OSWEGO, NY — Simply put, it was just Dave Shullick Jr’s year at Oswego Speedway. Two weeks removed from becoming the first Ohio track champion at the ‘Steel Palace’ since 1968, the second generation driver from North Ridgeville put the Shullick name in victory lane for the first time in the Budweiser International Classic 200, a race his father had gotten second in three times.
“It feels amazing to be Classic champion,” Shullick smiled. “My Dad got second in this race three times so to finally get one done for the Shullick family feels awesome. I just tried to be smart tonight because it was kind of a weird race, there was a lot of guys up front that I didn’t expect to be there, so the pace of the race was a bit different than I thought. I just ran my race and it kind of came to me and at the end I had plenty of car to do what I needed to do.”
While Shullick had the ultimate redemption success story this season after running out of fuel with two laps remaining in the 2016 running of the International Classic, the same couldn’t be said for his teammate Otto Sitterly, who despite leading early, ended his day in the foam. Sitterly had been busy for the past two weeks preparing both his own ride as well as Shullick’s for the Classic.
“I really need to thank Otto for maintaining my car and giving me one that can go 200 laps,” Shullick added. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been in contention to win at the end. I need to thank Johnny (Nicotra) for all he does, giving us the cars to run up front and to Dan Sr, Dan Jr, and the entire crew because without them we couldn’t have done a thing all year. They stuck behind me so thanks to all of them.”
Another shot at a Classic victory seemed to be in the cards for the driver of the Syrell Racing No. 68 of Michael Barnes as well, but instead, for the third 200 in a row, ‘The Hustler’ wound up finishing in the runner up spot after a loose race car caused the crowd favorite to fade to tenth early before coming back through the field to finish second.
“We were pretty lucky this year,” Barnes said. “I kind of screwed up, I thought I should have scuffed our race tires but the air pressures were perfect, so I said we will be good but I was loose the whole race. I came in with four inches of stagger and we were shooting for two and five eighths, so we just got lucky with guys wrecking and running out of fuel. The only guy I could pass the whole race was (Brandon) Bellinger who got jumbled up behind (Chris) Perley running out of fuel and I just got a good run. We lucked into a second tonight, so we will take it and maybe one of these years we will fall into a win.”
Completing the Classic podium, which was ran this past Sunday evening due to rain delay, was Brandon Bellinger. Bellinger proved to be another crowd favorite on the podium and the third generation competitor was the first member of his family to sit on the podium of the Classic since his father won his fifth and final Classic in 1994. After starting fourteenth, Brandon made a rather impressive charge up through the field that began very early on and the Fulton, NY native was very proud of his team’s effort, their best yet in the Classic.
“Things have been going good lately, we are definitely happy with everything,” Bellinger commented. “The last few years we just haven’t been very good, we’ve actually struggled in the Classic and have been lucky to scrape our way for a tenth place or so or wherever we’ve finished the last few years but this year was definitely the first one that I felt we just ran good, but this year it was good, we made some changes and it’s hopefully something we can build on.”
The 61st annual Budweiser International Classic 200 was led to green by Central New York Chevy Dealers polesitter Keith Shampine in the No. 55 with his good friend Barnes to the outside, but neither led the first lap as it was third starting Sitterly jumping to the point.
Unfortunately, the entire field did not make it through lap 1 as Dave McKnight Jr. spun the Morton Motorsports No. 70 in turn three which collected Lou LeVea Jr, Logan Rayvals, Jeff West, Brian Osetek, and more. All of these drivers, with the exception of McKnight, were done for the evening.
Sitterly lead the first thirteen laps before 2016 Classic polesitter Michael Muldoon blasted by him and Shampine in one move to take the lead by lap fourteen and Muldoon would lead all the way past the halfway point, picking up the Insinger Performance $1,500 bonus.
On lap 17, the yellow flag flew once more for a bizarre incident which saw Pat Lavery lose the headrest on the Nicotra Racing No. 6. Lavery’s crew made repairs and he was able to return trackside.
With twenty four laps in by the restart, Muldoon lead Sitterly, Shampine, Shullick and a hard charging Tim Devendorf, that was until Tim Snyder made a brilliant move to take the fifth spot on lap 25. The 2001 Budweiser International Classic 200 champion was on the move rather early, moving up ten positions in just those twenty five laps and three laps later getting by Shullick and Shampine to take third.
The next yellow was thrown just two laps leader as Muldoon attempted to open up his advantage over Sitterly to no avail when Brian Sobus made contact with the turn two foam after contact with the Joey Moriarty. Sobus was done for the evening.
At lap 35 the green flag was back in the air and that is when disaster started to strike for the Shampine No. 55, as Keith fell from third to eighth on the restart before bringing the yellow on lap 48 with a major fuel leak. This marked the second Classic in a row that Shampine was forced to drop out early with mechanical problems.
Five laps earlier, Snyder made his move to take second from Sitterly on the inside of turn four, and the ‘Zero Hero’ was all over Muldoon on the lap 53 restart with Muldoon, Snyder, Sitterly, a very quick Chris Perley, and Shullick in the top five as the first quarter of the race drew to its completion.
With the top five continuing to battle for the next two dozen laps, lap 72 was when a string of unfortunate carnage began for some of the race favorites, including Bobby Santos, who was at that point knocked out of the event after a heavy impact with the frontstretch wall.
