Otto Sitterly and the Nicotra Racing team seem to have the prestigious Oswego Speedway (NY) Supermodified events figured out. Already a winner in May’s Jim Shampine Memorial 75 for the sixth time, the pair was a favorite to share another Budweiser International Classic 200 win on Sunday afternoon. After inheriting the lead shortly before halfway when Joey Payne came in for a stagger adjustment, Sitterly would never look back setting the pace from every restart until the checkered flag.
From ‘Fast 14’ qualifying on Friday it looked like the Hawk chassis fielded by Nicotra drivers Sitterly, former Indy 500 driver Davey Hamilton, and Saturday night’s ISMA winner Dave Shullick Jr. would face a duel with the four Xtreme team cars of fast qualifier Payne, outside front row starter Kody Graham, Ray Graham, and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Bobby Santos.
Payne set a torrid pace from the start, but all was not perfect prior to relinquishing the lead.
“The car was getting really free,” explained Payne. “We came in and adjusted the stagger, went back out and it was still terrible. We came in again to put a tire on and it’s kind of hard to make a pit stop here and not lose a lap.”
That’s when Payne’s day went from bad to worse. A controversial call for the push truck to dispatch the lapped car of Dave Gruel back onto the track first did not please the team; however, both teams lost a lap on pit road. From there, traffic would stack up and teammate Santos got into the back of him and around he went. The contact ended the day for an extremely fast machine.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Payne. “It’s just going to make me come back harder next year and I’m going to go out there and break my own track record.”
These events put Sitterly up front and he would remain unchallenged by closest competitors such as teammate Hamilton. One driver quietly made a late race surge toward the front, but came up short of the victory. Still, 2012 and 2013 Classic fast qualifier Pat Lavery was all smiles with a runner up finish.
“Otto was very good,” said Lavery. “He had us covered. We did a great job to come back up through. We just kind of ran out of steam there at the end, but very proud to come home second to Otto. No problem with that.”
Sitterly keeps collecting the prestigious trophies, but strategy-wise mostly sees it as just another race.
“I think sometimes it’s just sort of ironic that (the success) happens to be the big races,” Sitterly told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Sometimes maybe a longer distance race can play into our hand. Handicapping and stuff in a weekly 50 lap race we start 10th or 12th every single week, not that that’s an excuse, but the cars are so equal.”
In addition, he doesn’t see one big victory to be more significant than the others.
“Don’t get me wrong, this one is sweet but every one of them has been real good.”
Car owner John Nicotra, also a green bean farming business owner, has shared in each of the experiences with the talented Sitterly. He made sure to mention that it is an entire team effort involved in each of their accomplishments.
“We have so many great guys,” said Nictora. “All they want to do is race. I don’t think you could find a better group of guys if you look for a hundred years.”
Hamilton brought home a third place finish followed by Santos and veteran Joe Gosek.
The non-winged Supermodifieds continue their quest in two weeks in a season finale as a part of the Race of Champions weekend. Sitterly and Nicotra extended their lead on Sunday in search for yet another accomplishment; a track championship.
Click here to re-live the Speed51.com Trackside Now coverage of the Budweiser Classic at Oswego
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com correspondent. Twitter: @Aaron_Creed. Photo credit: Speed51.com