OSWEGO, NY (March 15, 2013) – When the 2013 Oswego Speedway schedule was unveiled back in November with a total of 16 Supermodified events, including four ISMA winged-Supermodified races, it is not unreasonable to say that Fulton, NY driver Dave Gruel was excited.
Why wouldn’t he be?
Gruel barnstormed the Supermodified ranks at Oswego back in 2010 driving the Double Deuce Racing No. 50, winning the Rookie of the Year title, and collecting his first career win in the same season. In 2011 he backed it up with another Novelis Supermodified victory and in 2012 bolstered his resume even further with an ISMA Supermodified win at the ‘Steel Palace’ aboard the Steve Miller Sweet 16, which he will again pilot at Oswego in 2013.
In three short years behind the wheel of a Supermodified, Gruel has two Novelis Super victories and 13 top 5 finishes including a podium finish in last year’s Budweiser International Classic 200. Couple that with his ISMA win in 2012, which makes him just the 10th driver to win a non-wing and winged Supermodified race at Oswego, it is safe to say Gruel is looking forward to May.
It wasn’t long ago however that this blue collar, hardworking driver from Fulton was simply trying to make a name for himself in the sport. Looking to follow in the footsteps of his Hall of Fame uncle Pat Abold, Gruel began in quarter midgets and got his first Oswego opportunity in the Crow Motorsports No. 18 SBS machine in 2003.
“To tell you the truth it (the SBS division) is what put me into Supermodified racing,” said Gruel. “After about seven years of racing in the SBS division I was able to make a name for myself at Oswego. I had a few opportunities along the way to driver a Super, but I didn’t want to do it just to say I drove one. I wanted to make sure it was a good opportunity, and didn’t want to give up an SBS ride just to have something go wrong. I needed something long term and a good foundation.”
After a total of 17 SBS victories at Oswego, including the 2009 track championship, an opportunity came knocking for Gruel in the way of Double Deuce Racing partners Bob Hoefer and Bill Samuels. At the start of the 2010 season Gruel would become the full time driver of the DDR No. 50 Hawk Supermodified as a teammate to veteran Pat Lavery.
“Getting hooked up with Double Deuce Racing has just been a great deal,” said Gruel. “Everybody gets along great and it is a great team. In the beginning Pat (Lavery) helped me out a lot learning the cars and how to work on them and we got up to speed pretty quickly. Bob and Bill give us great racecars, there is no favoritism, and we share notes quite a bit between the cars. You really need that with a two car team.”
After coming out of the box hot in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 campaign for Gruel was marred with bad luck and two serious accidents, including a heart stopping fire in Oswego’s second turn. Despite the runs of unfortunate luck, Gruel and the DDR team would bounce back each week.
“It just seemed like a couple of the nights we were running really well, we had bad luck,” said Gruel. “There were wrecks in front of us which left us nowhere to go and nothing to do as a driver, but one thing I can say is that the team always came back together. We would unload the car off the trailer the next week and be right back in the top two or three fastest cars. So, we have definitely shown what we have as a team.”
While Gruel’s non-wing season a year ago had its ups and downs, his surprise ride in the Steve Miller Sweet 16 provided the feel good story of the year in Supermodified racing, when ISMA came to town for the King of Wings event in July and Steve Miller’s normal pilot Paul White was unable to attend.
“Paul was supposed to come in from Texas to race, but he couldn’t make it,” said Miller. “So, I couldn’t think of anybody better than Dave (Gruel) to drive it. He had a bit of a weak moment, and said he would, and that is how it all came together.”
The rest as they say is history.
In his first race behind the wheel of the Miller Sweet 16, Gruel would go on to dominate the 50-lap event outracing wing Super vets Johnny Benson and Charlie Schultz. After only two and a half years in a Supermodified, the up and coming quarter midget driver from Fulton was now in an elite company of Supermodified drivers to win wing and non-wing races at Oswego, including his uncle Pat Abold. As a result, Gruel will be back behind the wheel of the No. 16 for all four ISMA shows this coming season.
“We had run with the wing before with the No. 50 car and had fun with it, but it is really not our strong point,” said Gruel. “Our strong point with that car is non-wing racing at Oswego Speedway. So, it is pretty cool that I have the opportunity to continue doing that, but on the off weeks I can go and have some fun with the 16 car. It is a great ride and we proved that last year. It was a great deal to get Steve Miller his first win last year, and I look forward to running that car more this year.”
While running the Miller 16 will certainly be a highlight of the 2013 season for Gruel, the main focus will again be driving the DDR No. 50 back to Oswego’s victory lane.
“I would rate last year’s season with the No. 50 as 5 out of 10, and we really need to strive to get that back to a 10 again,” said Gruel. “The team is working really hard, we have made some body changes to the car, and we are really looking to move forward and get back to victory lane. Last year’s run in the Classic, finishing third to Otto Sitterly and Davey Hamilton showed what we are capable of, and we want to get back there every week.”
With the Novelis Supermodified car counts at the Speedway continuing to grow, Gruel is up for the challenge, and says he would not have it any other way.
“The competition is going to get even stronger this year,” said Gruel. “A lot of drivers may or may not want to see more competition? But, the way I look at it is if you are racing against more competition you are likely racing against more of the best, and if you beat the best you have a better chance at being the best. It makes it feel that much more special when you can reach victory lane.”
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Wing and Non-Wing Supermodified Winners at Oswego Speedway
(Dates listed are first wins in each category)
Randy Ritskes (NW) 8/5/89 (W) 8/2/92
Pat Abold (NW) 8/4/90 (W) 7/31/93
Bentley Warren (NW) 9/17/66 (W) 9/3/94
Russ Wood (NW) 5/22/93 (W) 7/22/95
Dave McKnight (NW) 6/6/87 (W) 10/8/95
Joey Payne (NW) 8/15/09 (W) 9/5/98
Gary Allbritain (NW) 6/8/75 (W) 9/4/99
Greg Furlong (NW) 6/6/98 (W) 8/30/03
Bob Bond (NW) 9/6/10 (W) 7/10/10
Dave Gruel (NW) 7/17/10 (W) 7/7/12
About Oswego Speedway: Oswego Speedway, a sports entertainment company, is a 5/8 mile semi-banked pavement racing oval located off the shores of Lake Ontario in scenic Oswego, NY. Oswego Speedway has been a continuously run weekly racing venue since August, 1951. The premier open-wheel pavement short track cars in the world, Supermodifieds, run weekly at Oswego Speedway making Oswego the only weekly Supermodified racing venue in the world. The Small Block Supermodifieds accompany the full blown Supers on a weekly Saturday night schedule which runs from May through September. Oswego Speedway is mentioned in racing circles as the “Indy of the East,” as no fewer than a dozen past and present competitors have competed at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway including Mario Andretti, arguably the greatest driver of all time, two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock, along with former International Classic Champions Bentley Warren, Joe Gosek, and Davey Hamilton.