By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
OREGON, Wisc. — The Joe Shear Classic lived up to its name on Sunday afternoon at Madison International Raceway. When all was said and done, an elated Austin Nason was standing in victory lane with his first victory in the ARCA Midwest Tour.
Immediately after jumping from his No. 14 machine, Nason pointed at girlfriend Taylor Colvin, embracing her with a giant hug and quickly becoming teary-eyed.
“I got a little one back at home, Levi, and he’s been through a lot. He’s only a month old. He’s been in the hospital a lot so this one’s for him,” an emotional Nason said. “To tell you the truth I wasn’t even supposed to be racing this year. I had the little one on the way and I’m supposed to be taking over our company. It’s been a hectic year.”
That company is Nason Landscaping, the family-owned business based in Roscoe, Illinois that’s been around since 1995.
It appeared that short track standout Bubba Pollard was well on his way to earning another big money victory as he led 114 laps in his No. 26 machine. But the complexion of the race would completely change under the sixth caution of the event.
Jonathan Eilen and Johnny Sauter got together to bring out the yellow flag with 16 laps to go as they were battling hard for the second spot behind the dominant car of Pollard. Since both drivers were involved in the caution, both Eilen and Sauter were sent to the rear of the field by Midwest Tour officials.
As the field circled under the yellow flag, mechanical issues befell Pollard and he brought his car to pit road from the lead. A broken rocker arm was determined to be what ruined Pollard’s shot at the $10,000 payday.
With the top-three cars no longer a factor, Casey Johnson assumed the lead, but not for long.
Shortly after the ensuing restart, contact between Rich Bickle, Jr. and Steve Apel off of Turn No. 2 brought out the final caution of the race. Under the yellow, Johnson stalled on the backstretch and would be pushed back to the pits, giving the lead to Nason for the first time of the 200-lap event.
Johnson, a former two-time Big 8 Series and MIS Triple Crown champion, was a victim of a broken fuel pump. Johnson thought the fuel pump got hot under the yellow and had there not been a caution, he would have still had a shot at competing for the victory.
“I didn’t know if he was straightening his wheel or doing what, it was weird,” Nason said of Johnson’s issues. “I would have loved to race him. He’s always raced me clean and I’ve raced him clean. You guys saw it today we were side-by-side for six or seven laps and never once touched each other. I love racing with Casey.”
Nason would lead Dan Fredrickson, Nick Murgic and Paul Shafer, Jr. to the green flag for the sprint to the finish and earn the first checkered flag of his Midwest Tour career.
“I think we had a shot at maybe a top-three but not winning this thing,” Nelson said of his thoughts in the closing laps. “I hate it for those other guys that broke and wrecked. You hate to win races that way. I think we might have had something for Casey (Johnson) there if it stayed green.”
Fredrickson, second in Midwest Tour victories with 16, won the inaugural Joe Shear Classic in 2008.
“We lucked into second with probably an eighth-place car,” said Fredrickson. “We’re not getting off the corners as good as a lot of these guys. It’s almost like there’s something wrong with it. I guess we got us second-place pay.”
“I’ve gotten tenth with a second-place car before but I’ve never gotten second with a tenth-place car. I don’t know which one I like better or worse, but it’s hard to be mad when you’ve got this kind of fan base here,” Fredrickson said with a huge smile. His young daughter Harper had a large grin and was looking to get dad’s attention.
Nason was the ARCA Midwest Tour rookie of the year in 2015 and Sunday’s race marked his 32nd start in the series. Prior to Madison, Nason had three top-five and 12 top-ten finishes.
“To tell you the truth it might take me until Wausau (the next ARCA Midwest Tour race, on May 19th) to sink in. It’s just unbelievable. We came so close to winning so many races… big races. To finally park it here, it’s pretty amazing. There’s one other race I want on my resume and that’s any Super Late race at Rockford. That’s my home track. I love that place.”
Nason will get his shot at a Rockford victory when the ARCA Midwest Tour heads to the Illinois short rack on June 30.