Alison Sload Psyched For Return To Full-Time Supermodified Competition In 2023
Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / OSWEGO SPEEDWAY – OSWEGO, NY – Alison Sload began the 2022 Oswego Speedway season with little clarity as to her future plans in Supermodified racing.
After competing full-time in 2019 and 2021, Sload scaled back considerably this year – only making appearances in a total of four Novelis Supermodified events. Now, the Glenmoore, PA, pilot is readying for a third attempt at a complete championship slate in 2023.
“We’re going to go for a championship this year,” Sload said on Friday morning. “After not such a stellar season last year, we kind of all talked and said that we are going to put the cars back together, and go over them for this season. Otto (Sitterly) is willing to put the work and time in and able to continue maintaining the cars, which is amazing, so we’re going to do it.”
This decision comes less than a year after Alison announced plans to significantly cut back on her racing, only entering a total of four Oswego Speedway events in 2022. It was also unclear as to whether or not Sload would return to the Nicotra Racing team at all following the season’s conclusion, but there was something about her nights away from the track this summer that just didn’t feel quite right.
“I feel like every racer at some point says they want to scale back,” Sload reflected. “But, when you’re actually doing it, that’s tough. Not racing as much as I am used to last year felt weird and wrong to me. I found myself saying I should be at the track, I should be in Oswego today. I even thought of going to travel with Otto because I have nothing to do at home. I don’t have kids, and my husband Buddy (Sload) is racing quite a bit, so I have the time and availability to do this, and we just want to get it done.”
The first step towards her drive to a track championship is bringing the No. 39 car; also known as ‘Black Betty,’ to Hawk Jr. Fabrication in Minetto, where it will undergo the same updates that her former ride; the now re-numbered 7, which Sitterly promptly put on the front row of the 66th Budweiser International Classic 200, had been fitted with.
“The car is down to a bare frame and on its way to Hawksby,” offered Sload. “The car will end up getting very similar updates and tweaks to what the blue car which I drove in 2021, had last year. Otto ran so well with the blue car and it really seemed to work well. So, they are planning on doing the same with Black Betty. I have full trust in Otto and Johnny’s decisions to make the improvements to the car. They haven’t been wrong yet.”
These exciting upgrades won’t be the only changes to the No. 39 as it will also go back to the beautiful Nicotra blue color, making this the first time in several seasons that both the Nicotra team cars will sport John’s original livery.
“The request to make Black Betty blue was something that I originally put in after I had found out that I would be driving Black Betty last year,” mentioned Sload. “Black Betty has been an amazing car, but let’s be honest, on the screen and on the track; blue beats anyone. It really stands out. It’s a beautiful color and it’s that Nicotra blue. So, I told Johnny (Nicotra) that If I’m coming back this season, I either want to go back to the blue car or make Black Betty blue and thankfully both he and Otto were totally onboard with that.”
Part of her reasoning for wanting to change the color of the car perhaps is the horrendous luck she was dealt in 2022. Sload started out with a fifth place finish in the Jim Shampine Memorial, followed by a strong tenth to second showing in the 75-lap Independence Weekend Grand Prix.
Two weeks later, she returned to competition for the Mr. Supermodified event, but was involved in a hellacious turn 1 crash in her heat race, heavily damaging the No. 39. Alison escaped injury in the accident and the car was repaired in time for Classic, but as she explained, the misfortune would follow the Nicotra Racing team through Labor Day Weekend.
“That wreck was one-hundred percent my fault,” Sload said. “I just got into turn one way too hot and heavy. I checked up behind Jack Patrick, and that little bit of sliding I did when I was on the brakes hard was enough to make contact with Joe Gosek and then the front end fell apart. And every time I wreck, I feel like I say ‘that was the hardest hit I’ve ever had,’ but honestly, that one really was. When I got out of the car I was worried I broke my ribs, and I’ve never gotten out of the car after a wreck worrying that I broke something. It was rough, because we looked at it at the track and said ‘oh, maybe its not all that bad,’ but then we got to the shop the next day and started pulling body parts off and just kept finding more and more, so it was rough, but the guys were so on top of it and we had the car torn down and on its way to Hawksby literally three days later, so it sucks that it happened, but I guess that’s racing, right? After all of the work to get the car fixed for Classic, we ended up with a pinched fuel line. I tested Thursday and it didn’t really run well, so we replaced the parts late that night, and came back for the time trial the next day, but it still wasn’t fixed after spending all day. I had to take time or I wasn’t going to get into the Classic and that was honestly embarrassing. So, we ended up taking it back over to Hawksby’s, then stripped the car, and I was running all over the place looking for spark plugs and things like that, but halfway to Jimmy D’s I got a call from Otto, and he said, ‘Well, we found it, its a pinched fuel line under the seat.’ We spent Saturday getting it fixed, but then showed up Sunday and we had a lot of catching up to do. We were fast, the car was great, and the guys had the setup dead on, but I had to start last and I knew that I’d have to try to go right away mainly because of Otto and (Michael) Barnes on the front row. I was worried they’d be coming and I would get lapped, so I really wanted to make some early moves. Around lap 10 I got up with LeVea, and we ended up racing with each other, and passing back and forth a few times. I got pinned behind another car just in front of me off of four and followed him through one and two, and then off of two, LeVea tapped me just slightly enough to spin the car around. On his way by, he ended up hitting me and that’s how we ended up in the wall. It was quite a moment seeing a Supermodified leap over my car, and I was hoping he just didn’t land on top of me, so I am glad we are both ok. It was a racing accident and there’s no hard feelings. It just sucks because we went from 24th to 15th quickly, there was a lot of time and effort put in, and we just had a lot of bad luck.”
