OSWEGO, N.Y. – Michael Barnes etched his name into the record books Saturday evening by winning the 64th running of the Budweiser International Classic for supermodifieds at Oswego Speedway.
The race, originally scheduled for last season, was postponed to Saturday due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Jeff Abold and Dave Shullick Jr. brought the field to the green flag for the 200-lap race just after 6:30 p.m. Two quick cautions waved within the first 20 laps, which helped Tyler Thompson to quickly work his way to the lead on lap 24. Thompson, who won the most recent edition of the International Classic on fuel mileage in 2019, was looking to do it again.
He led the next 168 laps, but his dreams of a second-straight International Classic win ended on lap 192 when he ran out of gas. The caution waved for Thompson’s stopped car, setting up a quick dash to the checkered flag.
“I thought he (Thompson) was gonna run out of fuel,” Barnes said. “We didn’t have a lot of caution laps and I knew fuel mileage was going to be tight for them. I was trying to go hard enough to keep the guys behind me but also keep the tires as straight as I could incase. With 10 to go I was going and it’s funny because right as I said it was time to go, he ran out of fuel.”
The restart on lap 195 saw Barnes inherit the lead with Doug Didero right behind him. On lap 198 going down the backstretch the drive shaft on Didero’s No. 3 snapped in half, causing his machine to spin. The drive shaft punctured an oil line, which then sprayed oil on the engine and started a fire that led to a lengthy red flag period.
While sitting and waiting for the race to resume, Barnes only had one thing on his mind.
“I was just thinking about running two good laps.” Barnes said. “I knew I had Otto (Sitterly) behind me and he’s the best in the business but I also knew I had a guy behind me who wasn’t gonna do anything crazy unless he had a car. I’ll be honest, I actually dozed off for a few minutes and got some sleep. I just wanted to hit my marks and keep the car straight and not spin as I buzzed the tires.”
On the next restart Barnes held off Sitterly to take the checkered flag and win his first International Classic.
“When I saw the checkered flags was when it hit,” Barnes said of the emotions that came with winning the International Classic. “Normally I go down the back and stay on it for a lap, I just kinda rolled out of it and took a lap to soak it in and enjoy it before I pulled in. To do it for the team, they have been so close so many times, to finally get it done. Even with the different feel with it not being labor day, it pays for the same so I am good with that.”
Since 2015 the Classic has been run six times, Barnes was on the podium for all six, including three second-places finishes, two third-place finishes and now, finally a victory.
“It was more doubt than how I could figure out how to get the car right for here. Today we gained on it but it wasn’t the best car. Tyler had the best car and still was really good. I could see he was buzzing the tires but when he wanted to get up and go he could. I knew I could do it as a driver, it’s trying to nail down that setup. I don’t think we are there yet but today it all fell our way. We have been so close in these big events and as I went along in my career we had won events but never had gotten that big one, now that we did I am so happy.”