Sandusky, OH (July 28, 2018) – What was possibly the largest Hy-Miler 100 crowd in the Jaycox era at Sandusky Speedway, came to see a race that was anticipated to be a great one. Dave Shullick Jr., a second place finisher of Friday's Fast Forty, amidst some controversy, claimed his third win of the prestigious event, leading almost half the way after taking the point from Trent Stephens.
The story of the race might well have been the incredible run by Michael Barnes in the Vic Miller 11.
Barnes moved slowly at first from his 14th starting spot to become the main challenger to Shullick out front. Watching Barnes, subbing for Chris Perley in the car, move stealthfully forward on each lap until he was second to Shullick with less than 40 to go, was what makes races classic. Barnes, however, would not be on the podium to join the celebration as with less than ten to go, a late race spin by another car, cost him what would have been at least a second place finish.
Shullick replayed his race from a victory lane filled with well-wishers. “We had a really good run today. The car was a little tighter than I would have liked but in the end it worked out. I saw the 11 at the end there and he as running good. I changed my line to protect from what I thought he might be doing. I wasn't super good doing that so I had to go back to what I do which is to run a little higher on the track and keep it so I didn't pinch the bottom and let it roll. I didn't really know where Michael was. I knew he was fast. But I don't really know much about what his car was doing. Toward the end of the race lap traffic was heavy so I just gave it all I had. All in all I have to thank Level Performance, the Elios Financial Group, Futuri Media, Jim Bodnar and everybody and anybody who works on this car. It's pretty awesome to have three Hy-Miler wins. My dad and I were talking that when in 99 I was disqualified and he won. That was his fifth. If I hadn't been disqualified we both would have had four today. So that's kind of cool to think about. I still have time to get my dad.”
Mike Lichty, who had also worked up through the field, found himself just a spot shy of that elusive Hy-Miler win. “Second again here. I'm really surprised we finished second actually. The car was real good at the beginning and we made our way to the front. We were just way too tight to make up the ground we lost when DJ passed me. It's a tough race. We always seem to be a bridesmaid here at this one. But we'll take it. The car is in one piece. I want to thank Craig Reed, the whole Reed family, everybody at Reed's Salvage, my father at PATCO Transportation and a big thanks to Dennis at Level Performance... Just everybody who puts the effort into the program like all the ISMA sponsors like Corr/Pak, Hoosier and everybody who helps out like Ed Shea.”
A big smile was on the face of third place finisher Ben Seitz, driver of the new Soule 32. The team has been working out new car bugs and looked to have finally exterminated most. The Bourne, Mass. veteran stated that fact.
“We had a really good run. It's a new car and it's been improving every week. We really happy with the run. It's not a first, obviously we want to win, but we'll take third place. We learned a lot this weekend and we'll come back next race with a lot of notes and hopefully we'll get this car stronger. The car was actually pretty maneuverable Last night we had some issue through traffic but we really fixed that. We just need a couple other things to work on. But the car was really good tonight. I really have to thank Danny and the crew. This car has come a long way in a short period of time. A couple weeks ago we were not looking good at Monadnock but they worked their tails off and it paid off. We'll keep working and not be satisfied with third and move on to Lee and Waterford and hopefully win there.”
A pair of Ohioans, Jim Paller and Trent Stephens headed up the field of 20 which had been pared down by the loss of last year's winner Mike Ordway Jr., Talon Stephens, AJ Lesiecki and Larry Lehnert, all due to motor or mechanical ills. Stephens would jump to the initial lead which unfortunately take several tries to complete after first the cars of Eric Lewis and Tyler Thompson tangled and went off the bank coming off turn three. A lengthy delay ensued but a complete restart was negated by a slowing Johnny Benson Jr who slowed on the track and headed for a quick repair.
A third try of the start of the 41st Hy-Miler stuck with Stephens to get three laps in as leader before the car of Dan Bowes was off the second turn side of the track. The drama continued as the Fast Forty winner Timmy J headed pitside with a sparking 97. What first was thought to be a flat, turned out to be a broken panhard bar and the night was over before it really started after only three laps.
The restart of this lap saw the 22 of Mike McVetta, who was running well, tagged for a jump, a penalty he would serve on the next stop.
Finally the Hy-Miler was into race mode and Trent Stephens took command out front with Paller and Seitz next in line. But the hard chargers from deeper in the field were already on the move as the 19 lengthened the lead. Paller and Lichty soon had Shullick on their tail with Seitz, Kyle Edwards and McVetta next in line.
The Stout 19 was on a tear out front and soon was coming up on the tail of the field, as a distance behind ran the Paller, Lichty, Shullick, Seitz, Edwards, McVetta, Mark Sammut, Michael Muldoon, Barnes and Moe Lilje.
Stephens was able to maneuver around a couple more slower cars to keep a lengthy lead out front but the challengers were closing in and near lap 40, Paller was almost on Stephens back end, with Lichty, Shullick and Seitz right behind him.
