DUQUOIN, Ill. – Factory Canopies Pot of Gold Challenge contender Colten Cottle was all smiles despite a 19th-place finish in Saturday night’s Shamrock Classic A-main.

Why? Because he never anticipated being eligible to chase the $50,000 bonus in the first place.

Cottle, driving for car owner Ron Cox in the No. 56ap formerly piloted by Travis Young, caught a lucky break on lap four of his 12-lap qualifier – when the top three cars crashed out in front of him in turn three – and converted that break into a load of passing points.

In fact, Cottle went on to win that qualifier, placing him second in combined passing points for the night inside the Southern Illinois Center.

It was a result that shocked, and pleased, both Cottle and his team.

“We just got lucky in that qualifier, with having a few guys spin out that we were able to pass,” Cottle explained. “From there I was able to stay clean and win it, but I never expected to have a chance to run for the 50 grand. We thought we might have some speed, but we didn’t think we were going to be able to run up front like we did there.

“That’s pretty cool, to do what we just managed to do.”

After polesitter Cannon McIntosh, who went on to win the feature, declined the Pot of Gold Challenge, Cottle was left in prime position to take his shot at a five-figure payday.

He knew better than to refuse the opportunity, too.

“It was a no-brainer,” Cottle smiled. “You never get the chance to run for that kind of money, and you never know what can happen here. It was worth a shot, anyway.

“It was either drop back and go for the money, or we were going to start on the pole, and either one of those outcomes were good for our team.”

Unfortunately for Cottle, a single-groove race track and a loaded field proved to be too much to overcome and he was put a lap down just prior to the lap-20 benchmark.

“One of the biggest things was trying to be aggressive off the start, and we unfortunately got lapped on that first long run there,” Cottle noted. “We knew after that we were pretty well done. Fifty laps here … it’s enough time, I just don’t know if me driving was quite enough tonight, but it was worth the chance.”

As thankful as he was for a chance to run for the money, Cottle was equally appreciative of the faith that Cox and Young showed in him to bring him onboard for the Shamrock Classic.

“I’ve known Ron Cox ever since I started racing; we used to run micros together a lot, and they live pretty close to us,” explained Cottle. “Travis (Young) decided he wanted to retire after the Chili Bowl, and they asked me if I wanted to drive for this race. I knew I had to take the opportunity.

“You can’t ever pass anything up in this business, and we didn’t pass up a chance at anything tonight,” he added. “I appreciate Ron and Travis believing in me to run this car.”

While the end result wasn’t what he’d hoped for, Cottle still flashed a smile, relishing the experience.

“We had fun tonight, and that’s what it’s all about.”