Oswego, NY - Canadian Randy Ritskes was on his way to making history Sunday at Oswego Speedway. He had led 196 laps of the prestigious Bud International Classic and would have been only the second driver in the race's history to lead all 200...
Oswego, NY - Canadian Randy Ritskes was on his way to making history Sunday at Oswego Speedway. He had led 196 laps of the prestigious Bud International Classic and would have been only the second driver in the race's history to lead all 200 and the only Canadian to do so - if Greg Furlong hadn't come along. Greg had different plans for the race end. He closed in on Ritskes in traffic late in the race and using a couple lap cars, Furlong put his 72 in the lead on lap 196. The race now belonged to the defending race champion, who went on to his second straight Classic win. The Furlong team took home almost $30,000 for the victory. Furlong had also set a new track record in time trials after last week copping the 2000 Oswego track championship. It's just been his year!
"This was unbelievable. It's just unbelievable," said the 27-year old Hannibal, NY resident. " Right there at the end I came up behind Bentley and he went to the outside of somebody. I had gotten Randy at that point. The lap cars were pretty much in a line and that's what I figured I needed. When I came across for the white flag, Bentley went high and shot past a car. I followed him, but then I saw Randy underneath me and I knew I had to go right now. It all happened just the way I needed it to. If Bentley had slipped or made any other move, Randy would have had me. It just happened the way it needed to happen."
The 2000 International Classic was one of patience. Almost all of the 35-car field had a game plan and patience was part of it. The race ran clean and smooth for a good portion with only a few minor skirmishes slowing the event. Randy Ritskes took up the lead on the first circuit and by lap 14 was heading into the rear of the pack.
The first yellow flew on lap 18 with several cars involved including Shannon Groves and Dave Shullick Jr., who was the first car to exit the field. Ritskes led his teammate Joe Gosek, Furlong, Davey Hamilton and Tim Gareau on the restart, with Jamie Letcher, Bob Goutermout, Mike Ordway, Jeff West, Joey Payne and Dave McKnight all riding smoothly behind.
Yellows on laps 30, 42, 60, 66 and 70 all affected only one car each basically, and spins were mostly the cause.
As the pack headed past the lap 50 mark, Furlong had dropped back a few spots while Ritskes, Gosek, Hamilton and Gareau moved into traffic. On lap 74, Joe Gosek's 26 brushed the outer wall on the front straight causing pushing part of his body panels into his right rear. He began smoking while still running second. A lap 78 yellow for Mike Douglas allowed Gosek time to come in and have the car checked, but his crew found the car unrepairable for competition and Gosek, who had been fourth fastest in time trials, was done.
Ritskes was definitely on rails in his Dunigan-owned 29 as he easily led at the lap 100 mark. Davey Hamilton sat in second while Furlong had moved back into third, battling by Tim Gareau shortly before halfway. Mike Ordway, piloting the Todd Stowell backup 39 was fifth for a time before the "Jersey Jet" Joey Payne moved in to take the spot. Payne, who had started 16th, was slowly picking off cars on his way toward the front.
The race ran green until lap 123. As Randy Ritskes was about to put six-time Classic champion Bentley Warren down a lap, Dave McKnight and Dave Trytek were into the foam in turn three. Both, running strong top ten positions at the time., were able to restart at the tail of the field. During the interim, at least six cars made pit stops to try for better handling.
A long, long green spell in the race was filled with the leaders maneuvering through the field which remained high in car count.
By lap 140, Ritskes was pulling almost out of sight of second place runner Davey Hamilton as he glided high and low around slower cars. Furlong had moved back into third, and then on lap 145, he began to move as he picked off Hamilton for second. Joey Payne, in the meantime was following his game plan as he sat right off the bow of Hamilton's 35.
