By CAMDEN PROUD
After third generation driver Brandon Bellinger picked up his second career victory at Oswego Speedway this past Saturday night, there is no time better than now, at what is perhaps the peak of Brandon’s career, to take a closer look at the history of the Bellinger family at Oswego, a name that is going on eight decades old at the speedway.
The ‘Bellinger name’ has been making it’s historic mark on ‘The Steel Palace’ since the year 1952, which was Oswego’s first full season as a 3/8 mile dirt oval, a year after the track opened in 1951 as a dirt racing surface.
It didn’t take the “original Bellinger,” Eddie Bellinger Sr, long to rack up a Hall of Fame Career at Oswego, scoring his first victory on what was then the pavement in 1956 before winning three track championships in ’57, ’59, and 1960.
Between the track’s original ‘Class A’ and ‘Class B’ vintage coupe Modified classes ran from the years of 1951 to 1961, Eddie Sr. collected 33 Oswego victories, although none of those were done in a Supermodified.
When the first of the ‘Eagle Class’ Supermodifieds debuted in ’62, Eddie Sr. attempted to build what is thought of as the first rear engine car in Oswego Speedway history, but he was unsuccessful with it in the year 1963. This was his final go at Oswego; at least as a driver.
Ten years later, Eddie Sr. returned as a crew chief and his son Eddie Jr. made his Oswego debut in the ’73 Supermodified field. One year later he went to victory lane in ’74 in a 100-lap main event ran on July 6. Bellinger visited victory lane twice more that year, before one victory in 1975, two in 1977, one in 1978, and one in 1979, recording 51 top five finishes in the 1970’s alone.
It was in the 1980’s that things really got rolling for Eddie Jr, taking five victories in ’80, two in ’82, and five in ’83 including his first Budweiser International Classic 200 crown, the infamous ‘Eddie B in 83’ victory, a phrase still heard echoing through the walls of the speedway to this day.
In 1984, Bellinger took two more wins followed up by an impressive six victories in 1985, when he recorded his second Classic crown.
Bellinger went winless in 1986, before returning to victory lane in August of 1987 and four more times in 1988 including, again, the International Classic. ’88 was a pinnacle year, as ‘Eddie B’ took his third Classic, and first ever Track Championship, becoming an Oswego feature winner, track champion and Classic champion, something his father was never able to do despite having five years worth of fair shakes at it in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Eddie Sr’s best career finish in the Classic was sixth in 1958.
Eddie was almost as successful in the 1990s, winning eleven more times, posting 51 top fives, and taking the Classic AGAIN in 1993, then ‘once more in ’94’ before calling it a career at the conclusion of the 1998 season, in which he won his last event on May 28 alongside his three sons Brandon, Trevor and Jared.
All in all, Bellinger racked up a grand total of 52 career main event wins, topping his Dad’s 37. An astounding 206 top fives were also posted over the course of his 23 year career, third all-time at Oswego.
When Eddie retired, the hope was always that we would see a third generation Bellinger hit the track at Oswego, and although some may not recall, we’ve seen two of them. And that sure made the fans happy.
Young Brandon Bellinger made his non-wing debut at Oswego in 2005 with an older Graves Chassis, and despite hardly any racing experience at all, brought what was now an older style racer home in tenth in his first ever Bud Classic 200, before running the Classic again in 2006, this time not fairing as successful.
Bellinger’s full-time Supermodified beginnings came in 2007 with ISMA, running for nearly the full schedule in ’08, ’09 and 2010, before finally taking to the ‘Big O’ with the top off in point events in 2011, when Brandon made only a handful of starts. This came after the aforementioned several ISMA starts, following in his Dad’s footsteps, as Eddie had also posted ten ISMA wins in his career, including (ironically enough) on the pavement at the Fulton Speedway, which of course now sits covered in dirt. Brandon has yet to win with a wing on.
In 2012, a bit newer of a piece was established for Bellinger in what was then the backup Daratt Racing ride, and he grabbed the win in the Bud-Light B-Main on Classic Weekend.
Notably, that year, one of the “other” third generation Bellinger driver(s) in Jared, made his Supermodified debut with the Graves Chassis his brother had ran one year earlier. Jared looked smooth and appeared to have fun wheeling the race car, until a stuck throttle sent him hard into the turn 1 foam in just his second attempt at racing. He has not gotten back behind the wheel since the scary impact while his other brother Trevor has yet to try his hand at Supermodifieds at all and if Mom Phyllis has anything to say about it, that probably won’t ever happen.
Brandon struggled to crack the top ten in the Classic in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with finishes of 12th, 14th and 12th again. In 2014, he finally got there with a solid seventh place run, then in the midst his second season driving for Randy Daratt.
2015 was ‘the’ year, as for the first time in seventeen seasons, a Bellinger was back in victory lane at Oswego as Brandon held off seven time track champion Otto Sitterly for his first career victory in front of an electric Oswego crowd on August 15.
In six full-time seasons at Oswego, two wins have been accumulated along with ten top fives, nearly twenty heat race wins, and a rather solid handful of podium finishes.
This past Saturday night, we all saw another key piece of Bellinger Family Racing history. And the hope is that we will all see it again someday very soon. And maybe someday…someday…we will see a FOURTH generation Bellinger in victory lane at the fast 5/8ths.
Bellinger Family Victories at Oswego:
1. Eddie Bellinger Jr – 52 (Classic: 1983, 1985, 1988, 1993, 1994)