By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Du Quoin, Illinois (March 5, 2020)………This Saturday’s Shamrock Classic field is undoubtedly talented with several accolades and achievements among the group of 45 preparing to strap in for the March 7 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget event at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin.
However, when it comes to the Shamrock Classic, specifically speaking, the entirety of the field is relatively new to the event and to competing in a midget at the Southern Illinois Center.
Sixteen drivers have previous “Shamrock” experience, including winners Cannon McIntosh (2019) and Justin Grant (2017), who is the only driver in this weekend’s field to finish in the top-five in at least three of his starts with 5th place finishes as well in both 2018 and 2019. McIntosh won his in, thus far, his only Shamrock Classic start.
Like Grant, Zeb Wise (Angola, Ind.) has also finished in the top-five of each of his last two Shamrock Classic starts with 3rd place results in 2018 and 2019.
One of the greatest head-scratchers in recent years at the Shamrock Classic has been the fact that Tyler Courtney has missed the transfer to the feature three years in a row entering this Saturday’s race. In 2019, he finally got in the field via provisional and sliced his way up to 7th after starting 21st and last in the field.
Tucker-Boat Motorsports teammates Chris Windom and Andrew Layser each made their “Shamrock” debuts in 2019 where they finished right in line with each other. Layser (Collegeville, Pa.) got the upper hand, finishing 8th while Windom (Canton, Ill.) took 9th.
It’s been four years since David Budres (Beloit, Wisc.) made his most recent Shamrock Classic start, and he made it count, taking 8th in the inaugural 50-lapper in 2016.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) is one of two drivers to start all four previous Shamrock Classics, along with Chad Boat. Bacon owns two Shamrock Classic top-five finishes in both 2016 and 2017 and has finished 14th and 18th in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Tanner Thorson, the 2016 USAC National Midget champ, earned his best “Shamrock” result in 2016, a 7th, and finished 21st in his most recent start three years ago in 2017. Meanwhile, Jake Neuman (New Berlin, Ill.) has one top-ten finish in the Shamrock Classic to his credit, an 8th in 2017, which was followed by a 12th in 2018.
Tyler Thomas has three “Shamrock” starts, but has yet to crack the top-ten in the feature with a 14th in 2016, 19th in 2018 and 20th in 2019 on his performance chart. Likewise is the case with KTJ’s Petry Motorsports teammate and 2019 USAC National Most Improved Driver Tanner Carrick with a 14th in 2017, 11th in 2018 and 13th in 2019.
Chris Andrews (Tulsa, Okla.), Mark Chisholm (Cheyenne, Wyo.) and Tyler Nelson (Olathe, Kans.) have made a singular feature start at the Shamrock Classic in their careers. Andrews took 18th in 2019, Chisholm 19th in 2017 and Nelson 20th in 2018.
Being a newcomer to the Shamrock Classic has not proven to be detrimental in any shape or form since the first edition in 2016. Each of the four years have produced a first-time USAC National Midget series winner who was also making his first career Shamrock Classic start: Shane Golobic (2016), Grant (2017), Logan Seavey (2018) and McIntosh (2019).
In most events, the common principle in guessing where a winner is going to come from is based on experience. The Shamrock Classic has thrown a proverbial monkey wrench into that notion and, looking at this year’s crop of 29 first-time potential starters, shows a group of drivers who can very well notch their first series win come Saturday night.
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Rookie of the Year contenders Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) and Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) are making their “Shamrock” debuts aboard Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports’ machines, the winning team of the 2018 event.
Five-time USAC Western States Midget champ Ronnie Gardner (Corona, Calif.) steps into the ring for his first Shamrock Classic appearance along with reigning Western States champ Robert Dalby (Anaheim, Calif.) and 2017 USAC Gulf Coast SpeeD2 Midget titlist Kyle Jones (Kennedale, Texas), a teammate to Gardner on the Iron Dome/Moonshine Motorsports team.
Two handfuls of drivers in Saturday’s field have previous Shamrock Classic experience, but have yet to transfer to a starting spot in the feature, including Derek Hagar (Marion, Ark.), Chris Urish (Elkhart, Ill.), Thomas Chandler (Festus, Mo.), Kendall Ruble (Vincennes, Ind.), Gage Rucker (Bellflower, Mo.), Tyler Robbins (Collinsville, Ill.), Kyle May (New Palestine, Ind.), Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.), Robert Bell (Colfax, Iowa) and Sam Johnson (St. Peters, Mo.).