"My brother came out around lap 130, said Furlong, "and told me I had to get moving. He waved me on to pick up the pace. I started to move up, and lap traffic came into play. Some of those lap cars just don't seem to know where they are. But, man, it was tough out there. I got loose at one time there earlier. There was tons and tons of rubber out there. If you got out of the groove, you got loose. I did it a couple of times. As long as I didn't pinch the car, the car was just a rocket out there. If I tried to go low, it wiggled, but I didn't need to go there. Everything just went my way again. It just worked to my advantage. A lot of times it's easy to be the second place car when you come to the end of a race and you catch lap cars. You've got to be in the right place at the right time and we were there.
With 30 to go, Furlong had reeled in Ritskes and the crowd knew now that Greg was going for all the marbles.
On laps 172 and 178, yellows flew to bunch the field tightly for the race to t he finish.
Ritskes and Furlong stuck together like glue as they wove through the traffic patterns. Payne, on a mission, had gotten past Hamilton on lap 163, now also tried to close in on the lead duo.
But, that was easier said than done as the race stayed green from here-on-in. The air was electric as everyone watched Ritskes and Furlong approaching cars, making crucial decisions on which way to go around.
The turning point of the race came on lap 196 was the duo approached the 79 of Sitterly , who was running a strong top ten at the time. Furlong and Ritskes split, heading around Sitterly, but Furlong emerged in front as Ritskes got pinned slightly behind another car in front of Sitterly. It was now Furlong's race to loose, and he had no intentions of doing so. Four more circuits was all he had left to glory.
Greg replayed the pass, "I saw him coming up on lap traffic. I knew I could go in harder than he was. My car was going in great. I just waited for lap traffic. I was going to get him one way or other. I set him up. I showed him a wheel. And, then we caught the lapped traffic and boom I sailed by. Otto moved up and I thought I was golden until we caught Bentley and someone else running side by side there and that's when I said 'oh boy'. One or two more laps and it might have been another story. I was just looking for the double checkers and when I saw them I just said, 'Unreal. You've got to be kidding me.' Not being in a racing family and coming into it just seven years ago and with the success we've had, it's just amazing. I'm very happy and just excited that it all has happened the way it did. What more can I say. "Randy was running good. He was running smooth. He would diamond it coming in. I just felt I could catch him. I had a faster car and I was just a bit off for a while. But my car never pushed. It stayed down all day long. That's what happened last year."
But, Ritskes, who had held a comfortable margin out front for so many laps, wasn't about to let Furlong get off easy. Ritskes stayed right with Furlong on lap 198, trying to use traffic now to his advantage. On lap 199, the two continued their exciting dual and coming off four as the double checkers flew, Ritskes poured his heart into the effort, but so did Furlong and it was Furlong crossing the line first.
Ritskes, Joey Payne, Dave Hamilton and Tim Gareau were the only cars in the lead lap at the finish. Ritskes and Payne, who ran out of fuel near race end, registered their best-ever Classic finishes. Otto Sitterly, a supermodified rookie, was the first car out of the lead lap in sixth. Summing up his feelings on winning his second Classic in two years, Greg said,
"It's hard to comprehend that I'm racing out there with the likes of Bentley Warren, Joe Gosek and winning. Maybe someday I'll accomplish what they did. We don't have a lot of money. We have one car. We don't have a second one, because we really can't afford it. My brother and I paid for our hauler last year. Our business pays for things. Sponsors pay for things. The crew pays the ir way in most nights. These guys work hard. They work all day long during a 40 hour week job and then come in and work till ten or eleven on the car... whatever it takes. We all work on it. Me, my brother, my cousin, family, friends. That's who work on the car. We kind of do it ourselves, getting advice here and there. I think I appreciate it more that way. I feel that we earn it more that way. I want to thank them all."
