Patience Key for Shullick in Winning the Budweiser International Classic at Oswego – PTD Exclusive
By JORDAN DELUCIA
A lot of Supermodified drivers will say it’s all about survival and patience when racing in the Budweiser International Classic 200 at the Oswego Speedway. For some, patience begins to run out after trying to win year after year. After coming within two laps of a Classic victory in 2016 before running out of gas and surrendering the lead to eventual winner Jeff Abold, Dave Shullick Jr. remarked that it was one of the most disappointing moments of his life. However, 2017 was a different story…
There was no running out of gas for the 2017 Oswego Supermodified Track Champion on Sunday night, as Shullick took the lead from Michael Muldoon just after the three-quarter-way mark and led the field the rest of the way to collect his first International Classic victory in his ninth Classic start.
“I had a good car at the end and I was getting signals that I had a pretty large lead so I didn’t push it. I got to the back of some lapped cars and I kind-of just rode around,” Shullick said.
“Shoe II” ran most of the race sitting comfortably outside of the top-five, letting the laps go by before picking it up later in the race.
“I knew I wanted to get to 50-to-go. The pace of the race was a little bit different than I thought it was going to be, the guys up front were different than I thought they were going to be,” Shullick said. “I tried to be smart and save everything until the end, and when it was go-time, I had plenty left.”
The patience motif was, and always is every year, a contributing factor in determining the 2017 Classic winner. Shullick has run this race many times before and knows how important it is to not waste time battling for the lead in the early going.
“It’s a chess match. Today I probably ran a little harder early than I did last year, because you don’t really know what the car’s going to have at the end,” he said. “I tried to be smart about it and at the end, we had plenty left.”
Shullick’s teammate and mechanic, Otto Sitterly, is a four-time Classic champion who has driven for car-owner John Nicotra since 2007. This is Shullick’s sixth Classic start with the Nicotra team, and he finally has an Oswego Classic victory to go with his Oswego track championship.
“This race is one where I’ve driven some cars that weren’t winning-caliber. Since I’ve been with John, he’s given me cars that can win this race. You’ve got to be able to pay him back and hold your weight and we were able to do that today,” Shullick said.
“The Hustler” Michael Barnes crossed the line in second after having what he described as “the luckiest race I’ve ever had up here.” He said the decision to not scuff his tires may have been a contributing factor to his “probably 15th-place car that ended up second.”
“I was just loose the whole race. We rode around, it’s all we could do. Cautions were the best thing for me because the tires would cool-off,” Barnes said. “I kind-of got into a rhythm where I could keep the car controlled and wasn’t spinning the tires too bad. I wasn’t quite as fast as everybody but I could keep them in sight.”
Barnes was up front early but quickly faded back to the tenth position inside of the first 20 laps, and continued to ride around in the middle of the field for most of the race. Most of the cars ahead of him wrecked, had mechanical failures or ran out of fuel, which put he and third-place-finisher Brandon Bellinger up front in the final stage of the race. Barnes was able to capitalize on Chris Perley’s fuel-starved misfortune, who ran top-five all race and runner-up for almost the last 50 laps, by going around him and Bellinger to take second with just three circuits remaining.
“Perley ran out of fuel and just lost enough momentum down the straightaway, and I had enough coming that I just pulled-up wheel-to-wheel and got by him going into [turn] one,” Barnes said. “We both ran super clean through the corner, and we ended up second.”
Half-fortunately and half-unfortunately, this is Barnes’ third-straight second-place finish in the Classic. In 2015, he ran second to Bob Bond and Jeff Abold in 2016. What is it going to take for the Syrell Racing team to improve one more spot? Barnes is hopeful the elusive win will come very soon.
“Maybe someday it’ll be in the cards. Second three years in a row is nothing to really be upset about. It’s a tough race,” he said. “The last four years with Syrell we’ve been third in time trials, on the pole, third and outside front-row, we’ve finished second three times and sixth. So, we’re right there, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and maybe one of these years we’ll get it done.”
Brandon Bellinger came home in third and recorded his best-ever finish in the Classic with a car that he was pleased with.
“It was definitely the best Classic run that we’ve had. We’ve had some struggles in the past few years and just didn’t run that good. But today the car was pretty good – wasn’t quite as fast as the guy that finished in front of us, but we’ll get faster and try and beat them next year,” he said.
Bellinger said his ride wasn’t handling at tip-top shape, but was good enough to where he was able to showcase his driving strengths in places he could not in years past.
“This was the first Classic where we were actually able to run good and show some of our strengths,” he said. “As good as it was, I wouldn’t call it 100 percent – there were some easy improvements we could have made.”
Other Race Notes
A total of 33 cars were on hand for the Sunday evening show, and after heavy rains through the night and early morning, the track dryers came out and prepared the surface on a night that at one point seemed like a rainout…
A huge roar of cheering and applause erupted from the crowd on Friday night during time trials when pole-sitter Keith Shampine laid down a fast time of 16.104 seconds. Many fans were excited to see what he could do in the race, starting from the front row on Sunday. Unfortunately, his car began to fade in the early stages and ended up parked in the pits by lap 49 with a fuel leak…
Joe Gosek, making his 38th consecutive Classic start, rode around in the middle of the field for the majority of the race, after qualifying 19th on Friday. However, he as well played a great game of survival on Sunday to inherit a fourth-place finish, much to the delight of his hometown fans…
Tim Devendorf wanted his hopes strong Classic finish ended as he battled for the lead and got upside-down coming off of turn four. Devendorf’s steering broke shooting him in the outside wall. He rolled over on to his lid. Thankfully he was uninjured…
Otto Sitterly’s hopes of another Classic we dashed after he got into the outside wall in turn three. The front end of his Nicotra Racing No. 7 was destroyed.