Meanwhile, 14 competitors are not only aiming for their first Shamrock Classic feature start, but also their very first Shamrock Classic appearance: Trey Robb (Newcastle, Okla.), Anthony Nicholson (Millington, Tenn.), Michael Klein (Elsmere, Ky), Austin Yarbrough (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), Ace McCarthy (Tahlequah, Okla.), Oliver Akard (Fort Myers, Fla.), Logan Faucon (Springfield, Ill.), Sean Robbins (Collinsville, Ill.), Trey Gropp (Lincoln, Neb.), Riley Kreisel (Warsaw, Mo.), Aiden Purdue (Clinton, Ill.), Donnie Gentry (Henderson, Ky.), Andy Bishop (Harrisburg, Ill.) and Craig Oakes (Marshall, Texas).
The field for this Saturday’s Shamrock Classic has risen to 45 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget drivers set for battle on March 7 at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin.
Winged micro-sprints will complete their program on Saturday after competing in preliminary events on Friday night, March 6th. Micros will complete the majority of their program on Friday night, starting at 6:30pm Central and culminating with dashes to set up Saturday’s events. Only last chance races and the feature will be mixed into a full program for the National Midget Series, which will feature a passing-points format with both heat races and qualifying races.
The Shamrock Classic features appearance points only for competitors chasing the NOS Energy Drink National Midget Championship, so all eyes will be on the top prize, elevated to $5,000 for the fifth annual event thanks to event sponsors DM Machine, WWT Raceway, and Fast Lane Racing Apparel.
Fans and competitors alike are invited to join the fun on Friday night at the St. Nicholas Brewing Company in Du Quoin for food and drink specials after a night of micro-sprint racing. Midget teams are also welcome to unload and park on Friday night. Gates open on Friday at 4pm Central with cars on track at 6:30pm. Grandstand tickets for Friday are just five dollars, with pit passes at $25.
Shamrock Classic tickets are on sale at https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2020-usac-shamrock-classic with reserved seats at $25, while general admission tickets are $20 for ages 13 and up. Children’s general admission tickets (Age 6-12) are $10. Kids 5 and under are free. Pit passes for Saturday are $35, and those attending both days can purchase pit passes for $55. Tickets and pit passes will be available at the door both days.
Doors open on Saturday at 1pm Central to prepare for hot laps starting at 4pm. More information can be found at http://www.ShamrockClassicDuQuoin.com.
DRIVERS WITH PREVIOUS SHAMROCK CLASSIC STARTS: (16)
Andrew Layser: 8th in 2019
Brady Bacon: 4th in 2016, 4th in 2017, 14th in 2018 & 18th in 2019
Cannon McIntosh: 1st in 2019
Chris Andrews: 18th in 2019
Chris Windom: 9th in 2019
David Budres: 8th in 2016
Jake Neuman: 8th in 2017 & 12th in 2018
Justin Grant: 1st in 2017, 5th in 2018 & 5th in 2019
Kevin Thomas Jr.: 15th in 2018 & 14th in 2019
Mark Chisholm: 19th in 2017
Tanner Carrick: 14th in 2017, 11th in 2018 & 13th in 2019
Tanner Thorson: 7th in 2016 & 21st in 2017
Tyler Courtney: 7th in 2019
Tyler Nelson: 20th in 2018
Tyler Thomas: 14th in 2016, 19th in 2018 & 20th in 2019
Zeb Wise: 3rd in 2018 & 3rd in 2019
DRIVERS TRYING TO MAKE THEIR FIRST SHAMROCK CLASSIC STARTS: (29)
Trey Robb: No Starts
Thomas Chandler: No Starts
Robert Dalby: No Starts
Anthony Nicholson: No Starts
Ronnie Gardner: No Starts
Kyle Jones: No Starts
Daison Pursley: No Starts
Derek Hagar: No Starts
Michael Klein: No Starts
Kendall Ruble: No Starts
Austin Yarbrough: No Starts
Gage Rucker: No Starts
Ace McCarthy: No Starts
Tyler Robbins: No Starts
Kyle May: No Starts
Cole Bodine: No Starts
Oliver Akard: No Starts
Logan Faucon: No Starts
Sean Robbins: No Starts
Trey Gropp: No Starts
Riley Kreisel: No Starts
Aiden Purdue: No Starts
Buddy Kofoid: No Starts
Robert Bell: No Starts
Sam Johnson: No Starts
Donnie Gentry: No Starts
Chris Urish: No Starts
Andy Bishop: No Starts
Craig Oakes: No Starts