Second-Generation Driver Shullick Making His Mark In Supermodified Ranks
Few states can boast supermodified racing history like Ohio. The methanol-breathing 800-plus horsepower open-wheel machines have been thrilling Buckeye State race fans since the 1960s.
Over the past five decades, the track that’s been most important to Ohio’s supermodified scene is Sandusky Speedway, and since 1978 the key supermodified race in the Midwest has been Sandusky’s Hy-Miler Nationals, a two-day event held annually in late July.
Hy-Miler weekend attracts open-wheel race fans from around the country to the half-mile paperclip-shaped oval. A Friday night 40-lapper precedes Saturday’s 100-lap main, which is unrivaled as the most prestigious winged supermodified race in the country.
Dave Shullick, known as “The Shoe” throughout his native Ohio, won the first Hy-Miler in 1978. His fifth and last Hy-Miler triumph came in 1999, but in an ironic twist of events, the win was awarded after Shullick’s son, a raw 17-year-old Dave Shullick, Jr., was disqualified for tipping the scales 17 pounds too light.
Shullick, Jr. recalls that he wasn’t heartbroken. “I told the crew not to worry about it. I figured I was young and I’d have plenty more opportunities to win the race,” he said.
Fast forward 11 years. The Shoe II has yet to win a Hy-Miler Nationals; in fact, he’s never even won the Fast 40 — the Friday night show that precedes Saturday’s festivities.
Although he has no Hy-Miler victories to his credit, Shullick, Jr., now 28 and driving for the legendary Clyde Booth, is regarded as one of the top supermodified drivers in the country.
After bouncing around early in his career, Shullick, Jr. settled in with ACME Racing in 2004 and proceeded to rack off several top-shelf seasons with the Ohio-based team.
Shullick, Jr. won three-consecutive Midwest Supermodified Ass’n championships from 2005 to ’07 and his 19 feature wins puts him second on the all-time MSA win list.
Booth took notice of the second-generation Shullick’s success, and when the former NASCAR team manager was looking for a driver partway through the 2008 season, he made a call to Ohio.
“I’ve been friends with Clyde for a long time,” Shullick, Jr. said. “My father drove for him when I was very young. Clyde and I were talking one afternoon at Sandusky, and the conversation kind of renewed our friendship. Not long after that he needed a driver, and he called and we put a deal together over the phone.”
The decision to leave the ACME team meant Shullick, Jr. left a proven, reliable car capable of winning anywhere. He began driving Booth’s exotic, engineering-driven No. 61, a car that’s lightning fast and capable of setting a track record at any track it’s hauled to, but frequently criticized for being undependable and often unable to finish races.
“I chose to drive for Clyde because it’s a great opportunity and his car is second to none,” Shullick, Jr. commented. “It’s an opportunity to learn from Clyde and his knowledge. I’m a driver who likes to get involved with setup. When I drove the 49 (ACME car), I did most of the setup and I had the final say on what we ran. With Clyde, we work together and I continue to learn.”
It didn’t take long for the new pair to learn what the other wanted. In only his fifth start with Booth, Shullick, Jr. won the August 2008 ISMA show at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway. It was also the first time the Booth car had finished a race with Shullick, Jr. as its wheelman.
Shullick, Jr. added two more ISMA wins in 2009, and the No. 61 was the fastest car on many nights that didn’t see it grace victory lane.
The early part of 2010 has Shullick fans resting uneasy. Between following the ISMA and MSA schedules, the duo has traveled to more races than any supermodified team so far this season. The Silver Bullet, as Booth’s plain, unpainted mounts were tagged years back, has been the fastest car in practice at most of those races, but mechanical gremlins have ruled the season.
Entering July, Shullick, Jr. is yet to finish a feature this season. Many nights, the car doesn’t make it out of the heat races, giving Booth an early exit back to his Mooresville, N.C., shop and Shullick, Jr. a head start home to North Ridgeville, Ohio.
Insisting he’s not bothered by the mechanical problems with the car, Shullick, Jr. says he’s not concerned with the issues they’ve had.
“It’s not frustrating for me,” Shullick, Jr. said. “It fits me. I like the engineering of the car. I like learning what Clyde is doing to make it faster. Sure, I’m like everyone else — I love to win and I want to finish races. But my motto has always been, ‘If we break down, we do it together. If I crash, we crash together. And if we win, we win together.’”
And winning, says Shullick, Jr., is all he really wants out of the sport.
“I just like to win supermodified races,” Shullick, Jr. said. “Early in my career, my dad and I went to Silver Crown races and tried to pursue moving up. Unfortunately, getting to the next level is all about who has the most money. Now, we just focus on winning races. I’ve been very lucky to never have to own my own car in order to race, and I respect what the car owner asks of me.”
Speaking of the Hy-Miler, Shullick, Jr. says it’s a race that holds a special spot with his family.
“My dad’s won the race five times, and it’d mean the world to me to win it. It seems like the race has changed so much since I started running it. Back in ’99, I saved my tires because I really didn’t know any better. Then at the end, it was like everyone had burnt their stuff up and I could run faster than them. Now, you go all out from the beginning. The tires have changed and it seems they hold up better now. I’m looking forward to the weekend; it really is a great race to be a part of.”
Supermod Racers Primed For Sandusky Showdown
Sandusky Speedway’s Hy-Miler Nationals, an International Supermodified Ass’n-sanctioned race originally tagged the Sandusky 100 and now sponsored by the North Central Ohio-based Hy-Miler convenience store chain, was established in 1978 to give the supermodified hotbed of Ohio a major event for the popular open-wheel cars.
Dave Shullick, Sr. won the first Hy-Miler, and his five wins in the race give him the most of any driver. New Englanders Chris Perley and Russ Wood each have four Hy-Miler victories, while Joe Gosek and Bentley Warren have won it three times.
A Friday night preliminary feature was added to the weekend in 1981. Originally a 30-lapper, the race is now known as the Fast 40 and it is an ISMA point show. In recent years, the Friday main has produced several first-time ISMA winners.
Today, Hy-Miler weekend pits the stars of ISMA against the blue-collar racers of the Midwest Supermodified Ass’n, a 10-year-old touring series that holds four events at Sandusky in 2010. Hy-Miler weekend marks ISMA’s only trip to Ohio in 2010, and one of the few times ISMA and MSA racers will compete against one another.
“Hy-Miler is the weekend we work for all year,” says Sandusky promoter Kevin Jaycox. “It’s our signature event, and for the drivers, it’s the biggest winged supermodified race in the country. The ISMA sanction is very important. The MSA guys will always come because it’s in their backyard, and the ISMA sanction guarantees most of the best super drivers in the country will be here.”