Ritskes, who came so close, but then so far, said " The car was extremely good at first and that's where the problem was. They tried to tighten it up and not go too far. You know the whole thing is a guessing game. We had a very good car at the beginning of the race. Joe kept telling me to slow down. But, you needed a car that would push at the beginning of the race. We didn't have that car. No matter what, the car worked the back, no matter how slow I went. It was rear driving, not front driving. See Greg went backwards at first, but up at the end. That's the kind of car you need. Sometimes the best car in a 200 lapper is not the best early in the race. The stagger - the tires didn't do what they were supposed to do. But, so much of it is just flip and coin and see what happens. We missed it just a little. Greg had the better car. I think I could have held him back without traffic, but when we got in traffic, if he wanted to go low, he could go low and if he wanted to go high, he could go high. So, I was trying to weave back and forth, trying to hold him back. I looked at the scoreboard and kept saying, 'Hey I just won a 45 lapper. Hey I just won a 75 lapper. Hey I just won a 125. I just came up short of winning 200. I'm not disappointed. These guys worked hard and did a hell of a job. We just missed it by a couple laps or one spot... whatever you want to say. You win some and lose some."
Third place runner, Joey Payne, whose car was running out of fuel commented with a smile, "That car was awesome today. I think I'd rather finish third today because the car was running out of fuel and to be the leader, they would have been right on me and if I'd lost the lead running out of fuel, I would have had tears in my eyes. I think my car was capable of leading today too. My spotter Billy helps me out a lot. He's always there for me. It was an awesome race. Bruce told me to pick off one car every 15-20 laps. It was so good. I just had to go. I started 16th. It was so awesome. I just headed to the front. We're getting closer and closer every race we race. The team is starting to work better and better together. It's been about two years since I've won and I'm getting a little frustrated. I know it's out there. I also have to thank Pat Strong and his crew for letting me come here every couple times to run their car. It really helps."
Scott Martel was, unofficially, the hard charger of the race, moving from 32nd spot to 9th in the final standings.
<pre> BUDWEISER CLASSIC 200 SUMMARY SUPERMODIFIED HEAT #1 1. Shannon Groves (07) 2. Tim Snyder (0) 3. Dave Shullick Jr (38) 4. Scott Martel (14) 5. Tim Devendorf (76) 6. Mike Brubaker (36) 7. Dan Soule (32) 8. Jennifer Chesbro (33) 9. Bobby Smith (91) SUPERMODIFIED HEAT #2 1. Mike Douglas (23) 2. Doug Boisvert (66) 3. Bob Bond (25) 4. Brian Sweeney (3) 5. Hal LaTulip (52) 6. Bill Sharkey (7) 7. Gary Syrell (08) 8. Timmy Jedrzejek (85) 9. Vern LaFave (97) SUPERMODIFIED B-MAIN 1. Tim Devendorf (76) 2. Dan Soule (32) 3. Hal LaTulip (52) 4. Mike Brubaker (36) 5. Timmy Jedrzejek (85) 6. Bobby Smith (91) 7. Jennifer Chesbro (33) 8. Bill Sharkey (7) 9. Gary Syrell (08) INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC 200 1. Greg Furlong (72) 2. Randy Ritskes (29) 3. Joey Payne (06) 4. Davey Hamilton (35) 5. Tim Gareau Jr (5) 6. Otto Sitterly (79) 7. Lou Cicconi (4) 8. Jamie Moore (88) 9. Scott Martel (14) 10. Gary Morton (99) 11. Bentley Warren (50) 12. Brian Sweeney (3) 13. Jerry Curran (24) 14. Doug Saunier (71) 15. Howard Page (18) 16. Vern LaFave (97) 17. Bob Goutermout (77) 18. Jeff West (01) 19. Eddie Bellinger Jr (02) 20. Todd Stowell (89) 21. Ray Graham Jr (90) 22. Doug Boisvert (66) 23. Bob Bond (25) 24. Tim Snyder (0) 25. Dave McKnight Jr (94) 26. Mike Ordway (39) 27. Dave Trytek (70) 28. Pat Abold (6) 29. Jamie Letcher (58) 30. Shannon Groves (07) 31. Joe Gosek (26) 32. Mike Douglas (23) 33. Tim Devendorf (76) 34. Tim Proud (22) 35. Dave Shullick Jr (38)
Lap Leaders: Randy Ritskes 1-196; Greg Furlong 197-200