NEW RICHMOND, WI – Aug. 1, 2013 – The greatest summer of Brandon Sheppard's life grew even better on Thursday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Building on the career-first DIRTcar Summer Nationals 'Hell Tour' title he clinched less than two weeks ago, Sheppard drove to a convincing $6,000 victory in the 40-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main that kicked off the 26th annual USA Nationals weekend.
Sheppard, 20, of New Berlin, Ill., started from the pole position and controlled the entire distance. He hammered his family-owned Rocket car around the top side of the high-banked, three-eighths-mile oval to register his second career WoO LMS triumph without receiving a single serious challenge.
"We've been working hard a lot of years, me and my dad (veteran racer Steve Sheppard Jr.), to try and accomplish that Summer Nationals deal," said Sheppard, who became the youngest champion in the history of the famed 'Hell Tour.' "To finally do it was really uplifting for me. It was almost like a weight lifted off my shoulders. There's not as much pressure now. We can go out there and know we can run with them all the time."
WoO LMS points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., crossed the finish line 2.051 seconds behind Sheppard in his Rocket Chassis house car after slipping by Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., for the runner-up spot on lap 37. Babb settled for third place in his Victory Circle mount, Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., placed fourth in Larry Moring's MasterSbilt car and World of Outlaws rookie Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., finished fifth after starting from the outside pole.
The night belonged to Sheppard, who two years ago made a stirring run into the top five in the USA Nationals 100 before breaking and last year entered the event in the Rocket Chassis house car that he drove for much of the 2012 season while Richards raced on the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Driving a 2007-vintage car that his team purchased two years ago from fellow Illinois driver Brian Shirley, Sheppard thrust himself onto the list of favorites to capture the $50,000 top prize on the line in Saturday night's 100-lap USA Nationals finale.
"This is by far my favorite racetrack," said Sheppard, who reached Victory Lane for the first time at the Badger State facility. "Since the day I came here, I've loved it. It's super racing. It's hammer-down, get-up-on-the-wheel, run-the-cushion – just like our Midwest tracks. I definitely get along with it pretty good, so we're looking forward to tomorrow and Saturday."
Sheppard dominated the preliminary event, leading by as much as a straightaway when not slowed by lapped traffic. Caution flags on laps 18 and 29 cleared slower cars out of the picture for B-Shepp and then he took care of the rest.
"I just knew that I had to stay up on the wheel and run every lap as hard as I could – just stay consistent and not mess up," said Sheppard, whose previous WoO LMS victory came behind the wheel of the Rocket Chassis house car on Sept. 14, 2012, at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill. "That's what you gotta do when you're running against this much competition.
"Now that we know that we can do it, there's gonna be the same amount of competition tomorrow night and Saturday night – and maybe a couple more (drivers) – so we're real confident."
Richards, 25, was able to slice more than a half-second off Sheppard's lead after finally grabbing second place from Babb on lap 37, but the two-time WoO LMS champion didn't have enough time to catch his rising-star understudy.
"At end of the race I was way too tight to run the top so it forced me to work with the bottom," said Richards, who started fifth. "I found a pretty good line there slow on the bottom and I felt like we were pretty good. I feel like if it was a 50-lapper we might have had something for him.
"But Brandon did a great job. If we couldn't win, he's the next person I'd like to see win. It's good to see the young guys win. It's good for the sport."
The second-place finish pushed Richards's WoO LMS points lead to 78 points over Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who finished sixth after starting 13th. That gap will not change the rest of the weekend since the USA Nationals 100 offers only show-up points because it will not be run using the normal WoO LMS qualifying format.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished seventh after starting 14th, falling 98 points behind Richards in the WoO LMS standings. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., used a points provisional to start 25th in the A-Main but battled forward to finish eighth.WoO LMS rookie Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, settled for a ninth-place finish after starting sixth and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., rounded out the top 10 in his first WoO LMS start following the conclusion of the three-month suspension from WoO and DIRTcar UMP competition he served after a tire he used during April's Illini 100 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway failed a laboratory test.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., brought out the race's first caution flag on lap 18 when – while running sixth – he stopped in turn two with flames visible under his hood. He said a pressure tube out of his Team Dillon car's fuel-pressure gauge apparently vibrated and caused the back of the gauge to break, leading to an arc off the gauge light that sent fire into his cockpit. A flame was visible on McDowell's leg when he climbed out of his car, but it was quickly extinguished and he wasn't burned.