A yellow on 40 would see Paller's fine run end as the 64 came to rest against the guard rail off turn 4. Jim would pit here and McVetta went tail for serve his penalty, as the 64 returned from the pit to sit back toward the back with the 22.
Stephens did not waste anytime in resumed his strong run and commanding lead. But in the back, Shullick was up alongside of Lichty several times and took away second on lap 49 with Paller pulling off the track just before the halfway mark.
A yellow-red was called for refueling after Paller pitted. McVetta also pitted here and would return.
This restart cost Trent his fine run when Shullick went to the outside of the 19 several laps after the green dropped. It was now the Shullick show out front with Stephens, Lichty and a rapidly moving Barnes who picked off Seitz for fourth on lap 54.
While Shullick led, all eyes now began to watch the 11 of Barnes. He sat behind a dueling Lichty and Stephens for a couple laps and then moved by Lichty. A lap later he was moving on Stephens and took second from Stephens only to have to give it back when the yellow flew for McVetta on lap 59.
As the counter clicked 60, the race for the lead was still strong with Shullick Stephens, Barnes, Lichty and Seitz the principals. On lap 62, Barnes took second. Stephens, Lichty and Seitz had a show of their own for third as Edwards, Lilje and Sammut did the same.
By lap 70, Shullick appeared to be rolling on to a third H-Miler win but Barnes wasn't giving up by any means. On lap 75 a spin by Wiggins in the 36, bunched the field up and a 25 lap shootout was about to take place.
Shullick took off but did not shake Barnes as Lichty, Seitz, Lilje and Stephens were watching the top two out front. Barnes would close on the 95 in the corners, Shullick would be stronger coming out. The crowd was watching and enjoying every minute as Barnes tried every move he could think to get alongside the 95 and Shullick used his wiles to prevent it.
With ten to go, the excitement was understandably at a peak as the two out front approached some heavy traffic. Barnes would close and almost get alongside, and Shullick was able to hold him off. The ending for Barnes would soon be one of disappointment when Michael Muldoon's 10 came around off turn three, bringing out the yellow. Barnes, coming by him, went high and spun to a halt at the edge of the track. The 11 would be at the tail of the field on the restart.
Shullick now could breath easily as he headed for the checkered with Lichty, Seitz, Lilje and Stephens the top five.
Barnes was understandably devastated. The quiet Mexico, NY driver, owner of an Oswego track championship and feature wins, wanted to bring this one home for the Miller team.
He replayed is race back in his pit area. “We had a good run. A slower car spun out in front of the field and it cost us. I want to thank Vic and Eddie for letting me drive the car. And to Leo, Scotty and Stevie. I worked these guys hard all weekend. I just let them down. We went down in the corner and I got underneath DJ and there was a simple spin. I went to the right and got on the brakes. As soon as I went to the right, it kind of over corrected and snapped back the other way around on me. It's just disappointing to have a really good race like that and there's five to go and some guys in the back can't keep a handle on their car.
“We had a good run other than that. It's the biggest race of the year for ISMA and we were going to win it. I think I could have gotten DJ in traffic. I probably should have waited another lap. I was a little better down at the other end. I might have followed them and not gone under there. I could really run into the corner and into the center than he could. He kept getting looser off and I kept trying to back it up a little bit. I was trying to get the timing. He moved up the track a little bit and changed his line so I couldn't get around him. The hard way for me was to go around him and that's why he kept baiting me with underneath. But I think we could have won the race. I think we were the best car at the end. My car was not loose. The only time I got loose was when I pinched to car off four and got a little sideways. The car was great. I just feel I let these guys down. Maybe we'll get to do it again sometime.”
Certainly the huge throng of fans on hand hope so too!
Moe Lilje, in the Lichty 74, was happy with his fourth. “Boy we had a long weekend. We didn't connect the dots totally. We are still struggling with something in the fuel system we believe. We're struggling for power a little bit right now but things ended up working out pretty well. I mean yellows fell in our favor. I was able to pick a couple cars off on restarts because speed-wise we didn't have a real good car that way, but I did what I could with what we were working with. I have to thank Brad and all the guys at PATCO for all the hard work they put in this weekend and all the fans and sponsors and we'll move on to the next one.”
Trent Stephens was a bit dejected after leading more than half way in the race and finishing fifth. “This is probably one of our best runs at Hy-Miler or best Hy-Miler finish I should say. I'm pretty bummed to think I pushed the car a little too hard at the start. I led the first 50 – 51 laps but I guess we made the car too good at the start and it kind of hurt us at the end. So, it's good to lead but at the same time it sucks. I just pushed too hard. I have to thank the crew. We worked real hard all weekend. The car is not happy and we made something out of it. We still got a top five. So I can't thank the crew enough, all the fans for coming out, and all the people here at Sandusky. It was a huge crowd and that's great.”
Rounding out the top ten were Edwards, Sammut, Rich Reid, Barnes, and McVetta.