By T.J. Buffenbarger
(March 9, 2020) — One of the most unusual moments that went viral around racing circles on Saturday was Otto Sitterly blasting around the Homestead Miami Speedway high banked 1.5-mile oval in a winged supermodified. There was a lot of buzz about why Sitterly would be at speed on a track twice the typical size supermodifieds compete on regularly in this era.
The background of how the moment came to fruition from team owner John Nicotra was unusual but shed some light on the situation. Nicotra indicated Sitterly took some time off from work this winter and joined Nicotra down at his home in Homestead, Florida. Sitterly brought the winged supermodified the team plans on racing with ISMA in 2020 along with a car for Oswego that will be driven by Alison Sload.
“Otto’s been working steadily on them for the past two months putting them together here in the garage with the door up,” said Nicotra. “We’ve been having a lot of fun working on the cars for the first time down south, enjoying the weather.
After having the winged car down to a bare frame and reassembled Sitterly and Nicotra looked at several short tracks they could fire the car up at. Through some mutual friends in his neighborhood Nicotra was able to gain permission to fire the car up at Homestead Miami Speedway, which is only a few miles from Nicotra’s home.
According to Nicotra the original intention of the trip to the track in Homestead was supposed to be mundane to just make sure the car was in working order. Soon it turned into a few eye-opening laps at speed.
“We were just going to crank the motor and seed the brakes truthfully. You know Otto though, he’s a gasser. He’s got it down to the floor and held it there for three or four laps.”
After three of four laps with the sound of a big block supemodified reverberating through the facility several race teams that were testing prior to Sitterly taking to the track had come out to see the impressive sight. Some of the people that came with Nicotra and Sitterly videoed the quick session and posted it on social media where it received more attention that the team anticipated.
“We didn’t have anything planned out. I told Otto if I had known this, I would have gotten a professional video guy out here. We weren’t prepped for any of this. We were out there just having fun.”
Even more impressive was according to Nicotra the session was done with no intention of bringing the car up to speed.
“We didn’t have new tires, the right gear, and the wing was too big. We were just going out there to putt around. Of course, we got the most out of what we had, but it was certainly not tweaked to go fast. It was still fast, but it could have gone a lot faster. Thank God we weren’t ready for it because Otto would have tried it, I’m sure.”
The potential of any supermodified races at Homestead in the future would be nil as the test was not done with thoughts of completing at Homestead.
“Absolutely not!” Nicotra said confidently. “I wouldn’t be interested in that. It was scary enough just watching one car go around. I was happy when he pulled in.”
For one day the racing world got to see something very few people would think would be possible thanks to Nicotra and his team talking to the proper people.
“We only went out one time, that was it. It was just spur of the moment stuff and it all fell into place.”
After multiple Oswego Speedway track championships and victories in the track’s biggest event, the Oswego Classic, Nicotra’s team is adding the challenge of winged supermodified racing along with a full effort at Oswego Speedway for 2020.
We plan on racing Allison full time at Oswego and hopefully Otto full time there as well,” said Nicotra. “We are also trying to do the ISMA tour full time. Right now, there is only one conflicting date (between Oswego and ISMA).”
- The Central Pennsylvania sprint car season is off to a flying start with record crowds at the Lincoln and Port Royal Speedway opening days. Port Royal’s large contingent was done even though the infield was not open for spectators yet after construction of a new pedestrian tunnel along with concession and restroom updates.
Port Royal’s car count was eye opening for their first program of 2020 with 46 cars checking in. Its great to see the hard work of the entire crew at Port Royal paying off with fans and teams coming out to support it. 20 years ago, it would be difficult to imagine this scenario as Port Royal was not on the upswing. In appreciation Port Royal added two cars to the sprint car feature field, started all 27 late models, and added $50.00 extra tow money for every team.
Lincoln’s program on Saturday was entertaining due to the family element at the front of the field. Brothers Brandon and Freddie Rahmer ended up running first and second at the finish. Early in the main event Billy Dietrich led several laps before ending up in third spot, which topped his brother Danny who also ended up with a top five finish.
- Danny Wood continued to live up to his nickname “the Flying Fossil” (despite only being 62 years of age according to multiple biographies I found) by winning a Sprint Series of Oklahoma feature on Saturday at Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Oklahoma. In what is essentially ASCS backyard SSO drew strong car counts for a two-day program at Meeker.
- On the other end of the spectrum the 360/410 non-wing sprint car scene seems to be experiencing some dysfunction. After the announcement that the USAC Southwest Sprint Car Series would open the rule book to allow 410 sprint cars in October 2018, eight cars turned up for both ends of a two-night program in February at Canyon Speedway Park. This week co-sanctioned with the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars for two nights the car count went up to 19 and 20 respectively.
In addition, Arizona now has a POWRi Non-Wing 360 sprint car series and the slightly different engine package of the ASCS Desert Sprint Car Series, already splitting a thinning group of racers further.
- In more positive news the National Racing Alliance will hold a meeting for participants at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday March 15 at the Holiday Inn Express in Lima, Ohio.