (second and sixth-place finishes), Danzer started the season with two missed feature starts. Even in Friday night’s practice session, his No. 52 had yet to really come to life. However, a good starting spot in the second 35-lap main, coupled with a bit of luck and a shorter than usual distance played into his favor.
Listen to – Dave Danzer
Slated to start in the front row, but unable to make the call due to fueling issues, Dave Shullick, Jr.’s pole position was given to Sload. Abold would move up from row No. 2 and the duo would lead the pack to the green.
Abold would pounce to the front, bringing Michael Barnes, Sload, Dave Gruel and Danzer across the line to complete lap No. 1. Sitterly would displace Danzer for the top-five spot the next trip around. Two laps later, Tyler Thompson would run out of room on the inside of the first turn and loop his No. 98.
The No. 05 would hold the point without issue on the ensuing restart, while Gruel bested Barnes for the runner-up spot. Two rounds later, Barnes would watch Sitterly bump him back to fourth. By the 10th lap, the Abold, Gruel, Sitterly trio would begin to inch away from Barnes and his nearest chasers.
Abold would catch the tail-end of the field on the 13th lap. Methodically, he would navigate through it, while Gruel fended off numerous challenges from Sitterly’s black No. 7. By the 23rd lap, Abold would close in on much heavier traffic, as the lead three now led Barnes by a full straightaway.
Otto Sitterly (7) moves by Jeff Abold (05) in feature #2
Michael Barnes (68) gets around Alison Sload (39) in feature #1
Jerry Curran (78) battles Dan Bowes (25) in the 1st feature
Otto Sitterly (7) gets around Dave Danzer (52) in feature #1. Danzer would hold him off in the second 35-lapper
Michael Muldoon (15) and Brandon Bellinger (02) race side-by-side in feature #2
Aric Iosue (11) moves around Camden Proud (54) in feature #1
Lou LeVea, Jr. (83) signals with his hand that he's pulling pitside, handing the lead over to Dave Danzer (52)
Jack Patrick (90) and Tyler Thompson (98) do battle in feature #1
Otto Sitterly (7) looks for a way around Aric Iosue (11)
Dave Gruel (50) fends off Otto Sitterly (7) for second place in feature #1
Dave Danzer poses in victory lane at Oswego
Jeff Abold in victory lane at Oswego
After countless outside bids, Sitterly would finally find room under Gruel’s No. 50 down the back straightaway on the 33rd lap. Abold had just cleared traffic and would have a clean track ahead for his final two trips. It would be all he needed, with Sitterly unable to mount a challenge in such short time.
Barnes and fast-time qualifier, Joe Gosek (15.869), rounded out the top five. Sload, Danzer, Keith Shampine, Dan Connors and Brandon Bellinger completed the top 10.
Having crashed in both, practice and during opening day’s feature action, LeVea was looking to turn his luck around. Paired with Danzer on the front row, LeVea’s No. 83 would run alongside Danzer’s No. 52 for nearly a full lap before inching into the lead to begin the second 35-lap main event. Aric Iosue, Logan Rayvals and Dan Connors, Jr. chased the lead duo across the checkered stripe to complete lap No. 1.
With LeVea seeking his first win and looking solid up front, focus suddenly turned to the rear of Shullick’s No. 95 which appeared to have caught fire. The glow would begin to grow for nearly two laps before the caution flag flew and he was radioed to come to a stop at the finish line. Crews were quick to extinguish the flames and Shullick was fine. However, the fuel issue that had prevented the team from taking the green flag in feature No. 1 had obviously reached a new level. The frustrating night for the 2017 track champ was over.
With five laps in, the top five remained the same. Abold, Sitterly, Gruel, Shampine and Gosek rounded out the top 10. Sitterly and Abold were first to do battle on the restart. The No. 7 would move around Abold’s No. 05, but Abold would fight back on the inside. Eventually, Sitterly would pull ahead.
