BARBERVILLE, FL ( February 10, 2010) In the 39 th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals, Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard both scored Big-Block Modified victories for the first time at Volusia Speedway Park.   In just the second appearance of his budding career during race weeks, third-generation Canadian chauffeur Friesen put all doubts to rest with a flag-to-flag win Wednesday on a very cool Florida evening.    Sheppard picked up where he left off on the 2009 Super DIRTcar Series, authoring a late race charge to score his first victory of the new decade in convincing fashion Thursday on an even colder night of competition witnessed by the heartiest of race fans in the Sunshine State.   Both were powered by VP’s C12 racing fuel and both pocketed $2000 winner’s checks.

“Last night we were having a couple cocktails and everybody was telling us we had no business being down here, I guess we proved them all wrong,” beamed Friesen, 26, referring to Tuesday evening’s practice session that was cancelled due to rain early in the afternoon. “This trip to Florida is already worth it.”

“We were pretty good, changing tires, mounting tires, really fiddling around all night long,” noted Friesen, who was scored 7th, 20th and 18th in his only other visit to Volusia in 2006, climbing into 19th on the final DCN points chart. “Whatever we did, starting position was still key tonight.”

“Had a good draw coming to the gate, then we were able to get by Brett (Hearn) in the first heat. The car was on rails after that and we were in a good position to capitalize on it. Our Bilstein Shock package was a killer, we got tricks up our sleeves there. But what’s really great is the way Jeff Daley and Marty Burdick stepped up, last week at this point we didn’t even have a motor.   Now we’ve got a win, we’re excited no matter what happens the rest of the week,” Friesen said.

Shadowed the entire distance by runner-up Dale Planck from Cortland, NY, Friesen survived four caution periods and a rare red flag to emerge as the 34th different winner in 109 events staged since the mighty DIRTcar Modifieds first ventured to Volusia in 1978. Eastern New York invader Bobby Varin from Sharon Springs, Central New York traveler Jimmy Phelps from Baldwinsville and top Frenchmen Mario Clair from St-Edmond, Que. filled out the final front-five.

Sheppard’s win established the second-generation standout from Waterloo, NY as an early favorite to capture the overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship come autumn.   “It seems I’ve finished in just about every position but first here, so I finally accomplished that and now we can go for number two tomorrow,” remarked a confident Sheppard, 27, winner of 20 Big-Block main events in ’09, and already in prime position to carry the momentum back up north. “I think we’ve got the car to get the job done.”

“Tonight I could really put it anywhere on the race track. It was pretty good all night, especially at the end of the feature when it counted most. I really felt comfortable out there and that’s important at a place you only get to run at once a year,” added Sheppard, after parking the JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine in the winner’s circle.

Through two races, Sheppard tops the point standings with 106 markers while Phelps (100) is right in the shadows just six back. Friesen and Varin are deadlocked with 98 points apiece while Dale Planck (92) stands fifth with two events remaining.