Didero and Matczak Continue Their Winning Ways in Oswego Classic by Joe Skotnicki
51 Turns Spotlight to Some Super Racecars
Doug Didero's brand new Supermodified was finished just in time for Oswego. (Mike "Pinner" Johnson Photos)
Speed51.com doesn't cover many open-wheel events, but Sunday's 52nd Annual Budweiser International Classic at Oswego Speedway was almost too good to be true and it earned the right to appear on these pages (or monitors) as one of the premier short track events in the country.
For many reasons it was an emotional day, for others it wasn't, but it had specific meanings to several in attendance including the race winner and a good friend of his. Doug Didero and Stanley 'Skip' Matczak have been friends for a long time and some of Didero's best times were spent behind the wheel of Matczak's potent red number 3 at Oswego. Over the course of four years Matczak and Didero teamed up to dominate the famed 'Steel Palace', including their first and Doug's only win in the International Classic for Supermodifieds which was in 1996.
On Monday, July 14th of this year, Lois Matczak passed away. Matczak carried a passion for racing and loved spending time with her husband Skip promoting their company, Seals-It, as well as racing the various cars they owned, which included the Super and a host of USAC Silver Crown machines. However, when Lois became ill,
Skip stayed by her side until she was gone. It was tough on Matczak and one of the keepsakes that remained from Lois was a pendant that was in the shape of a Super Modified that Skip had made for his wife in which he had a diamond added following each feature victory. That pendant and necklace made its way back to Oswego with Matczak where he presented it to Didero's wife Cindy prior to the race, but more on that later.
Didero showed up at Oswego on Sunday morning with a brand new car that he and X-treme Chassis owner, Paul Colloca began building on July 31st when Didero pulled some tubing off a rack and began to assemble the machine he would power to victory in the International Classic on Sunday. Before it was complete, there would be some drama that most won't believe. The car wasn't finished until nearly 8:30am on Sunday when it was hauled to the track where the first times it posted in the early morning practice where quick enough to qualify for the pole position but the best Didero could do was qualify through second round qualifying which would place him 15th on the grid for the 200-lap grind.
If that wasn't amazing enough, when the green flag dropped for the 52nd annual running Didero blasted his way to into the top-five early in the going.
“I just wanted to get near the leaders and then settle in,” Didero explained following his victory.
He did just that and rode in fourth, then in third, disposing of competitors like pole-winner
Joe Gosek, the track champion Otto Sitterly and Davey Hamilton. It was as if you could
see the speed spilling from all sides of the number 3, the same number car in which
Didero won his first classic.
“At one point I thought about pulling in because the motor began skipping after two wires
fell off of a spark plug right around halfway, but the motor still felt like it had the power so
I kept going. I'm glad I did,” explained the Canadian pilot who now resides in Mooresville,
N.C., and fabricates pit equipment for competitors.
On lap 154, Didero moved past long-time second place runner Ray Graham and then
began to stalk leader McKnight. A restart provided the opening that Didero was looking for. He made a bold move to the inside of McKnight, pulled alongside as the duo entered turn one there was definite contact, which Didero edging out in front. McKnight would later spin to end his day.
“I knew there would be contact and that we'd bump and grind, but it was a chance I'd have to take,” Didero further explained. “If I wrecked the car then so-be-it, but if I didn't and I got by him, I knew I could go on and win the race. As we came down of the fourth corner Dave (McKnight, on lap 159) didn't get all of the way on the throttle for whatever reason. I was able to pull even with him on the straight and there was the opening going into turn one so I knew I had to go for it.”
After completing the pass of McKnight, Didero never looked and sped to a victory worth $20,000 plus contingencies.
“This win is so rewarding to all of us and there are so many different people that it made it happen. It's really incredible,” Didero shared from victory lane, when he was joined by Matczak who wore a black fedora-type hat. Didero, his wife Cindy and the entire crew from his new X-treme Chassis machine boarded the Oswego pace truck for the winner's ride around the speedway. It was a fantastic scene filled with so many emotions of celebration and there stood Matczak.
Joe Gosek started on the pole and finished second.
12-years earlier in 1996 Matczak, his wife Lois celebrating the same victory with Doug and Cindy Didero. Today it was different. You could see that Matczak was a grateful observer of a friend enjoying a great moment in his career, but there was more to the story for sure.
“I wanted Lois to have some notoriety for all that she had done for me,” stated and explained Matczak. “The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum has an exhibit with Super Modifieds out in Iowa, so I was going to send it there but then I began thinking about it and I knew Doug was racing and that Cindy really enjoyed it, plus it was all of Doug's feature wins that made that pendant, so I knew that Cindy would really appreciate it. It was made at Wholesale Diamond Exchange, who also sponsors Doug's car, so the more I thought about it, the more I thought Cindy should have it, so I loaned it to her for the race and then it will become hers for good after the display is done at the Museum in Knoxville. I've also prepared to have another stone added to it for Doug's victory. It's what we used to do and Lois would have wanted it that way, she always liked and appreciated special things.”
