DUQUOIN, Ill. — official series release — Neil Cavanah photo —
Shane Golobic wasn’t content on just running the bottom, so he went to the high side.
As a result, he was able to pass leader Shane Cottle on lap 34 and pull away on a late green-white-checkered to win his first USAC Midget National Championship feature during Saturday night’s inaugural Shamrock Classic at the Southern Illinois Center.
Golobic, driving the No. 17W Matt Wood Motorsports/Elk Grove Ford/Competition Suspension, Inc. Spike-Esslinger, joined drivers Kevin Besecker, Blake Fitzpatrick, Todd Forbes, Gene Hartley, Steve Lotshaw, Henry Pens, Dick Pole and Terry Wente as the only drivers to win their first USAC national midget race in the season-opening event.
Golobic started in the fifth spot, while the night’s race promoter Bryan Clauson started on the pole with Tony Roney outside. The 50-lapper started out as the race that refused to begin. Three cautions and a red flag were thrown before a single lap was even completed.
When the race finally did begin, Clauson jumped into the lead with Cottle in tow. Clauson, who won his heat and his qualifying race earlier in the night appeared to be the car to beat as he first encountered lapped traffic on the fifth circuit. On the sixth lap, USAC Midget National Championship rookie Holly Shelton pirouetted off the berm between turns three and four directly in front of the lead pack. Amazingly, Clauson’s car went under the airborne Shelton without making contact.
However, under the caution, Clauson’s engine shut off, forcing him into the pit area and leaving him with a hard luck, last place finish on the night. Cottle, who did make slight contact with Shelton during the incident, was the new leader on the ensuing restart followed by Zach Daum.
On the lap-six restart, Travis Berryhill participated in the only flip during the feature.
With Cottle still in front on lap 18, second running Zach Daum spun in turn three while fourth-place Tyler Thomas came to a stop on the high side, sending them both to the tail.
It was a race to the bottom for the front runners through the midway point of the race as Cottle, Golobic, Thomas Meseraull, and Roney hugged the inside berm while Brady Bacon was the lone driver in the top five utilizing the higher line.
After a caution flag brought out by the stopped car of Gage Walker with 18 laps to go, the restart saw second-running Shane Golobic venture to the outside and making it stick, gaining ground on Cottle each lap, resulting in a near dead-heat at the flag stand at the end of the 33rd lap. One lap later, Golobic was finally able to nose his No. 17W ahead of Cottle, officially taking the lead at the stripe on lap 34.
Golobic drove away from second-place Cottle to gain a healthy advantage, but the lead was erased when a yellow on the final lap brought out a green-white-checkered finish. With the field bunched up and a clear track in front, Golobic had no problems whatsoever driving away to the victory followed by Cottle, Meseraull, Bacon, Roney, Spencer Bayston, Tanner Thorson, David Budres, Berryhill and Daum.
Saturday night, Golobic became the first driver since Kenny Irwin Jr. at the Toronto (Ontario) SkyDome in 1993 to win a full, points-paying USAC national midget feature indoors.
“Man, I’ve waited so long to hear my name attached to the phrase USAC National Midget winner and it feels amazing,” Golobic exclaimed. “Our car was so good tonight; I’ve never driven one that good before. I’m so excited to be working with Tim Clauson and this Matt Wood Racing team. I think we’ve really got a nice package put together and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”
Cottle led the most laps (28) and just came short of picking off his first series win since 2010.
“It’s hard to be the leader and not really know where those guys behind you are running,” Cottle explained. “We were good on the bottom, but then Golobic went around us on the top and from then on, it was just playing defense to hold those other guys off. We had a really good car all night; (we) just couldn’t quite finish it off.”
RESULTS: USAC National Midget Series; DuQuoin Southern Illinois Center; Shamrock Classic; March 19, 2016
FEATURE: (50 laps) 1. Shane Golobic, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Tony Roney, 6. Spencer Bayston, 7. Tanner Thorson, 8. David Budres, 9. Travis Berryhill, 10. Zach Daum, 11. Anton Hernandez, 12. Terry Babb, 13. Chad Boat, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Holly Shelton, 16. Gage Walker, 17. Justin Peck, 18. Daniel Robinson, 19. Michelle Decker, 20. Dereck King, 21. Andrew Felker, 22. Bryan Clauson.
CREDIT: USAC Communications