CANAJOHARIE, N.Y. — Following a year of a pandemic that resulted in very few supermodified races, the John Nicotra Racing team returned in 2021 and competed in more races than in any single season in the team’s history, totaling 12 Oswego Speedway feature events and nine nights of racing on the International Supermodified Association (ISMA) circuit.
The team’s commitment paid off as Otto Sitterly captured his first ISMA Driver championship in his first season running the entire ISMA circuit. The same for Nicotra as Sitterly’s title gave the 15-year supermodified car owner his first ISMA Owner championship in his initial year fielding a car for the full tour.
At Oswego, the Nicotra team would score two feature wins with Otto winning June 19 and teammate Alison Sload driving her No. 39 Hawk Jr chassis to her second career Oswego super win on July 10. Sitterly would finish P2 in the pair of International Classic 200s — the 2020 makeup Classic May 29 and the 65th Annual Classic Labor Day weekend.
On the points side, Otto would come up 62 points short of his 10th career Oswego track championship with a second-place result in the final standings. Alison would net three top-five results and six top-10s on her way to a P7 points finish.
Nicotra Racing is now second on the all-time Oswego supermodified win list with 48 feature triumphs comprising 36 for Sitterly in a Nicotra machine (he has 45 overall), nine for Dave Shullick Jr. in Nicotra blue, two for Sload and Davey Hamilton’s memorable win on May 11, 2013. Only the legendary Jim Shampine owns more Oswego wins than Nicotra.
Nicotra reflected on his team’s latest championship-winning season.
“With Oswego not running 2020 we made the best of it and focused on our winged program with the few shows in Ohio and New England that were able to run,” Nicotra said. “Otto learned the car and got some more experience at some of the tracks we’d revisit this year, and it gave us a running start. Otto kept digging and kept getting quicker, and we were able to grab a couple wins late in the summer at Lee and Jennerstown and win the championship. It means a lot to me, Otto and the entire team; an ISMA championship is still a prestigious deal in the sport, and it’s nice to now have another championship to go along with our Oswego titles.
“At Oswego, we had our ups and downs, but finishing second in the points and runner-up in both Classics is definitely a great accomplishment; anything can happen in that race. Alison got her second win and she had some other really good runs. Overall, it was another great season for our team and I have to thank all the crew, FatheadZ Eyewear, CORR/PAK, Riccelli Northern, Five Brothers Produce, Peaceful Living Home Sales and all our sponsors and supporters.”
Sitterly improved at every ISMA outing throughout the year. Wheeling a potent Bodnar chassis the team purchased after 2019, Otto started the tour with P4 and P6 results in the New England openers at Seekonk Speedway June 9 and Monadnock Speedway June 26.
The tour then headed west for the Hy-Miler Nationals weekend at Ohio’s Sandusky Speedway in late July, which saw Sitterly drive to a P7 result in the Friday night Fast 40 and another fourth-place effort in Saturday’s Hy-Miler 100. Sitterly would continue his consistent campaign a week later with a solid P3 finish in Oswego’s King of Wings 60-lapper.
Showing a faster pace nearly every time out, Otto would break into the ISMA win column with his and Nicotra’s first career triumph in the series on August 6 at the Ollie Silva Memorial 75 at Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. By now, the team was solidly in control of the points race, a lead they would not relinquish over the balance of the season.
Two weeks after his first ISMA win Otto would drive to a P2 result on August 20 in his first visit to Claremont (N.H.) Speedway before scoring his second series victory at Jennerstown Speedway in Pa., Sept. 11. In the final race of the year a week later at Star Speedway for the 56th Annual Star Classic, Sitterly would qualify pole Saturday night before the feature was postponed to the next day due to rain.
With an important family commitment Sunday afternoon with his youngest son, Nick, getting married, Otto left the track early Sunday and only start-and-parked the Bodnar No. 7 in the Classic. It didn’t matter for the points battle as the Nicotra team entered Star with a commanding lead in the standings; he’d end up 142 points ahead of Ben Seitz for the Driver championship with Nicotra a huge 219 markers in front of Vic Miller for the Owner title.
Otto spoke to ISMA’s Carol D. Haynes on Sunday morning of the Star Classic.
“Yes, this first full year of running ISMA has been incredible. I have a great bunch of guys behind me. Joe Peri, he’s kind of the crew chief, Tom Shoull doing tires, and Danny Knipe and Dan Knipe Sr. We have a core of about four or five guys that are hardcore and they want to travel. They want to do the whole deal. Obviously Johnny (Nicotra) has turned a little bit and has decided he’ll do the ISMA thing. So I have to thank all those guys. I have to thank all my sponsors, including some of the main sponsors – Corr/Pak, FatheadZ Eye Wear and Five Brothers, and my girlfriend Karen for letting me go on the road and supporting me.”
Overall, Otto would end the season with 21 feature starts, three wins, 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s.
While Nicotra is second in all-time Oswego owner wins, Sitterly is now tied with Joe Gosek for fourth on Oswego’s all-time driver feature win list behind only Shampine, Bentley Warren and Eddie Bellinger Jr.
As for 2022, Nicotra says the team’s plans are currently undecided, but an announcement detailing at least some of the next year’s racing will be made soon.