DUQUOIN, Ill. – Sixteen-year-old Cannon McIntosh ended Saturday’s fourth annual Shamrock Classic exactly the same way he started it: on fire.
After a fuel spill inside his cockpit during hot laps left McIntosh with burns on his legs and his participation in doubt, the Oklahoma teenager put together the ultimate rally, leading 40 of 50 laps from the pole en route to his maiden NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series victory.
McIntosh earned the most passing points through heat races and qualifiers, then came out on top of a torrid mid-race battle with defending series champion Logan Seavey to bank the $4,000 top prize.
Saturday night’s improbable run marked McIntosh’s first USAC victory in just his second series start.
“I’m speechless, man,” McIntosh told SPEED SPORT in victory lane. “We started off the day on fire – literally – and heck, I didn’t even know if we’d be able to get it back together to even attempt to start the race tonight, but every time we hit the track after that, we were right on the money.
“I didn’t think we’d ever start on the pole of this thing, and we just won it. It’s absolutely unreal.”
In recalling the fiery end to his hot-laps run, McIntosh admitted that his nerves were shot at that point, but that he was able to remain cool and collected when it mattered most.
“I was scared in that fire,” he said. “I’ve never been that afraid in a race car before. The flames were up to my eyes. I was freaking out, I’ll be the first to admit that, but God was on my side in that one.
“After that, I knew I just had to stay calm and that if I could get through that, I could get through anything here.”
McIntosh got the measure of the field on the start, running out to a one-second advantage over Seavey by the time three laps were in the books.
However, he hit the back of the field on the fifth round, and slowly but surely Seavey began to close in. The Sutter, Calif., pilot jumped up to the top side at the lap-15 benchmark before seizing the lead with an outside charge off turn two on lap 20.
“I knew it would be around the bottom here; it usually is on the start,” McIntosh recalled. “The first 15 (laps) or so, before we got into heavy traffic, we were really good … but then the groove started moving around as that run went on. I went low when Seavey got around me, and I didn’t know if we’d have another shot at him, to be honest with you.”
McIntosh did get another shot, however, when Tyler Thomas and Matt Veatch tangled in turn four, with Veatch ending up on his side to bring out the night’s second caution with 21 laps to go.
That lap-30 restart is when McIntosh pounced, powering to the bottom of the track in turns one and two before pulling even with Seavey down the backstretch and clearing him on approach to turn three.
“When we got that caution, I went to the bottom, and I’m thankful it stuck!” McIntosh said. “I drove deep, and I didn’t know if it was going to stay there, but it did and we won because of it.”
Once McIntosh wrested the lead back, Seavey began to fade. As he did, Chad Boat and Zeb Wise closed in.
Wise was the first man to move into the runner-up spot, passing Seavey for second with 15 to go and chasing McIntosh down the stretch, but it was Boat who ultimately got the last laugh in that battle.
Boat snuck around Wise on the final lap to secure second at the finish, his second runner-up performance in the last four USAC midget races on the sixth-mile Southern Illinois Center bullring.
“This race is always a race of attrition, but we had an awesome car,” said Boat, who started 15th after transferring out of a B main. “Starting that far back, it’s always hard to win and we almost did it. … I just committed to the top too late. I thought I was better on the bottom, but you live and learn.
“We were really good in Ocala and really good here, so I think we have some good momentum now.”
After missing the feature in December at the Southern Illinois Center, Zeb Wise came back with a vengeance to complete the podium for Clauson-Marshall Racing.
Zach Daum and Justin Grant filled out the top five, followed by Seavey, who crossed the line sixth.
Tyler Courtney took a provisional and charged through the field for seventh, but fell short in his quest to become the first driver ever to win the first three USAC National Midget Series points races of the year.
After getting back to his hauler and changing into street clothes, McIntosh winced as he examined the burns and blisters on his legs and ankles, but grinned when he patted the trophy sitting next to him.
“The pain is definitely worth it,” McIntosh said. “To have this right here – I’ll deal with it, for sure.”
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.