Matt Sheppard Triumphs in Duel at the Demon 100
Story By: Joe Grabianoski/Super DIRTcar Series
Photos By: Mike Johnson/RacersGuide.com
BREWERTON, NY – September 14, 2018 – A driver’s fate in dirt racing is often decided by a thin membrane of rubber, a drop of racing fuel, or even one final lap. As fate would have it, Matt Sheppard made the winning moving on the very last lap over Pat Ward, who had galloped away from the field most of the night at Brewerton Speedway. Sheppard motored his no. 9s Big-Block Modified into turn 3, beneath the lapped traffic, and swept passed Ward, who had been held up by the traffic. The amazed crowd watched as Sheppard, who started from position 9, slowly but surely worked his way up to the top 3. Pat Ward, while disappointed not to come home with the win, finished second after leading the most laps. In third place was young gun Tim Sears Jr, who battled wheel-to-wheel with some of the best in Big-Block Modified racing to stand on the podium.
Local favorites and Gypsum Racing teammates, Larry Wight and Pat Ward showed the way throughout most of the 100-lap Duel at the Demon, running in positions 1 and 2. However, Tim Sears ran side-by-side with Wight in the early stages for the lead but feel back to third after Pat Ward moved into the lead. Then Sears got around Wight to get back into third place. Sheppard passed them all, but it wasn’t until the very end that Sheppard made his presence known in the top 3.
Late in the race Wight faded while Ward maintained the lead with authority. Ward sliced through lapped traffic and gapped much of the field. Unfortunately for the Gypsum Racing no. 42, a late caution with only a handful of laps remaining, created the dramatic restart. On the final restart, Ward was able to get away initially, but once he caught up to lapped traffic again, Sheppard dove to the bottom of turn three and squeezed by for the lead.
Matt Sheppard had not won a Series race since July. He noted his bad luck, “Flat tires, bad set ups, bad luck, bad everything. The nights we have been good, something’s come up. It feels good to be back in Victory Lane.”
This was not a runaway affair for Sheppard. Having started in ninth, there were no certainties for the no. 9s team. “It felt like I had a good car the whole race. It was just slow going coming up through. I tried to be patient as long as I could. Unfortunately, Timmy was on the bottom where I wanted to be. It seemed like I followed him for sixty or eighty laps. On that caution at the end I thought I should take a stab at the outside and I thought we saved our tires long enough.”
Pat Ward was very disappointed in giving up the lead so late. Sheppard said, “Pat was really good. He was the class of the field but he just got jammed up by a bunch of lapped cars. I can get real low down that backstretch and I was able to get underneath the lapped cars a little bit easier. That was really the only different in the race,” noted Sheppard in Victory Lane.
Matt Sheppard now has 4-straight Super DIRTcar Series wins in a row at Brewerton Speedway. Sheppard tells story on the car, “This is the same car I had in the last three of them (wins at Brewerton Speedway). It seems like we keep it around just for this race. It’s been so good. It just rolls the bottom really good. It’s been good in the 100 lappers. There’s a lot of people trying a lot of different stuff but until we get beat here, we’re just going to keep running bases.” Sheppard ran the bases all the way to a Grand Slam at Brewerton Speedway.
In second place was the familiar red no. 42 of Pat Ward. Although Ward was let down with the result, was still pleased to be on the podium, “We had a good car, Kevlar Racing Engines, Bicknell chassis, LJL car. Just very disappointed. Lapped cars right in the middle of the track. I didn’t know whether to dive under them or go around them. It’s almost better to be in second at point I guess, because you can see where the leader is going and try to go to the other place.”
Even race-winner Matt Sheppard took notice of how good Ward’s car looked on the track. Ward was pleased with the handling, “The car had real good drive off the top of the corners. It’s where I felt most comfortable.”
Tim Sears Jr. is not the first, and certainly will not be the last to say, “We just can’t pass that 9 car (Sheppard).” Sears raced against the best of the Super DIRTcar Series and managed an impressive podium finish. It has not been all positive for his race team in 2018. “With the luck we had this year, it’s been rough. The last two races we’ve been pretty solid. This one was real solid so we’ll take it,” said Tim Sears Jr.
On Saturday, September 15 the tour heads to Mohawk International Speedway to take on the 2/5 mile dirt race track. With another win under his belt, the pressure will be on for Erick Rudolph, Jimmy Phelps, and Max McLaughlin to start stringing top 3 finishes together if they hope to track Matt Sheppard down in points.
Duel at the Demon Brewerton Speedway (100 Laps)
1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 2. 42p-Pat Ward ; 3. 83x-Tim Sears ; 4. 25r-Erick Rudolph ; 5. 99L-Larry Wight ; 6. 98h-Jimmy Phelps ; 7. 91-Billy Decker ; 8. 6h-Max McLaughlin ; 9. 21J-Danny Johnson ; 10. 62s-Tom Sears ; 11. 88-Mike Mahaney ; 12. 8R-Rob Bellinger ; 13. 5H-Chris Hile ; 14. 8-Rich Scagliotta ; 15. 20-Brett Hearn ; 16. 109-Billy Whittaker ; 17. 55-Matt Hulsizer ; 18. 3b-Chad Brachmann ; 19. 84-Gary Tomkins ; 20. X-Chad Phelps ; 21. B16-Alan Barker ; 22. 34-Andrew Ferguson ; 23. 93v-Danny Varin ; 24. 63-Adam Roberts ; 25. R2-Rusty Smith ; 26. 21a-Peter Britten ; 27. 93-Ryan Bartlett ; 28. 48t-Dave Rauscher ; 29. 11J-James Sweeting ; 30. 1x-Willy Decker