OSWEGO — Oswego Speedway's storied history has long included great Canadian drivers and car owners over the years, and among that list of accomplished veterans are Dave McKnight and Gary Morton, who are working on a focused effort to return competitively to Oswego part-time in non-wing action with their sights set on the 60th running of the Budweiser International Classic 200 on Sept. 4.
Both feature winners at Oswego, McKnight has been the shoe of the Morton owned No. 70 Supermodified for several years now, and this off-season a conversation transpired that focused the team's main attention back to the fast 5/8 of a mile, Port City oval.
"Gary (Morton) came to me and said he wants to give a good shot at a win in the Classic," said McKnight, who owns nine Supermodified wins at Oswego, including four non-wing triumphs. "It is something that both of us have yet to conquer. I've been fortunate to win races, wing and non-wing, and championships, but neither of us has won the Classic, and that is a notch we each would like to have in our belt before either of us thought of retiring." However, McKnight was quick to admit that the days of showing up to the Classic as a one off entry, and being competitive, are over.
"We did that the last few years with sort of a make shift box on the back of a car," said McKnight. "We ran in the 16-second bracket, but it's a whole new world at Oswego compared to what you could do in the mid 80' s and 90' s and run consistently competitive. You cannot just show up and think you are going to be competitive anymore. I told Gary that if we are going to go to the Classic and be competitive, we need to make changes to the car and we need to be at Oswego at least half the season."
McKnight and Morton have been hard at work this off-season making the changes they feel will make their Allegresso chassis a consistent and competitive non-wing piece for Oswego.
"It's a totally new racecar," said McKnight. "I'm very thankful that Gary has given me the opportunity to make the changes to the racecar that we feel are needed to be competitive at Oswego. We've totally re-skinned the car and made a number of chassis changes in order to clean the car up aerodynamically.
"We're adding a true three stage wing to the rear of the car, along with the fully independent front end. I'm confident that we can be comfortable in the mid 16-second bracket and that's what it takes. Yeah, guys can rip off 15.8-second laps, but they aren't racing that fast.come feature time it is still a high 16-second race track." Most hardcore Supermodified fans and followers will admire the steps being taken by McKnight and Morton to rebuild their current piece in an effort to make it a contender in the Classic, considering the team contemplated the purchase of other purpose built Oswego machines.
"We looked at buying some other Hawk cars," said McKnight. "At the end of the day it came down to whether or not we wanted something that everybody else had. If you have what they have, you're only going to go as fast as they are. We know what it takes to get it done, we've done it before, and with Gary as a former driver we have a great connection at the race track. We'll make the changes to this Allegresso and have something at Oswego that nobody else has." McKnight says that the team has made great progress this off-season and now it comes down to reassembling and preparation.
"The car has been stripped apart and sent to paint," said McKnight. "Now we just need a month to reassemble, and at the same time I've been working hard on getting in shape myself. I cycle five days a week along with weight training. With the speed that these cars travel now, you really have to be in great physical condition to keep your mind and body sharp for these races." McKnight and Morton will be a welcome addition to the Oswego pit area during the regular season, adding an always-popular Canadian touch to Oswego Saturdays.
The team's first race has not yet been determined, but with the help of Liftow, Toyota Industrial Equipment, East Penn Canada, Taylor Brothers Truck Wreckers, T.O. Autobody, Dale Farren & Son Ltd., and South-wood Graphics the Morton No. 70 will make several return trips to ' Steel Palace', working toward a top effort in the International Classic.
"Gary and I are really excited for the coming year at Oswego," McKnight said. "We believe we can tune this car to be in a position where it is comfortable to race with the pack in the Classic. Once you're in, anything can happen. It's a race of patience." Kids 16 and under will again be admitted free at all Speedway events in 2016 with the exception of Budweiser International Classic Weekend and Race of Champions Weekend.
Racing action at the Speedway begins on Saturday, May 14 featuring the Speedway's 66th consecutive opening night highlighted by the Race of Champions Modified Richie Evans Memorial 61 as well as kick-off events for the Novelis Supermodifieds and Pathfinder Bank SBS.