Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / OSWEGO SPEEDWAY – OSWEGO, NY – Joe Gosek has been a fan favorite at Oswego Speedway since making his first Supermodified start back in the 1980 season. 39 years later and 62 years young, Gosek will be back for the 68th consecutive season of racing at the ‘Big O’ and certainly hungry for more following one of the “best few months of his career” which took place in 2017.
There’s really not much ‘00 Joe’ hasn’t accomplished in his long tenure at the ‘Steel Palace.’ That includes 3 International Classic Victories, 44 total wins (fourth all-time), 231 top five finishes (most all-time), and an astounding career total of 32,606 points (most all-time).
After an ugly start to his season, last August, Gosek broke a three year long win drought driving the Robbie Gunther owned, Burke’s Do It Best Homecenters No. 00 to an extremely popular victory in the ‘Retro Night’ 45, drawing the crowd to its feet as they witnessed a milestone accomplishment for ‘00 Joe.’
This breakthrough victory came after a devastating turn 1 crash on Opening Night, which many feared could mark the end of Gosek’s career. ‘Go Joe,’ however, was far from finished. To the roar of the crowd, in typical Gosek fashion, the 00 rolled into the pit area just in time for heat races a mere two weeks later. He wound up finishing a very satisfying third place in the Jim Shampine Memorial 75. Again, the fans went crazy.
“That was really neat,” Gosek commented. “It makes you feel good that there are still all those people that enjoy you being there and working hard to come back. It’s cool to build a fan base and have all the support when you go there. I have fun afterwards with all the people, those that follow me and help us out. It’s still a blast sponsor wise, crew wise, family wise and it’s still so much fun for me. You’re in a great atmosphere with a lot of great people around you and that makes it easier to come back let alone the drive I still have to be competitive and that’s what still brings me there. I’m able to compete at a decent level.”
Gosek drove to an outstanding nine top five finishes in 2017, including fourth in the Budweiser International Classic 200. Every time the 00 finished, Joe was in the top five or better. Last year marked the most top fives in a single season for Gosek since all the way back in 1992.
“Following that really bad crash, every time we finished last year, we finished in the top five so if we could do that again this year, that would be a major accomplishment for our team,” said Gosek. “All those brand new aero cars certainly have the advantage over us. It’s a low budget deal, but if we can be safe, have fun and get some top fives then that’s what we have to get out of it. We can’t concern ourselves with going up every week just to win with what we have.”
The nasty crash on Opening Day and a slipped throttle linkage on July 15 were pretty much the only downfalls for the 00 team a year ago. Finishing in the top five virtually every week is pretty satisfying at this day and age, even for a speedway hall of famer like Gosek, who is content with just being able to compete.
“We dropped out of one show when the throttle linkage slipped and then had the bad wreck, but every other race we finished we finished in the top five,” Gosek noted. “That was really pretty cool and a lot more than I expected. You go there with the intentions of winning but you look at what you’re up against with the bigger budgets and arsenals of parts and cars and it’s very challenging. We’re working with about a quarter of what most of these guys have. You just have to do the best with what you have.”
At this point, many consider Gosek one of the underdogs in the Supermodified class and he’s very comfortable in saying that. His team has fielded a 2008 chassis every week for the past several seasons, but Joe still puts it to the front each and every Saturday night.
“Like I said, we just have to do our best. It’s really a low budget operation. I don’t know what exactly I can do this with this older car to make it go 16.0 or 16.1, we seem to always be about a half second off that,” cited Gosek. “I’m not sure what could really be done at this point to make it get to that level, so when we are still up there competing with the newer stuff, the Nicotra cars, people like that, it makes you feel pretty good. I don’t think there’s many teams out there at our level that can afford a brand new car so that’s pretty much the boat we are in.”
Every year, fans beg for an answer to the question as to whether or not Gosek will return for another season. In a 2012 ‘Inside Oswego Speedway’ interview, Joe said he only anticipated driving “a couple more seasons.” Six years later, Gosek still has no idea when he is going to be done, but no signs are telling him that retirement will be anywhere in the immediate future.
“I really and truly don’t know how many more years to be completely honest,” laughed Gosek. “It depends on the motivation I have, what’s going on with my family, things like that. It’s easier to do this when you’re younger, but now I just have to make the best with the limited time I have. This year we’re gonna do the best we can, aim to be there every week, and go from there. I just try to be realistic about it.”
After all, there are still a few things that Gosek has not been able to accomplish in his nearly forty years at Oswego Speedway, and that includes a victory in the $10,000 to win Mr. Novelis Supermodified event contested in July. Mr. Supermodified has been held each season since 1987, but Joe has never been able to find victory lane in the always entertaining 75-lap headliner.
“I’m not really an aspiring young racer anymore so I don’t have any huge goals like racing in the Indy 500 or something like that, but I guess if I had to pick something out then that would be one of them,” joked Gosek. “It’s just tough. The competition is hard, the young up and comers coming up through the field are stout, but I love to compete. We’ll just keep working at it and give it our best shot to win every single week.”
Speaking of Indy, Gosek did of course race in the 500 once, qualifying for the 80th edition of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ back in 1996. Joe was a hometown hero out in Indianapolis, driving the Team Scandia No. 43 to a 25th place finish after an exciting qualifying run put ‘00 Joe’ in the show.
“That was a pretty unbelievable opportunity to have,” Gosek said of racing in the 500. “I still remember it pretty well. It was cool to have the support of everyone back at home. That was a pretty big deal for me and one of the big things I’ve been lucky enough to do throughout my years in the sport.”
Over twenty years have come and gone since being in the Indy Car spotlight, and still, all Joe wants to do is get back into victory lane at Oswego Speedway.
Following major struggles just to compete in the full 2015 and 2016 schedules, Gosek says a win would be “pretty cool” to build off his team’s recent successes.
“I would say another win would definitely be cool. 2017 would certainly be nice to build off of, that’s for sure,” Gosek said. “At the end of the day that was probably one of the best overall years I have ever had. We’re still trying to make it work with this same car. We all have the same goals and we are all working hard, so maybe we will get back in victory lane.”
Beyond his own accomplishments, the other thing Gosek would like to see is a resurgence not only in Supermodified car counts, which has appeared to begin ahead of the 2018 season, but also an increased amount of Supermodified fans filling the seats of the track he’s called home for so many years. Joe is still confident in the potential of Oswego Speedway on a weekly basis.
“It was electrical to go up there every Saturday night in the 70s and 80s,” recalled Gosek. “Loud, exciting, crazy and it still is. It was just neat, there was never a seat left in the place, so I remember all that well. But, I’m just glad to see that we have more cars registered this year. That’s great to see. Times have changed, so it’s a lot harder to do and we all know that. You see these newer guys coming in and that’s what we need to make it survive, you can’t lose that younger fan base. If we could get more people in the stands on regular race nights that would be awesome. I believe it can be done and we’ll see if we can get something real good going here.”
So for all the fans who agree that Oswego would not be the same without the 00, don’t worry, Gosek isn’t done just yet. In fact, he hasn’t even felt like he’s come close to “having enough,” at least so far.
“I still want to be there,” offered Gosek. “I’m definitely not going to put a timetable or exact date on when I’m going to be done. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that you will definitely know when you’ve had enough and I guess I really just haven’t felt that yet.”
Gosek Racing will open their 2018 season at Oswego Speedway’s Open Practice session set for Saturday, May 19 before shifting gears to come back for the 68th Season Opener and the first ever running of the Jim Shampine Memorial Twin 50’s a week later on Saturday, May 26.