Later, on lap 29, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., slowed in turn four with damage to the right-front suspension of his Sweeteners Plus car. It appeared that he got the worst of a Clanton/Feger scrape underneath him as all three drivers battled for a spot inside the top 10.
Fifty-two cars were entered in the program, which was run under almost perfect clear and seasonably warm conditions.
Ohlins Shocks Time Trials were split into 'A' and 'B' groups, with the first half competing for starting positions in heats 1-3 and the second half racing against the clock to align heats 4-6.
Babb registered the overall fastest circuit of the night with a lap of 13.237 seconds in Group 'B.' It was his 14th career WoO LMS fast-time honor but first since Sept. 17, 2011, at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo.
Heat winners were Wells, Richards, O'Neal, Babb, Bagley and Sheppard. The B-Mains were captured by Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., Ronny Lee Hollingsworth of Northport, Ala., and Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa.
The USA Nationals weekend continues on Friday night (Aug. 2) with Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, heat races and a dash for preliminary winners. The event concludes on Saturday evening (Aug. 3) with B-Mains, a Last Chance Race and the 100-lap finale.
Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT and competition at 7 p.m. CT both nights. More information is available by logging on to www.cedarlakespeedway.com.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series USA Nationals Preliminary A-Main At Cedar Lake Speedway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (1) Brandon Sheppard/40 $6,000
2. (5) Josh Richards/40 $3,150
3. (4) Shannon Babb/40 $2,050
4. (3) Don O'Neal/40 $2,250
5. (2) Eric Wells/40 $1,950
6. (13) Shane Clanton/40 $1,450
7. (14) Darrell Lanigan/40 $1,450
8. (25) Rick Eckert/40 $1,350
9. (6) Morgan Bagley/40 $1,250
10. (15) Jason Feger/40 $1,050
11. (8) A.J. Diemel/40 $950
12. (17) Bobby Pierce/40 $900
13. (23) Tim Fuller/40 $900
14. (16) Devin Moran/40 $800
15. (26) Chub Frank/39 $875
16. (22) Brian Shirley/33 $750
17. (11) Tim McCreadie/28 $850
18. (29) Bub McCool/28 $160
19. (9) Chris Simpson/27 $640
20. (24) Tim Isenberg/25 $620
21. (10) Jonathan Davenport/19 $600
22. (7) Dale McDowell/18 $600
23. (28) Dennis Erb Jr./16 $600
24. (20) Ronny Lee Hollingsworth/15 $600
25. (27) Kevin Weaver/14 $600
26. (12) Gregg Satterlee/13 $625
27. (18) Kent Robinson/11 $600
28. (21) Brian Birkhofer/5 $600
29. (19) Pat Doar/3 $600
* Earnings include cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 17 Mins., 22.835 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 2.051 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 2 (laps 18, 29)
Lap Leaders: Sheppard (1-40)
Provisional Starters: Eckert, Frank (WoO); Weaver, Erb (DIRTcar UMP); McCool (WoO emergency)
Rookie of the Race: Wells ($250)
WoO LMS 'Bonus Bucks' Winner: O'Neal ($500)
Ohlins Shocks Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 18W-Eric Wells/Hazard, KY 13.491
2. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 13.668
3. 1d-Don O'Neal/Martinsville, IN 13.708
4. 3s-Brian Shirley/Chatham, IL 13.709
5. 1w-Dillon Wood/New Smyrna Beach, FL 13.713
