Story By RaceChaserOnline.com correspondent Nick Graziano
Every race track there has drivers that are recognized as local “legends”. Names like Jim Shampine, Bentley Warren, Ed Bellinger Jr. and Nolan Swift stand as legends of Oswego Speedway.
For generations many drivers have looked up to these great racers. One has even been able to match their triumphs.
Supermodified veteran, “Double-O” Joe Gosek, once a young driver who looked up to guys like Shampine and Warren, now has his name right beside them in the record books. But Gosek doesn’t see himself as one of the greatest just yet.
“I looked up to all of those guys [Shampine, Bentley, etc.]; now I’m not so sure these guys [current drivers] look up to me, but if you look at the records I’m right up there with the best of them,” Gosek said. “It is pretty impressive and maybe when I retire I’ll give it more thought or whatever, but I just do what I like to do and what other guys think doesn’t really matter because right now I just feel like one of them. I don’t look at myself as being on a pedestal or whatever. My records speak for themselves and I learned way back when that you don’t toot your own horn. Your performance will do that.”
At Oswego Speedway, Gosek holds two supermodified championships, ranked third for all-time supermodified points with 28,731 and fourth for all-time wins with 42, along with numerous other accomplishments.
He was able to achieve all of these feats with multiple generations of the supermodified. For Gosek the biggest challenge of adapting to the evolution of the Supermodifieds was “keeping up with the Joneses.”
According to Gosek the evolution of the supermodified has always been about someone trying to build a better mouse trap. The tolerant rules of the speedway allowed for teams to be a little creative. The car went through a few changes from the 70s to the 90s and about five years ago aerodynamic packages began to be implemented.
Even with the new aero packages, Gosek said that the race speeds are actually similar to what they were years ago. Back in the 90s the Supermodifieds were running the average main race times of 17.1 and 17.2 without the wing package and high tech motors.
“Back in the 90s, early 2000s there was probably, I’m going to think, more cars that were closer together,” Gosek said. “I think now with the new evolution cars, if you don’t have them, the cars out of the 90s and early 2000s, I think guys feel on a Saturday night it is very hard to compete up front with a car like that.”
Not only have the cars changed for Gosek over the years, but the drivers have too. He believes that in the current field of drivers there is a lot less experience as there used to be, but that hasn’t affected the quality of the races. Where some drivers may lack experience, they make up for it with their aggressive driving. That’s an attribute Gosek remembers having when he was once a rookie, but racing with drivers such as Bentley and Bellinger taught him how to become a great driver.
“I’ve learned over the years there are certain chances you take and certain ones you don’t,” Gosek said. “I try to persevere and bring the car home in one piece, instead of taking a wacky attempt or a wild move to win the race and I would probably unfortunately finish second. I guess my goals have probably changed a little bit over the years. I have realistic goals and I’m not going to scream and shout and rant and rave like I use to when I was younger and should have been winning and didn’t. Your priorities change and we still enjoy it, I still have fun. When that goes away I’ll give it up, I don’t know how much longer, but we’ll play it by ear for now.”
Gosek has been racing for 33 years and along with the supermodified, has had the opportunity to drive midgets, sprint cars and even raced in the Indianapolis 500. The race is another story in itself of how the opportunity came about, but it is one that Gosek will never forget. He tried to continue his career in what is now known as IndyCar, but as with every top racing series, there is a high price tag on obtaining your dream.
Although he was unable to continue in the top league of open-wheel racing, Gosek doesn’t dwell on the past and is satisfied with what he has accomplished in his career. But as his career wines down there are a couple achievements Gosek has lingering in the back of his mind that he would like to accomplish.
The first one which is still in reach is the $10,000 to win race which he finished second in many times and the other is a winged supermodified race. The problem Gosek has with trying to win a winged race is that he can’t just throw a wing on top of his car and try to win, he would need a good ride in that class to have a chance. But for now he plans to just focus on his supermodified and finish out his career as successful as he can in that series.
At 57 years old, Gosek continues to secure his name in the record books at Oswego Speedway and after a second place finish in points this year, is sure to still be a top contender for the title in 2014.