The Joe Shear Classic at Madison International Speedway (WI) was a race that the fans and Andrew Morrissey will not soon forget. The ARCA Midwest Tour opened its season to a full crowd and twenty-eight competitive cars battling on the half-mile oval for a wild 200 laps.
Dan Lensing and John Beale led the field to the green flag. Lensing would gain the advantage and lead the first five laps until Beale made a pass to the inside that was not challenged much by Lensing. Beale would show the way for the next 13 laps until defending race winner, Ty Majeski, was able to get around Beale for the top spot.
The first caution of the day came out on lap 41, when Natalie Decker and Brad Tilton made contact in turn two, spinning Tilton and sending Decker through the grass. This would not be the only contact the two drivers would make, as 22 laps later they would come together again in turn three. This would only be the start of a tough day for Tilton and Decker; Tilton went on to spin three more times by himself, and Decker had mechanical issues. Tilton and Decker would finish 21st and 28th respectively.
While all of that action was taking place on the track, some pit stops were occurring in the rest of the field. Beale and 2008 winner, Dan Fredrickson, made pit stops as part of their strategy, leaving Majeski, Travis Sauter, Morrissey, and Chris Weinkauf to be the front runners.
Majeski continued to pace the field, and it looked like he would be hard to beat as they approached the half way point in the race until John Heath spun in turn three on lap 82. This brought Majeski, Sauter, and Derek Kraus to pit road, and left Morrissey to inherit the lead.
The race really began to heat up when Fredrickson made the pass on Morrissey with 93 laps to go while Morrissey slipped back to fifth. Former NASCAR driver Rich Bickle Jr. made things interesting when he charged to the front, passing Fredrickson and bringing the stands to their feet. Fredrickson and Bickle would then fully trade the lead three more times together over the next twenty laps.
With 50 laps to go, a competition caution brought both Fredrickson and Bickle down pit road, changing the strategy once again. Three more cautions would come out after this, all for single car spins between Michael Ostdiek, Tilton, and Bobby Kendall. This helped Morrissey continue his movement forward, and with 17 to go, he was able to take the lead from Sauter. Fredrickson and Majeski did not have enough time to catch up to Morrissey, who would win the event for the second time.
The win was a special one with Morrissey, who spoke to Speed51.com powered by JEGS after the victory.
“It means a lot. This is my home track. First place I ever raced was here,” said Morrissey.
But it was not just his words, but his tears that said it most as he first got out of the car, and held up a small, white pouch which he later explained.
“A long time race fan, who has been to every ARCA Midwest Tour race probably in the history of races until today. He passed away this winter, and his wife asked me to carry his ashes today, so I was happy to bring it home and win.”
Fredrickson and Majeski would finish second and third, both somewhat disappointed, but understanding the amazing show they put on for the fans.
“The car was good, I should have been able to get there. It was just too tight after we pitted,” Fredrickson said, later adding on about the show said, “These cars and these drivers are amazing.”
The next race for the ARCA Midwest Tour will take place at State Park Speedway on Saturday, May 20th.
For a more in-depth look at the Joe Shear Classic, check out Speed51.com’s Speed Central coverage by clicking here.
-By Caleb Slouha, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
ARCA Midwest Tour Joe Shear Classic
Madison International Speedway, Madison, Wisconsin
|5||45||Rich Bickle Jr|
|15||20||Jim Sauter Jr|
|18||7||John DeAngelis Jr|
|23||7s||Paul Shafer Jr|