In her three attempts at the Classic, Alison has one top ten; an eighth place finish in 2019. As is always the case, Otto and the team brought a capable car to the track each time, but accidents, and even running low on fuel, have plagued otherwise promising performances.
“I”ve never had any luck in the Classic, but strategy-wise, I think nowadays, just consistency, and saving your tires and fuel is huge. And with all the attrition, you’ve just got to be able to be there at the end,” mentioned Sload. “I didn’t do a great job of that last year. It’s a really bad idea, even though Tyler (Thompson) almost led start to finish the one year, to go too hard and burn up your equipment early. So, save your tires, save your fuel, and hopefully be there at the end, and we’ll try to do that this year.”
The casual fan may not realize that Alison comes from a racing family. Her brother Ian Cumens has vast open wheel experience, as does her husband Buddy. Not only are all three many-time ATQMRA TQ Midget winners – in fact, Alison, her brother, and husband are all former ATQMRA champions in their own right.
Ian has already tried his hand at Supermodified racing before, and lately there has been buzz as to whether or not Buddy might get his chance, but “not so fast,” so Alison says.
“That’s a very touchy subject in our house right now,” joked Sload. “Supermodified racing is my wheelhouse and I want to claim it as that. A couple years ago my brother drove my Super and I liked it, but at the same time, I feel like its my thing and I enjoy running it by myself. When I ran TQ’s with Buddy for a few years, it never ended well. There were a lot of quiet rides home, very quiet rides home, mostly because he had kicked my ass. But, I don’t like sharing, and as much as it would be really cool for him to get in a Supermodified, I don’t think that I would enjoy it as much as everybody else, and he’d probably say the same thing – that its my thing. He has been really busy being the president for ATQMRA the last few years, and this year, he’s going back to focusing on just racing, so they are going for a full season and he’ll be doing all that, but I hope that there aren’t too many conflicts so he can join the crew and help at Oswego.”
Also worth noting is Sload’s extensive Winged Supermodified racing experience. She did make one start in the second of three-race Oswego Winged Super Challenge Series races, promoted, of course, by car owner John Nicotra.
In her lone winged start, Sload qualified solidly in 11th with a 15.1 second lap, and advanced to the re-draw in her heat race. However, the Nicotra team was again bitten by the mechanical bug prior to feature time.
While Alison is excited about the work Nicotra is doing for the series, she admits winged racing is not something at the top of her priority list for 2023.
“I really want to focus on a championship at Oswego this year, so I’m expecting that I will race at Oswego only,” quipped Sload. “John is working really hard on the Winged Challenge deal, and I am not saying no to all three of them. We’ll see what happens. If it’s going really well and I think we have a chance with that car in the winged show, that’s great, but I don’t want to hurt chances of doing well with the Oswego wing by throwing the top wing on and just hoping that it goes well because there are always more chances for a wreck, and things like that, but we’ll see.”
Outside of contending for the track title, when asked what would make a successful 2023 to her, Sload was quick to say “Always another win. Because I’m the first woman to win a Supermodified feature, and a second, I want to win a third, fourth, and fifth. If we can get a championship at the end of the year then that would be icing on the cake. We are going to have to be consistent, run up front, and hopefully avoid accidents, DNF’s, and whatever else can come our way, but it’s all part of the game.”
The 2023 Oswego Speedway schedule opens with the 72nd Season Kickoff slated for Saturday, May 27. The Opener will feature the 75-lap Jim Shampine Memorial for Novelis Supermodifieds, 35-lap Tony White Memorial for Pathfinder Bank SBS, and a 30-lap Memorial Weekend Special for the J&S Paving 350 Supermodifieds.