6. 25-Jason Feger/Bloomington, IL 13.786
7. 25-Shane Clanton/Zebulon, GA 13.824
8. 11-Pat Doar/New Richmond, WI 13.856
9. 32s-Chris Simpson/Oxford, IA 13.916
10. 17M-Dale McDowell/Chickamauga, GA 13.921
11. 57J-Bub McCool/Vicksburg, MS 13.955
12. 19-Tim Fuller.Watertown, NY 13.969
13. 37-Jared Hawkins/Fairmont, WV 14.011
14. 58-A.J. Diemel/Elk Mound, WI 14.022
15. 18RH-Ronny Lee Hollingsworth/Northport, AL 14.123
16. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 14.237
17. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 14.245
18. 99 Clay Fisher/Dewitt, AR 14.266
19. 77-Jordan Yaggy/Rochester, MN 14.334
20. c8-Timothy Culp/W. Monroe, LA 14.615
21. 7-Ricky Weiss/Winnipeg, Manitoba 14.653
22. 15-Nick Anvelink/Navarino, WI 14.822
23. 17J-John Winge/Sioux Falls, SD 14.849
24. 71-Andrew McKay/Edina, MN 14.89
25. 3-Bret Swedberg/Shawano, WI 15.083
26. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 13.994 (DQ – light)
1. 18-Shannon Babb/Moweaqua, IL 13.237
2. 9T-Tim Isenberg/Marshfield, WI 13.643
3. b5-Brandon Sheppard/New Berlin, IL 13.667
4. 49-Jonathan Davenport/Blairsville, GA 13.717
5. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 13.75
6. 7R-Kent Robinson/Bloomington, IN 13.872
7. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 13.935
8. 32-Bobby Pierce/Oakwood, IL 13.975
9. 28-Jimmy Mars /Menomonie, WI 13.975
10. 99M-Devin Moran/Dresden, OH 14.047
11. 14M-Morgan Bagley/Longview, TX 14.068
12. 22-Gregg Satterlee/Rochester Mills, PA 14.114
13. 27-Jake Redetzke/Eau Claire, WI 14.117
14. 15b-Brian Birkhofer/Muscatine, IA 14.139
15. 21-Billy Moyer/Batesville, AR 14.147
16. 28-Dennis Erb Jr./Carpentersville, IL 14.228
17. 1G-Scott James/Bright, IN 14.273
18. 90 Lance Mathees/Winono, MN 14.305
19. 28P-Jeff Provinzino/Hibbing, MN 14.391
20. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 14.418
21. b12-Kevin Weaver/Gibson City, IL 14.419
22. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, WI 14.462
23. 22-Charlie McKenna/Clear Lake, IA 14.689
24. 18c-Ross Camponovo/Clarksdale, MS 14.722
25. 40B-Kyle Bronson/Tampa, FL 15.022
26. 57-Chad Williamson/Watertown, SD 16.703
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Wells, McDowell, Clanton, Hawkins, Shirley, Stone, Anvelink, Yaggy, Swedberg
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Richards, Diemel, Lanigan, Doar, Wood, Culp, Winge, McCool (DNS) C. Smith
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): O'Neal, Simpson, Feger, Hollingsworth, Fuller, Weiss, Fisher, McKay
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Babb, Davenport, Moran, Redetzke, Eckert, Provinzino, B. Smith, Bronson, Erb
Heat No. 5 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Bagley, McCreadie, Pierce, Birkhofer, Isenberg, James, Frank, McKenna, Williamson
Heat No. 6 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Sheppard, Satterlee, Robinson, Moyer, Weaver, Mars, Matthees, Camponovo
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Doar, Shirley, Wood, Hawkins, McCool, Stone, Anvelink, Swedberg, Winge (DNS) Culp, Yaggy, C. Smith
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Hollingsworth, Fuller, Eckert, Redetzke, Weiss, Provinzino, Erb, B. Smith, Bronson, Fisher (DNS) McKay
B-Main No. 3 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Birkhofer, Isenberg, Mars, Moyer, James, Matthees, Williamson, Camponovo, Frank, Weaver, McKenna
