Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / OSWEGO SPEEDWAY – OSWEGO, NY – Oswego Speedway’s newest track champions Otto Sitterly and Anthony Losurdo will finally be awarded for their well deserved honors at the track’s Hall of Fame and Championship Banquet set for tomorrow evening at the Lake Ontario Event & Conference Center in Oswego.
Following a shocking winless streak that spanned two straight seasons, Sitterly unleashed the wrath of John Nicotra’s ‘Black Betty’ on the Novelis Supermodified division in 2018 and dominated the second half of the season, winning a quarter of the twelve main events scheduled as part of the regular season.
After spending his 2017 campaign as chief wrench both on John Nicotra’s No. 7 car driven by himself, along with Dave Shullick Jr’s No. 2 plant, Sitterly decided that he would instead like to focus on only his team for the 2018 season and it paid off as ‘DesperOtto’ drove to career championship number eight, passing Bentley Warren and Jim Shampine to break the record for most Supermodified titles in speedway history.
As it would turn out, Sitterly finished in the top five in nearly every single race he entered throughout the course of the season and in the mere two events he missed the cut for a top five, he was involved in his only two on-track incidents of the season, which was a far cry from the disappointing number of DNF’s that piled up a year earlier.
This year, Sitterly sang a different tune as the Canajoharie, N.Y. driver started his season with a fine fourth place finish in his debut with the former Joey Moriarty No. 51.
Later in the evening, as part of Opening Day’s second Jim Shampine Memorial Twin 50, Sitterly returned to the podium and did so with a color other than blue on his car for the first time since 2006.
Fans are used to that trademark Nicotra blue, but for this year, Sitterly decided to leave flat black on the No. 7, thus resulting in the now infamous ‘Black Betty’ nickname. Otto left no doubt that he was certainly ‘back in black,’ continuing on with what wound up being one of the most successful seasons of his Supermodified career.
With the Opener in the books and two top five efforts to his name providing for a nice kickstart to 2018, Sitterly began his season atop of the point standings heading into the Spring Championship on June 9.
Shortly thereafter, Otto continued his consistency on week 2, and finished runner-up to teammate Dave Shullick Jr. in the 50-lap main event.
The following week saw the running of the Novelis Supermodified Twin 35’s and it was the evening’s first main event that was destined to be the race that left fans talking all season long.
Ironically enough, Sitterly and Shullick got together while battling for the lead in the first twin, and unfortunately Otto was penalized for the contact forcing the No. 7 to go to the tail end of the field. At that point, he was only able to recover for an eighth place finish.
In the second twin, which Shullick sat out due to damages from the contact, Sitterly put on a clinic and drove from the back of the pack to his third podium finish of the season behind Michael Barnes and Joe Gosek.
Over the years, it has been proven that consistency wins championships at the Oswego Speedway and Sitterly’s 2018 run was just that; consistent. However, everyone knew that Otto wanted more than just a championship. He wanted to break that winless streak.
Two years earlier, Dave Gruel fell less than ten points short of the 2016 track championship, nearly capturing the track title without winning a single race all season.
After Sitterly extended his point lead with yet another runner-up effort to Shullick in the June 30 Independence Weekend Grand Prix, Shullick’s speed continued to beg the question as to whether or not this would be Sitterly’s fate as well.
With the point standings in his favor, July 7 finally turned out to be Sitterly’s night.
Otto charged from tenth to the top three in just a matter of laps and worked over Brandon Bellinger to take the lead at halfway. Several late race cautions forced him to hold off Shullick, who overtook second in the closing stages but on this occasion, the now eight time track champion was able to hold on for what at that point was his first feature win since September 20th of 2015.
With momentum on his side and all of the confidence he needed, Sitterly was poised for what at the very worst looked to be another podium finish one week later, but his efforts came to a screeching halt with just over 20 laps to go as the No. 7 car made contact with the No. 55 of Keith Shampine working through lapped traffic. This resulted in Sitterly’s first DNF of the season and instead awarded Shullick the victory.
After destroying the front end of his car, the heavy accident left Sitterly with just one week to repair his machine ahead of the following weekend’s $10,000 to win Mr. Novelis Supermodified feature event and it turned out that all of that hard work would pay off for Nicotra Racing.
Incredibly, Otto drove from tenth to first in less than three laps and took over the lead with 72-laps to go. His momentum never faded in the extra distance show and Sitterly put on an absolute clinic, lapping up to fifth place enroute to his fourth career paycheck in the 32nd running of Mr. Supermodified.
Following his biggest victory in several years, just three events remained in the race for the championship approaching the month of August and Sitterly continued to dominate the final month of the summer, starting off with a second place finish to Barnes on August 4.
Next, on August 11’s ‘Family Night,’ Otto drove to win number three and it came in what was one of the most unforgettable finishes in speedway history. In lapped traffic, Sitterly ducked down low off of the final corner to beat returning hall of fame driver Doug Didero at the line by a mere 0.010 seconds to win his third main event of the season.
By the time the last event in the road for the championship rolled around, the only battle left in the point standings was between Shullick, Shampine and Barnes for second, third, and fourth as Sitterly was long gone approaching August 18.
In the final regular show of the 2018 season, Otto put the exclamation point on his record breaking title run with a drive from twelfth to victory number four on the year ahead of Aric Iosue and Joe Gosek on the podium.
By virtue of his win on track championship night followed by a dominant late race performance over Didero in the International Classic two weeks later, Sitterly tied and then later surpassed Nolan Swift for fifth on the all-time Supermodified win list with an impressive 42 victories put together in just ten winning seasons.
More than two months after clinching his record breaking title, Sitterly will accept the accolades for his efforts tomorrow evening before likely mounting a run at a ninth title in ‘19 with John Nicotra.
Should Otto win the 2019 championship, he will pass Nolan Swift (8), for most overall championships in Oswego Speedway history.
Ticket sales for the baquet are now closed, but as part of the event, discounted room rates at host location Best Western PLUS in Oswego will be available to all ticket holders for $119. For more information, you can call the hotel at (315)-342-4040 or visit their website at BestWesternOswego.guestreservations.com. Plan to bring your banquet ticket with you upon check-in.
Oswego Speedway’s 2019 schedule, along with a full rule book, are both a work in progress. The speedway’s 69th annual Opening Day has been set for Saturday, May 25th. Open Practice will take place a week earlier on Saturday, May 18.