Besting Battle through Lapped Traffic Crowns Sheppard Victor in Series Opener
THOROLD, ONTARIO – May 21, 2013 – In a brilliant feat of showmanship, “Super Matt” Sheppard outmaneuvered Danny Johnson to win the first race of the 358-Modified Series Monday, May 20, at Merrittville Speedway.
Sheppard spent the second half of the 100-lap event fighting lapped traffic, but his ability to deftly steer his FX Caprara/Xtreme Lubricants 9s around and between cars kept him out of reach of Johnson’s challenges.
“I just wanted to run as hard as I could for 100 laps and try and get through the lapped traffic cleanly, but as quickly as I could too,” said Sheppard, who had no idea from his driver’s seat that Johnson was just a few car lengths behind the whole time. “I didn’t know if there was anybody right on me or not.”
The winner of an unprecedented three consecutive Super DIRTcar Series Championships typically sticks to the Big-Block Modified tour, but traveled to Merrittville from his Waterloo, N. Y., for the first race of the series after Monday’s postponement at Cornwall. Some of the best drivers in both divisions made the trip to Merrittville to show off their skills in a small block.
Jimmy Phelps, of Baldwinsville, N. Y., and Johnson, of Rochester, N. Y., started the feature in the front row with Sheppard just behind, fourth on the grid. Phelps, fueled by momentum from his heat race win, leapt forward at the green flag, speeding ahead of polesitter Johnson. Surviving two cautions and double-file restarts, Phelps ran strong the first quarter of the race, but not as strong as Sheppard, who passed Phelps for the lead in lap 24.
Sheppard kept his lead the remainder of the race through another two cautions and double-file restarts. The final 58 laps of the race went caution-free, creating added challenge for the leaders as they reached lapped traffic. Darting around and between cars, sometimes three at a time, Sheppard stunned crowds in the packed grandstands with his agility.
“I could kind of pick and choose myself through lapped traffic and move around a little bit, and just hold on until the end,” said Sheppard, who attributed his success to his preference for the track. “It’s just been an unbelievable track for us,” he said.
Johnson made several attempts to claim Sheppard’s lead in the last laps of the race, but could not find that outside groove that helped Sheppard cruise seemingly effortlessly around lapped cars.
“I just got caught on the bottom and I needed to be on top. I lost the lead, and once I lost the lead, I couldn’t regain it,” said Johnson, who finished second. “It just wasn’t meant to be. It is what it is, and we’re real happy with what we’ve got.”
Early race leader Phelps fell to Johnson’s advances after lapped traffic slowed his pace in lap 68. The Baldwinsville, N. Y., native kept up with the pack and finished third at the checkered flag.
“We were good. We needed more gear there at the end – the pace slowed down and we couldn’t carry as much speed,” said Phelps. “Other than that, I thought we were close, we just needed to de a little better staying with the front two.”
“I was kinda holding my own at the beginning, then I found the top before Danny and Jimmy did,” Sheppard said. “I think that’s what won us the race. I was able to get out front, and once i was able to get out front I was just able to keep it rolling.”
In taking the victory, Sheppard put a stop to Brett Hearn’s streak; Hearn has won the last three DIRTcar 358-Modified Series events at Merrittville Speedway. In Monday’s feature, Hearn finished sixth.
Local Merrittville star and 2012 points runner-up in the 358-Modified Series Mat Williamson finished fourth after winning his heat and drawing the third spot in the starting grid. World of Outlaws Late Model Series star Tim McCreadie finished fifth after starting 18th. Rounding out the top ten are Pete Bicknell in seventh, Chad Chevalier in eighth, Billy Dunn in ninth, and Mario Clair in tenth.
The DIRTcar 358-Modified Series heats back up again in July for the Ransomville Speedway’s 4th Annual Battle at the Border Wednesday, July 3.
DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Round 2 – Merrittville Speedway
1. 9s Matt Sheppard / Waterloo, N. Y. ($4,000)
2. 7z Danny Johnson / Rochester, N. Y.
3. 99J Jimmy Phelps / Baldwinsville, N. Y.
4. 6m Mat Williamson / St. Catharines, Ontario
5. 7F Tim McCreadie / Watertown, N. Y.
6. 20 Brett Hearn / Sussex, N. J.
7. 42 Pete Bicknell / St. Catharines, Ontario
8. 12 Chad Chevalier / Port Colborne, Ontario
9. 49 Billy Dunn / Watertown, N. Y.
10. 22c Mario Clair / Drummondville, Quebec
11. 17c Chris Steele / Fenwick, Ontario
12. 28 Todd Gordon / Thorold, Ontario
13. 06 Brandon Easey / St. Catharines, Ontario
14. 38 Scott Wood / Thorold, Ontario
15. 17d Danny O’Brien / Kingston, Ontario
16. 37 David Hebert / Saint-Damase, Quebec
17. 3b Chad Brachmann / Sanborn, N. Y.
18. 22J Jeremy Wilder / Fort Plain, N. Y.
19. 108J Bill Bleich / Port Robinson, Ontario
20. 21k Randy Chrysler / Tuscarora Nation, N. Y.
21. 37s Robbie Krull / Cambria, N. Y.
22. R70 Ryan Arbithnot / Renfrew, Ontario
23. 72 Tommy Flannigan / St. Catharines, Ontario
24. 88 Shayne Pierce / Welland, Ontario
25. 66x Carey Terrance / Akwesasne, N. Y.
26. 03 Zach Aubertine / Chaumont, N. Y.
27. 4J Jeff Sykes / Edwards, N. Y.
28. 21a Pete Britten / Brisbaine, Queensland, Australia
29. 71 Mike Bowman / St. Catharines, Ontario
30. 25R Erick Rudolph / Ransomville, N. Y.
