DUQUOIN, Ill. – Zeb Wise found himself in a vastly-different position after Saturday night’s Shamrock Classic than he was in the last time he left the Southern Illinois Center.
Back in December, Wise exited the building dejected after missing the A-main. Four months later, he put on a show to not only make the feature, but finish third at the end of 50 laps.
Wise thought his hopes for a strong result might have been dashed on the opening lap of his qualifier, when he was involved in an accordion-style crash on the frontstretch after Tony DiMattia got crossed up in front of the field.
The 16-year-old slowed as quickly as he could to avoid the chaos, but still ended up with “a bent car” that he had to wrestle with for the remainder of the distance to try and recover some passing points.
Somehow, Wise managed to sneak all the way back to fourth from the tail of the field, running the low lane amid a hornet’s nest of cars in the final laps. Since he was credited with starting sixth, it gave him enough combined points between his heat race and qualifier to lock into the top 12.
“I managed to get that bent car back through the field somehow; it took some luck,” Wise noted. “That really did save our night though. You never know what can happen when you end up in a B (main) at this place, so to lock in and end up in the second row was huge for our night. It really was.”
From there, Wise rolled off fourth for the feature and never dropped outside the top five the entire way. He got as high as second, passing Logan Seavey for the runner-up spot with 15 to go and giving chase to eventual winner Cannon McIntosh over the closing laps, but had to contend with Chad Boat at the end.
Boat eventually ripped the top on the final lap to pass Wise, leaving the Angola, Ind., native the bottom step of the podium and a solid third-place finish.
“This is definitely a better feeling, standing up here on the frontstretch, than standing in the pits watching like I was a few months ago,” Wise said. “I’m happy to be back up here. It’s the second year in a row, actually, that I’ve finished third in the Shamrock, so that’s pretty cool to come back and still be fast.”
Wise moved up to the top side in the final third of the race, making tracks against McIntosh in his pursuit of the victory as the track and the fast groove began to change.
“I thought we might have had a shot there toward the end; we were coming on pretty strong there on the outside,” Wise said. “Congratulations to Cannon on his first win; I know what that feeling is like and hope he cherishes it. I was trying to find speed to run him down, just didn’t have enough at the end.
“We were ripping all night and it’s not a win, but it’s something we can leave here happy with.”