If you believe and have faith, then on Sunday you watched something that was more then special. Perhaps it was destiny for Didero to win that race, but at times it looked as though someone else was riding with him. The contact with McKnight should have sent him to the inside hub rail at a minimum. There was smoke that cleared itself up. The engine troubles, but somehow, Didero managed to show incredible speed and win the race. The team also won the GATER Racing News Best Appearing Car and Crew Award. The car looked better after the victory as the best appearing car is always the first car to cross the start / finish line.
“To think about the fact this car was in a tubing rack four weeks ago just makes it that much more rewarding,” Didero began to conclude. “We're all exhausted. My crew hasn't slept in a couple of days and I've had about eight hours sleep in three days. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this. We started this car four weeks ago, when we pulled it from the tubing rack and to be here after winning the classic is just very rewarding.”
The top three finishers in the Classic were X-treme Chassis Supers with Joe Gosek finishing second. Gosek set fast time on Saturday night and started from the pole. It was the first time out at his hometown track for the former Classic winner , Oswego track champion and Indy 500 starter.
“This was our first time out this year and it feels great to run this good,” smiled Gosek from the interview podium. “In the late going it got hard to pass like it always does. We ran good it's great to be back, but Doug had the better car today. Still to finish second in our first time out is pretty good.”
Young and youthful Dave Shullick, Jr., finished third in the Classic to post his best finish. He came on in the late stages of the race and looked to have an opportunity at victory, but in the end third was the best he could do.
“We needed a little bit more but racing with Doug and Joe was just incredible,” offered Shullick, Jr. following the event. “To race with Doug (Didero) and Joe (Gosek) was pretty incredible because those guys are the best here. Doug was in a different zip code. It was a weird race. I jumped a wheel early and lost some spots so I had to use the car up getting back to where I needed to be and then I felt the need to reset the toe and jumped another wheel. The entire race I needed five laps to get going, but once it got going it was pretty good.”
Other Classic Weekend Story Notables:
Bentley Warren strapped into a Super for the 35th time in the International Classic seeking his seventh victory in the event. Only he and Greg Furlong have won the event on 6 prior occasions. The legends day came to an end on lap 134 when he crashed the car into the turn two wall on 134. The best part of Warren's day had to be driver introductions when legendary track announcer introduced Warren the place erupted in cheers for the 'Living Legend'.
Dave Hamilton drove to sixth in the Johnny Nacotra team car to 2008 Oswego Track Champion Otto Sitterly. Hamilton looked like he was riding until the end but never really made a drive forward in the event.
Chris Perley set a new Oswego track record with a wing on Friday night in the Super
Nationals. Perley won the event, but the time trial lap was the story of the night and
another notch in the Rowley Rocket's belt. He toured the 5/8th-mile speedplant in
15.198 seconds with Vic Miller's machine. Unfortunately on Sunday the Classic was
not-so kind to Perley or Miller as they finished 28th.
With a 50/50 give-away of nearly $5,700 the crowd at Oswego for the weekend was not
only enthusiastic, it was strong. Many folks who attend Oswego on a regular basis
stated that it was one of the best attended Classic's in recent history. The good news
is that Pat Furlong and Steve Gioia are moving forward with the race track. It is not for
sale and Sunday was a great indication of the effort they put forth into turning around
the facility. They provided a great stage for a weekend full of great stories and even
better racing and they should be commended for their efforts.
BOX SCORE - OSWEGO SPEEDWAY - 52nd Budweiser International Classic
52nd Budweiser International Classic finish:
1.) Doug Didero
2.) Joe Gosek
3.) Dave Shullick, Jr.
4.) Davey Hamilton
5.) Joey Payne
6.) Greg Furlong
7.) Tim Snyder
8.) Craig Rayvals
9.) Tim Gareau
10.) Howard Page
11.) Lou Levea
12.) Shawn Muldoon
13.) Pat Lavery
14.) Dave McKnight
15.) Tim Jedrzejek
16.) Jason Spaulding
17.) Keith Gilliam
18.) Jeff Abold
19.) Ray Graham
20.) Otto Sitterly
21.) Bobby Magner
22.) Bentley Warren
23.) Randy Burch
24.) Stephen Gioia III
25.) Charlie Schultz
26.) Jeff Holbrook
27.) Johnny Payne
28.) Chris Perley
29.) Bob Reis
30.) Jack Smith
31.) Jerry Curran
32.) Tim Ice
33.) Dave Sanborn
34.) Mark Sammut
Didero chases down Dave McKnight
Chris Perley set a record on Friday night.