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners (awards presented to noted finisher/qualifier or next highest displaying decal:
Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash to fast qualifier): Shannon Babb
Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner): Pat Doar/Tim Fuller/Tim Isenberg
VP Race Fuels 'Nice Jugs' Award: (One VP 5-gallon container to fastest qualifier who misses A-Main): Jimmy Mars
Wrisco Aluminum (3 sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner only): Josh Richards
Armor All (One case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO team in A-Main): Jason Feger
Comp Cams ($50 certificate to A-Main winner): Josh Richards
QuarterMaster ($100 certificate to A-Main winner, $50 certificate to 5th-place finish): Eric Wells/Chub Frank
MSD Ignition ($50 cash to A-Main winner): Josh Richards
STP ($50 cash to 2nd-place finisher in A-Main): Eric Wells
XS Power ($50 cash to 3rd-place finisher in A-Main): Eric Wells
Roush Yates ($50 cash to 4th-place finisher in A-Main): Eric Wells
JE Pistons ($50 cash to 5th-place finisher in A-Main): Eric Wells
Dominator ($50 cash to 6th-place finisher in A-Main): Morgan Bagley
American Race Wheels ($50 cash to 7th-place finisher in A-Main): Rick Eckert
VP Race Fuels ($50 cash to 8th-place finisher in A-Main): Morgan Bagley
Edelbrock Manifolds ($50 cash to 9th-finisher in A-Main): Morgan Bagley
Comp Cams ($50 cash to 10th-place finisher in A-Main): Jason Feger
XS Power ($60 product certificate to 11th-place finisher in A-Main): A.J. Diemel
Cometic Gasket ($50 cash to 12th-place finisher in A-Main): Tim Fuller
JRI Shocks ($50 cash to 13th-place finisher in A-Main): Chub Frank
Super Flow Dynos ($50 cash to 14th-place finisher in A-Main): Chub Frank
JE Pistons (one complete set of JE Pro Seal rings to 16th-place finisher in A-Main, redeemable w/next purchase of set): Tim McCreadie
Klotz Lubricants ($50 cash to 17th-place finisher in A-Main): Tim McCreadie
Roush Yates ($50 gift card to 18th-place finisher in A-Main): Chris Simpson
QuarterMaster ($25 certificate to 19th-place finisher in A-Main): Chris Simpson
Arizona Sport Shirts ($100 certificate to 20th-place finisher in A-Main): Dale McDowell
JE Pistons (one complete set of JE Pro Seal rings to 21st-place finisher in A-Main, redeemable w/next purchase of set): Dale McDowell
Roush Yates ($50 gift card to 22nd-place finisher in A-Main): Dennis Erb Jr.
MSD Ignition ($25 cash to 24th-place finisher in A-Main): Gregg Satterlee
XS Power 'Power Move of the Race' ($60 product certificate): Brandon Sheppard
Roush Yates ($25 gift card to driver who leads most laps in the A-Main): Brandon Sheppard
Reliable Painting Award (one free tire): Darrell Lanigan
2013 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Aug. 1 – 32 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Josh Richards 4518
2. Shane Clanton 4440 (-78)
3. Darrell Lanigan 4420 (-98)
4. Rick Eckert 4358 (-160)
5. Tim McCreadie 4190 (-328)
6. Eric Wells 4126 (-392)
7. Tim Fuller 4116 (-402)
8. Chub Frank 4054 (-464)
9. Morgan Bagley 4028 (-490)
10. Bub McCool 4006 (-512)
11. Clint Smith 3788 (-730)
12. Scott James 2046 (-2472)
13. Gregg Satterlee 1838 (-2680)
14. Dan Stone 1786 (-2732)
15. Brady Smith 1774 (-2744)