SHEPPARD TAKES DRUMMOND BY STORM WITH 5TH SUPERDIRTCAR SERIES VICTORY
DRUMMONDVILLE, QUEBEC (September 20, 2009) Despite having two strikes riding against him when he arrived at Autodrome Drummond Sunday, Matt Sheppard scored a tour-best fifth Super DIRTcar Series victory of the season to close out ‘Dream Weekend Race Mania 5’ in the Canadian province of Quebec. Powered by VP’s C12 racing fuel, ‘Super Matt’ led the majority of 100-lap main events at Cayuga County Fair Speedway and Rolling Wheels Raceway Park over Labor Day Weekend before a broken hub in the Weedsport finale and a flat tire at the ‘Fast Track’ thwarted the latest efforts for DIRTcar Racing Northeast’s winningest Big-Block Modified driver.
“Seems like the last few of these (series) races we’ve led and dominated but something has always happened at the end,” remarked Sheppard, 27, who has now led 632 feature laps at nine of 18 series stops, nearly doubling the total of his closest challenger during the ’09 campaign. “You better believe I was counting down every lap coming down the stretch.”
Waiting for any miscue that never did materialize, reigning overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar points king Billy Decker closed to within five car-lengths under the checkered flag, followed by Central New York standouts Justin Haers, Gary Tomkins and Jimmy Phelps. Veterans Danny Johnson (6 th) and current Mr. DIRTcar points leader
Brett Hearn (8 th) helped fill out the top-10 that included favorite area Frenchmen David Hebert (7 th), Mario Clair (9 th), Drummond promoter Yan Bussiere (10 th) and Alex Fortier (11 th), the last driver to be scored on the lead lap.
In the annual trip across the border that was postponed from Friday due to high winds, rain and unseasonably cold temperatures, a strong international field of 32 Big-Block/Small-Block chauffeurs made up the starting grid on Sunday with $6,000 awaiting the winner of the Great Canadian Tour finale.
Tomkins let his intentions be known early, charging from inside row two to overtake pole-sitter Haers on the opening circuit and maintaining a torrid pace during the initial stages of the century grind. Sixth-place starter Sheppard was a bit more patient, taking 10 laps to put his JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell entry into the show position and just another five circuits to wrestle away second from Haers.
Recently crowned Autodrome Edelweiss 358-Modified points champion Pierre Dagenais slowed high exiting turn three to incur the first caution period on lap 29, closing the gap between Tomkins and Sheppard while Decker, Phelps and Haers waited for their chance further back. The restart came on lap 34 and just three more times around the smooth 4/10-mile oval Sheppard blasted high out of turn four to force the final lead change.
Inaugural All-Star Weekend winner at Cayuga County over the summer, Ryan Phelps pulled to the infield faced with mechanical issues to prompt a second yellow flag on lap 42, with older cousin Jimmy Phelps advancing to third despite a broken left-rear shock. At the midway mark, a quick shuffle up front moved Decker behind Sheppard and Tomkins, with Haers and Phelps jockeying for position further back. Steve Paine, Johnson, Hebert, Dale Planck and Bussiere comprised the top-10.
After laps of shadowing Tomkins, Decker emerged as the new second-place runner on lap 58 steering the LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int'l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell mount. Paine soonafter followed into fifth just before the third caution came on lap 62 when Eric Gauvreau slowed down the backstretch, providing the leaders with a brief break before 20 more green flag laps enhanced the drama.
Paine moved past Tomkins into fourth on lap 80, yet contact between the weekend rivals down the back chute was the beginning of the end for Paine. The ‘Hurricane’ forced out the fourth and final yellow flag when his Tallmadge Tire no. 7x Swarthout Recycling-Instant Heat Wood Pellets/Bicknell machine slowed with a broken left rear axle just eight laps later.
Despite Decker coming more into focus through his rear-view mirror as the final laps clicked off, Sheppard remained steady as the Waterloo, N.Y. pilot sped on to record his 10 th career Super DIRTcar Series triumph, exactly twice as many from when the season started, and improved his DIRTcar NE high count to 18 wins in the Big-Block ranks.