31. 08 Mark D’Ilario
B-Main results (top 4 transfer to feature)
B-Main 1: 1. 22J Jeremy Wilder; 2. 06 Brandon Easey; 3. 37 David Hebert; 4. 4J Jeff Sykes; 5. 21k Randy Chrysler; 6. 37s Robbie Krull; 7. 115 Stephane LaFrance; 8. 108J Bill Bleich Jr.; 9. 64 Daniel Nadeau
B-Main 2: 1. 38 Scott Wood; 2. R70 Ryan Abithnot; 3. 88 Shayne Pierce; 4. 03 Zach Aubertine; 5. 96 Fred Carlton; 6. 777 Tyler McPherson; 7. 01 Chris Raabe; 8. 66x Carey Terrance; 9. 21T Roger Chrysler; 10. 27T Travis Stacey
Heat Races. Top 5 transfer, top 3 go to redraw.
Heat 1: 1. 17c Chris Steele; 2. 3b Chad Brachmann; 3. 9s Matt Sheppard; 4. 21a Pete Britten; 5. 25R Erick Rudolph; 6. 22J Jeremy Wilder; 7. 108J Bill Bleich Jr.; 8. 115 Stephane LaFrance; 9. 21k Randy Chrysler
Heat 2: 1. 42 Pete Bicknell; 2. 108 Bil Bleich; 3. 28 Todd Gordon; 4. 22c Mario Clair; 5. 7F Tim McCreadie; 6. 37s Robbie Krull; 7. 37 David Hebert; 8. 64 Daniel Nadeau; 9. 4J Jeff Sykes; 10. 06 Brandon Easey
Heat 3: 1. 6m Mat Williamson; 2. 7z Danny Johnson; 3. 17d Danny O’Brien; 4. 49 Billy Dunn; 5. 08 Mark D’Ilario; 6. 96 Fred Carlton; 7. 88 Shayne Pierce; 8. 03 Zach Aubertine; 9. 01 Chris Raabe; 10. 66x Carey Terrance
Heat 4: 1. 99J Jimmy Phelps; 2. 71 Mike Bowman; 3. 20 Brett Hearn; 4. 72 Tommy Flannigan; 5. 12 Chad Chevalier; 6. 38 Scott Wood; 7. R70 Ryan Arbithnot; 8. 777 Tyler McPherson; 9. 21T Roger Chrysler; 10. 27T Travis Stacey
7:30 P.M.: Time Trials
1. 71 Mike Bowman; 2. 42 Pete Bicknell; 3. 17c Chris Steele; 4. 3b Chad Brachmann; 5. 25R Erick Rudolph; 6. 6m Mat Williamson; 7. 17d Danny O’Brien; 8. 99J Jimmy Phelps; 9. 9s Matt Sheppard; 10. 08 Mark D’Ilario; 11. 108 Bill Bleich; 12. 21a Pete Britten; 13. 22c Mario Clair; 14. 28 Todd Gordon; 15. 7z Danny Johnson; 16. 49 Billy Dunn; 17. 21k Randy Chrysler; 18. 38 Scott Wood; 19. 96 Fred Carlton; 20. 12 Chad Chevalier; 21. 7F Tim McCreadie; 22. 20 Brett Hearn; 23. 37s Robbie Krull; 24. 4J Jeff Sykes; 25. 115 Stephane LaFrance; 26. 72 Tommy Flannigan; 27. 37 David Hebert; 28. 108J Bill Bleich Jr.; 29. R70 Ryan Arbithnot; 30. 06 Brandon Easey; 31. 74 Daniel Nadeau; 32. 22J Jeremy Wilder; 33. 88 Shayne Pierce; 34. 777 Tyler McPherson; 35. 21T Roger Chrysler; 36. 01 Chris Raabe; 37. 66x Carey Terrance; 38. 03 Zach Aubertine; 39. 27T Travis Stacey
As of 6:30 p.m., the following teams have registered for the DIRTcar 358-Modified Series race at Merrittville:
21 K Randy Chrysler |Tuscarora Nation, N. Y.
22 J Jeremy Wilder | Fort Plain, N. Y.
21 a Pete Britten | Brisbaine, Queensland, Australia / Waterloo, N. Y.
25 Erick Rudolph | Ransomville, N. Y.
3 b Chad Brachmann
9 s Matt Sheppard | Waterloo, N. Y.
115 Stephane LeFrance | St. Albert, Ontario
17 c Chris Steele | Fenwick, Ontario
108 jr Bill Bleich, Jr.
4 J Jeff Sykes | Edwards, N. Y.
37 s Robbie Krull
22 c Mario Clair
28 Todd Gordon
108 Bill Bleich | Port Robinson, Ontario
37 David Hebert | St. Damase
0 6 Brandon Easey | St. Catherines, Ontario
42 Pete Bicknell
64 Daniel Nadeau | Marieville
7 Tim McCreadie
17 D Danny O’Brien | Kingston, Ontario
88 Shane Pierce
6 Mat Williamson | St. Catherines, Ontario
0 1 Chris Raabe
66 x Carey Terrance | Akwesasne, N. Y.
49 Billy Dunn | Watertown, N. Y.
0 8 Mark D’Ilario
0 3 Zach Aubertine | Chaumont, N. Y.
7 z Danny Johnson | Rochester, N. Y.
777 Tyler McPherson
R 70 Ryan Arbithnot
T 21 Roger Chrysler | Tuscarora Nation, N. Y.
72 Tommy Flannigan | St. Catharines, Ontario
38 Scott Wood
99 J Jimmy Phelps
71 Mike Bowman | St. Catharines, Ontario
12 Chad Chevalier
20 Brett Hearn | Sussex, N. J.
27 t Travis Stacey
96 Fred Carelton