All appeared well for LeVea until he suddenly pulled pit-side on the 15th lap, with an overheated No. 83. His bid for win No.1 would have to wait for another day.
Listen to – Lou LeVea, Jr.
Inheriting the lead, Danzer would race his line and begin counting down the laps inside his helmet. A few lengths behind him, Sitterly was now in third and looking high and low around Iosue’s No. 11.
Danzer would enter and exit traffic, maintaining a five-car length lead. Again, Sitterly was running out of time, but Iosue refused to give way. However, Sitterly would find room under the No, 11 on the 32nd lap, diving underneath him as they raced into the third turn. Sitterly was able to hang on and slip back up into the racing groove. He’d have two laps to chase down the race leader.
Taking the white flag with the No. 7 on his tail, Danzer maintained his line. Sitterly would square him up down the backstretch and try and mirror the move he’d just made on Iosue. Danzer would watch the No. 7 shoot underneath his No. 52, but end up skating across the front of his bow. With his lane left open, Danzer would simply drive underneath the reeling John Nicotra-owned No. 7 and reclaim his lead as he raced into the fourth turn.
Danzer would exit the final corner unchallenged and take the checkered flag. Taking advantage of Sitterly exiting the racing groove, Iosue was able to slip underneath him, as well. He would cross the line in second place.
Listen to – Aric Iosue
Racing his fellow competitors and seemingly the clock all evening, Sitterly would end his night with a pair of podium finishes.
Listen to – Otto Sitterly
Abold and Logan Rayvals rounded out the top five.
With just one top-five finish, a DNF and a fail to start to begin the season, Barnes and car owner Eric Syrell, have seemingly been behind the eight ball. After finishing fourth in the first race, his No. 68 sat parked in his pit area with mechanical woes related to an issue the team was hit with opening day. However, Syrell is determined to right the ship and get his Hawk Chassis back in victory lane soon. The car Barnes raced in 2018 is in the process of getting race-readied to be available for him to turn to if situations like Saturday night’s pop up in the future.
Listen to – Eric Syrell
Another new car that’s just trying to get it’s bugs worked out, is the Shullick-driven, Chris Osetek-owned No. 95. Osetek built the car over the winter months and tabbed Shullick to be its pilot and team car to Shampine’s No. 55. Being unique chassis to everything else in the pit area, Osetek believes that the benefits of going from a single-car to a two-car team will outweigh the extra work.
Listen to – Chris Osetek
Heat race wins were pocketed by Barnes, Sitterly and Connors.
Novelis Supermodified Feature #1: Jeff Abold (05), 2. Otto Sitterly (7), 3. Dave Gruel (50), 4. Michael Barnes (68), 5. Joe Gosek (00), 6. Alison Sload (39), 7. Dave Danzer (52), 8. Keith Shampine (55), 9. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 10. Brandon Bellinger (02), 11. Logan Rayvals (94), 12. Aric Iosue (11), 13. Tyler Thompson (98), 14. Dan Bowes (25), 15. Ben Seitz (32), 16. Jerry Curran (78), 17. Jack Patrick (90), 18. Camden Proud (54), 19. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83). DNS – Dave Shullick, Jr. (95), Michael Muldoon (15), Hal LaTulip (56)
Novelis Supermodified Feature #2: 1. Dave Danzer (52), 2. Aric Iosue (11), 3. Otto Sitterly (7), 4. Jeff Abold (05), 5. Logan Rayvals (94), 6. Keith Shampine (55), 7. Joe Gosek (00), 8. Dave Gruel (50), 9. Alison Sload (39), 10. Dan Bowes (25), 11. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 12. Tyler Thompson (98), 13. Michael Muldoon (15), 14. Jack Patrick (90), 15. Camden Proud (54), 16. Ben Seitz (32), 17. Jerry Curran (78), 18. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 19. Brandon Bellinger (02), 20. Dave Shullick, Jr. (95). DNS – Michael Barnes (68), Hal LaTulip (56)
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.