At lap 80, Muldoon was still out front, continuing to lead Snyder, Sitterly, Perley, Shullick, Devendorf, Aric Iosue, Joey Payne and Bobby Bond.
This running order would remain intact for the next twenty laps, that was until Sitterly made heavy contact with the turn three foam on lap 101 after he and Devendorf touched while attempting to pass a lapped car. The four time Classic champions’ day was at that point deemed finished.
The phrase ‘cautions breed cautions’ continuously proved true in the 61st running of the Classic, as Dan Connors Jr, TIm Jedrzejek and McKnight all tangled in turn one on the lap 107 restart following Sitterly’s crash.
After the mess was cleared in turn one, all drivers were able to continue and that is when Muldoon began to open up a small lead on the restart with seventy five to go, pulling away from Snyder as Devendorf moved to third while Perley and Shullick battled in the bottom half of the top five.
Things got very interesting on lap 130 as Devendorf, who had charged to second after starting back in eighth as a result of an impressive Friday evening time trial, just got by Snyder for second when an axle broke on Snyder’s No. 0 going into turn three, sending him very hard into the wall. Fortunately Snyder was OK, but this made for a heartbreaking end to his Classic. Joey Payne, who was running well into the top ten at that point, was also involved and done for the evening.
With attrition now clearly playing a key part in the outcome of the Classic with nearly ten cautions by lap 130, Muldoon was in the right place; in front of all of it. The driver of the No. 15 had lead for over 100 laps, eventually being forced to hold off Devendorf, Perley, Shullick, Iosue, Bellinger, Dave Gruel, defending Classic champion Jeff Abold, Barnes and Gosek in that order on the lap 138 restart.
Sadly, just four laps later, Devendorf’s tremendous drive to the front and any chances of the Brewerton, NY driver winning his first Classic all went down the tubes as Tim lost the steering in his No. 5 racing for the lead and made viscious contact with the outside wall in turn four, eventually rolling over after riding the steel. A dejected Devendorf was A-OK after the scary incident and climbed out of the car to the eruption of the crowd.Second place sure seemed to be a bad place to be in the Classic, with now three different drivers being taken out of action either while in the runner up spot or after running there at one point or another in the event.
On each restart, it appeared as if Muldoon was leading a different second place car and that was again the case with forty nine to go,, as the all-time winningest driver in winged Supermodified action in Perley showed he wanted a non-wing victory on Classic Weekend too, applying the pressure to Muldoon’s No. 15 with the Vic Miller owned Hawk Chassis numbered 44.
Unfortunately for Perley, and for seemingly everyone else for a long period of time, it appeared as if nobody had anything for Muldoon, but that is when Shullick and Bellinger started to make their moves for spots within the top five as the laps ticked away.
Shullick took second from Perley on lap 152 while Bellinger grabbed fourth from a rather strong Iosue No. 11 just a lap earlier.
Lap 161 was when the entire outcome of the race changed as Shullick, after being right on Muldoon’s back bumper for the past ten laps, made his move under Muldoon to take the lead on the corner entrance to turn one. “The Shoe’ never looked back, leading Muldoon, Perley, Bellinger, Iosue, Barnes, Gosek, Gruel, Moriarty, and returning Supermodified driver turned dirt modified competitor Kody Graham at the bottom of the top ten.
Muldoon’s Classic hopes were all but diminished on lap 181, when contact was made between the No. 15 and the No. 11 of Iosue just after Perley and Bellinger had made their way by the versatile young driver, who grabbed his first ISMA checkered flag earlier this year. Sadly, Muldoon was forced to go tail after an eye opening run at his first Classic victory.
When the green lights were turned back on for lap 186, it was then Iosue the driver spinning around on the following circuit, then taking himself out of a fourth place finish in the Classic after an ugly restart.
With Shullick, Perley, Bellinger, Barnes and Gosek out front with ten to go, it was already evident that nobody in the top five had anything for the leader in the blue No. 2,
As the remaining few laps clicked away, with three to go, the relatively relaxed pace got to moving again as Perley, after running a remarkable Classic in the top five all evening long, ran out of fuel with three laps to go and the ‘Rowley Rocket’ was forced to watch both Barnes and Bellinger go by for second and third. When it was all said and done, Perley ended up falling to sixth with Gosek and Moriarty sneaking into the top five at the checkered flag.
Nobody was stopping Shullick though, as this season he has broke multiple records, becoming the first driver in history to win an Oswego, ISMA, MSA, and Classic Championship plus win all three Triple Crown events for the division; The Sandusky Speedway Hy-Milerr, Budweiser International Classic 200 and Star Speedway Classic, giving John Nicotra his seventh track championship and fifth Classic win as a car owner.
Muldoon was awarded the Insinger Performance Racing Fuel Halfway Leader $1,500 bonus for his efforts, Guard Nearbin was the Lakeside Property Services final car to qualify and start the Budweiser International Classic 200 and Gosek and Moriarty split the rights to the Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger and Up and Comer Awards.
McKnight was the Oswego Classic Can-Am Camping Group Highest Canadian Finisher with a ‘never give up’ attitude all weekend long after an ISMA crash on Saturday, and the Oswego Classic Can-Am Camping Group Last Car Running was the No. 01 of Dan Connors Jr.
Full contingencies, bonuses and more for the Budweiser International Classic 200 and Bud Light Classic 75 will be revealed in the coming days.
-Oswego Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos