Matt Sheppard opened the 2010 Super DIRTcar Series with the fastest car. Sunday night he was also the first to finish as the second-generation star from Waterloo, N.Y. lapped up to the 10th-place car to score his first tour victory of the season dominating the Hall of Fame Classic 100 presented by Ferris at Cayuga County Fair Speedway.
Earlier in the afternoon his car owner Jeff Brownell Sr. was presented with the coveted Gene DeWitt Outstanding Car Owner award during the 19th Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the adjacent Northeast Modified Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum.
“Jeff’s a great car owner, he gives me the best of everything so he deserved to go into the Hall of Fame today,” said Sheppard, who led the series last year with seven victories aboard Brownell’s potent JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine. “So it’s nice to get a big win for him tonight. The car was definitely on rails out there.”
With the final 54 laps run without a caution, Sheppard opened up a straightaway advantage over runner-up Jimmy Phelps from Baldwinsville, N.Y., followed by Billy Decker from Unadilla, N.Y. and the brothers Johnson, Alan and Danny, falling in line under the checkers. Ryan Phelps from Baldwinsville, N.Y., Dale Planck from Cortland, N.Y., Billy Dunn from Watertown, N.Y., Brett Hearn from Sussex, N.J. and Tom Sears Jr. from Clay, N.Y. were the last to be scored on the lead lap in the century grind.
After earning consecutive Bilstein Shocks Fast Time awards at both Hagerstown Speedway in March and Fulton Speedway in April, Sheppard was fourth quickest in round three with Jimmy Phelps turning the quickest lap for the eighth time in his career and first-ever at The Port. Phelps re-drew to invert the top-four for heat race action and Sheppard settled for second behind Dunn in the fourth and final qualifier that locked the front-five into the feature race field.
A second draw among the top-12 qualifying race finishers was much more appealing to the pair as Phelps grabbed the pole on the feature grid and Sheppard selected third, one spot behind Decker and alongside Hearn as they shared row two to begin the 100-lap nightcap.
Phelps wasted no time jumping out front to pace the 30-car starting field, out-dragging Decker while leaving Sheppard and Hearn to watch from close behind. A multi-car skirmish exiting turn three slowed the action on the second circuit with Tim Currier’s mount coming to halt while Ryan Bartlett got turned around and backed into the outside retaining wall.
After a side-by-side duel in the early stages, Sheppard finally ducked under Decker across the line to complete lap eight while Phelps had the HBR Motorsports no. 98h Wave Energy Drink-Mohawk Northeast/Troyer entry dialed in a half-dozen car-lengths ahead. Phelps hit traffic on lap 15 and Sheppard joined in moving underneath once again on lap 23 in what would amount to the final lead change.
Pennsylvanian Dave Murdick slid off the track high in turn one to bring out a second yellow flag on 30, and 13 more laps were recorded before Gary Tomkins looped low in the no. 41 Murphy Racing ride rounding the first corner. At the halfway mark Sheppard, Phelps, Decker and the Johnsons settled into the top-five, and in 50 more laps around the banked 3/8-miler the end result would be identical despite Ryan Phelps twice swapping fifth with Danny Johnson over the final quarter of the race.
“I was just going in (turns) and letting my car drift up to where I felt it and once it stopped sliding I immediately looked for that little bit of brown coming off, and then came back across the track,” remarked Sheppard, whose first Hall of Fame Classic victory was also his first in Super DIRTcar Series competition at the home of DIRTcar Northeast. His 13th career tour triumph was worth $6,000 and secured him a guaranteed starting berth in the Syracuse 200 during Super DIRT Week in October at the New York State Fairgrounds where he is the defending champion.
“All night long I stayed on it a little longer in the turns, just trying to make up a little ground on the guys in front of me. If you can get in a little harder and keep your momentum up a little bit you can drive off a little faster. This (car) was just awesome tonight with the motor and shock package in place working so well,” added Sheppard, who moved nine points ahead of Decker in the current standings after trailing the two-time Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar champ by just one marker going in. Both drivers have placed first, second and third in the trio of 100-lappers held to date.
Feeling content with a runner-up tally after consecutive 10th-place tallies at Hagerstown and Fulton, Phelps fell five seconds behind ‘Super Matt’ at the stripe yet still vaulted from 10th to fourth-place on the updated points chart.
“I think we were a little too good too early, Matt had the car to beat tonight and I feel fortunate able to hang around there at the front until the end,” figured Phelps, 35, who also chased Sheppard across the line in last May’s Hall of Fame title event, however they placed fourth and fifth with Decker winning the 50-lapper that wasn’t part of the Super DIRTcar Series. “Our car was strong all night, his was too and he’s been fast all year with it.”
“Still happy with a second, it was a good run tonight on a tricky track. There were a lot of places to run out there. When I thought the car was working good on the bottom, I moved up in traffic and thought it was good there too. Looked everywhere and tried all the lanes tonight, Matt was obviously better. We’ll just have to go back to the shop and find a way to get one spot higher,” added Phelps, who finished third with one extra-distance tour victory behind reigning overall Mr. DIRTcar points king Hearn and Sheppard in the final 2009 standings.
After relinquishing the runner-up spot to Sheppard in the early stages, Decker held off numerous advances from ‘A.J. Slideways’ to claim the show position and continue his streak of consistency on the nation’s premier Big-Block Modified tour.
“It’s tough sledding right now, I ran with Matt for awhile then side-by-side with Alan for probably about 15 laps, just wasn’t good enough to catch the leaders today,” said Decker, 45, who garnered his first Hall of Fame victory in the a 75-lapper held in 1999 before returning to win last year’s 50-lap Cayuga County Fairgrounds holiday contest.
“It was just a matter of getting the right line out there. Think I had the preferred line on Alan and he was trying his hardest to find a way around me. He just had to go where (track) wasn’t as good. Our car wasn’t bad, just came up a little bit short,” noted Decker, following his third consecutive third-place finish registered in the LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int'l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry.
Added fourth-place finisher Alan Johnson who steered Raymond's Car Care-RE Nolan Assoc.-Pizza Logs/Bicknell machine on Sunday, “Thought I was gonna get Billy there for a while, but once he sees you he gets an extra tenth or two in him and takes off. Think I lost a little toward the middle of the race, felt really good early, either the bottom went away a little bit … I tried everything, just didn’t have enough for the three (cars) in front of me,” relayed Johnson, 52, the only driver to win at least one Big-Block feature since the DIRTcar Racing organization was officially established in 1976.
On this night buckled in behind the wheel of the Currier Plastics-NorthStar Business Center/Bicknell no. 10 team car of teammate Tim Currier, Danny Johnson notched his second top-five finish in three starts to keep him in the early hunt for Big-Block supremacy on the Northeast circuit.
“The top really got slippery on us but there was still a lot of bite left on the bottom,” said the youngest sibling who turned 50 in March. I’m so fortunate to even come here with a ride today. We’re excited just to be out here now on the frontstretch with a fifth tonight. It’s been a tough beginning to the series so far, certainly looking for some stronger finishes after those weak starts.”
Teenager Larry Wight clinched a guarantee start in the Syracuse 358-Modified Championship held during Super DIRT Week in October. Wight placed 12th and also was voted as the Xtreme Lubricants Slick Move of the Race award winner after emerging as one of only two Small-Blockers to crack the feature race line-up. The other, Brian Sage, Salvaged 20th-place on the final scoresheet.
Super DIRTcar Series action returns in two more weeks with Grandview Speedway and Orange County Fair Speedway hosting a Big-Block doubleheader June 15-16. Featuring back-to-back 100-lappers, the winner of Bob Miller’s ‘Traffic Jam 100’ in Bechtelsville, Pa. and Brett Hearn’s ‘The Big Show 2’ in Middletown, N.Y. are in line to cash a $6,000 paycheck plus earn a guaranteed starting berth in the Syracuse 200 during Super DIRT Week in October.
Super DIRTcar Series Race #3 – Cayuga County Fair Speedway, May 30, 2010, Ferris presents ‘Hall of Fame Classic 100' Big-Block Modified Event Summary
FIN STR CAR# DRIVER
1 3 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY ($6,000)
2 1 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
3 2 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
4 8 14j Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
5 6 10j Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
6 7 99 Ryan Phelps/Fulton,NY
7 5 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
8 12 49 Billy Dunn/Watertown,NY
9 4 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
10 15 62s Tom Sears Jr./Clay,NY
11 10 8r Rob Bellinger/Dexter,NY
12 14 99L Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY
13 11 5h Chris Hile/Syracuse,NY
14 18 37e Eric Fisher/Bluff Point,NY
15 13 4* Michael Storms/Wantage,NJ
16 19 16 Mike Bowman/Baldwinsville,NY
17 20 33 Mike Mahaney/King Ferry,NY
18 16 21a Peter Britten/Brisbane,QLD
19 21 10 Tim Currier/Auburn,NY
20 22 12 Brian Sage/Brockport,NY
21 25 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
22 30 49er Johnny Guarino/Nanuet,NY
23 17 160 Johnny Hill/Hastings,NY
24 9 7x Steve Paine/Waterloo,NY
25 23 41 Gary Tomkins/Clifton Springs,NY
26 29 45m Mike Ward/Genoa,NY
27 28 61 Dave Murdick/Slippery Rock,PA
28 24 91h Chad Homan/Macedon,NY
29 27 21 Derrick Podsiadlo/Penn Yan,NY
30 26 39 Ryan Bartlett/Adams Center,NY
GATER RACING NEWS LAP LEADERS: J.Phelps (1-22), Sheppard (23-100).
CAUTIONS: 3 for 14 laps.
HEAT WINNERS: D.Johnson, Planck, A.Johnson, Dunn.
CONSI WINNER: Currier.
BICKNELL RACING PRODUCTS WINNER AWARD: Matt Sheppard.
MSD IGNITION WINNER AWARD: Matt Sheppard.
SYRACUSE 200 QUALIFIER: Matt Sheppard.
SYRACUSE 358-MODIFIED QUALIFIER: Larry Wight.
HALFWAY LEADER: Matt Sheppard.
BERT/KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER AWARD: Johnny Guarino.
XTREME LUBRICANTS SLICK MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: Larry Wight.
PENSKE POWER POSITION AWARD (10th): Tom Sears Jr.
MSD IGNITION FINAL PLACEMENT AWARD: Ryan Bartlett.
BILSTEIN SHOCKS FAST TIME AWARD: Jimmy Phelps (15.853sec/85.157mph).
TOTAL PURSE: $27,750.
CARS ENTERED: 35.
NEXT EVENTS: Grandview Speedway - June 15 & Orange County Fair Speedway - June 16, 2010.
DID NOT QUALIFY(5)
16w-Lance Willix II/Theresa,NY
85-Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA