Sheppard Pops the Question and the Champagne at Year-End banquet
Sheppard’s marriage proposal adds to championship celebration for World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series
Story By: Jordan DeLucia/WoOLMs
Photo By: Jim DenHamer
CONCORD, NC – Nov. 11, 2019 – Wrapping up what will forever be engrained as one of the greatest seasons in World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series history, Brandon Sheppard and Rocket1 Racing owner Mark Richards held their championship trophies high on Sunday night as they and their fellow competitors were all honored at the World of Outlaws awards banquet.
A season of blood, sweat, tears and lots of dirt was exchanged for a wonderful night of suits and ties, social gatherings and ceremonial presentations as each driver took the stage at the Great Wolf Lodge Conference Center for a bit of recognition and words of reflection on their accomplishments this season.
For Sheppard, 2019 was a season of many titles, including what might now be the sweetest title of them all. No, not another racing title. The 26-year-old driver from New Berlin, IL, has never before held the title of husband, but as the evening’s festivities began Sheppard was posing for pictures outside the banquet hall with his crew when he took a knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend Mikala Grandfield, placing the cherry atop the sweetest sundae of the young driver’s career.
Across 41 races, the Rocket house car bagged an incredible 18 wins, 31 podiums, 37 top-five’s, 39 top-10’s, 12 PFC Brakes Fast Time Awards, 27 Drydene Heat race wins, four new track records (Farmer City, Williams Grove, Plymouth, Red Cedar) and 691 laps led — topping each one of those categories. All of this goes to compliment his 2017 World of Outlaws title that also reached the 18-win mark.
In the marquee race department, there were no shortages there, either. From another Illini 100 title, to a jaw-dropping finish in his second Prairie Dirt Classic victory in three years, to a clean sweep of the DIRTcar Nationals for his first Big Gator trophy and a $125,000 check in Eldora’s Dirt Late Model Dream, this was truly a season nobody will soon forget.
Collecting the $100,000 points fund check, Sheppard has now compiled a grand total of $416,625 in World of Outlaws race earnings. And that’s only a slice of the whole pie from three 18-win seasons in the last four years for Rocket1.
“What’s incredible about this whole thing is Brandon has drove this car for the past three seasons, and this team’s won close to two million dollars in three seasons,” Richards said. “With Josh in the 2016 season, we’re over 2.5 million dollars with this team in four years. It’s just incredible what Danny White’s done, and Austin, Joel, everybody back at the shop that makes sure this thing keeps rolling.”
2019 marks the sixth World of Outlaws title for Rocket1 since 2009. The first four with Mark Richards’ son Josh behind the wheel, and the second now with Sheppard.
For their efforts, the Shinnston, WV-team was presented with two traditional bronze driver and owner trophies, the Team of the Year Award, a prize pack from VP Racing Fuels for the Series-high 18 Morton Buildings Feature victories, and Sheppard’s championship ring.
And yet, the awards headed back to Rocket Chassis headquarters didn’t stop there. Rocket Chassis co-owners Steve Baker and Mark Richards were also presented with the Chassis Builder of the Year Award.
For the first time in Series history, the Rookie of the Year title will be sitting in a race shop north of the border. Ricky Weiss topped the Rookie points standings by 278 points over runner-up Cade Dillard and finished third in the overall standings, making him the highest-finishing Rookie in World of Outlaws Late Model points history. With seven second-place finishes, six third-place finishes, two PFC Brakes Fast time Awards, 11 Drydene Heat wins and 82 laps led, Weiss was congratulated by every other driver that took the stage on Sunday for his achievement and clean and competitive nature, both on and off the track.
Along with the custom plaque to commemorate the accomplishment, Weiss also received a set of custom ear molds from Racing Electronics. Earlier in the evening, Series Director Casey Shuman took the stage to first announce his return to the head of the Outlaws for 2020, and to present the Raye Vest Award for best and worst pill draw average to Darrell Lanigan and Shane Clanton.
Scott Childress, head of both Cherokee Speedway and Lavonia Speedway, took the stage with Shuman to be honored with the Promoter of the Year Award. Both visits to Cherokee (May, October) and the one race at Lavonia this year were in front of packed crowds, and likely will be again when the Xtreme DIRTcar Series invades Cherokee in less than two weeks on Nov. 24 for the 29th annual Blue Gray 100. Lavonia will also host on Dec. 15 before a second stop at Cherokee on Jan. 18.
The 2019 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Champion Blake Matjoulis was also in attendance to receive his championship trophy, one he earned over a 10-race series on the iRacing simulator platform. Matjoulis, 17, of Swindell SpeedLab eSports, credited watching his heroes like Sheppard on the real track as inspiration to continue his eSports career and one day cash in his skill on the game for a seat in a real Dirt Late Model.
Now that all is said and done in 2019, each team heads back to the shop to gear up for 2020. Some drivers will swap rides, some will move locations and others will explore new ventures in the wide world of motorsports. But one thing will remain the same for the Outlaws – the competitive spirit and exciting nature of full-throttle, high-speed, mud-slinging action that each and every fan has come to enjoy since 1988.
2020 kicks off with the brand-new event, Jan 2-5 – the inaugural Battle at the Border at Vado Speedway Park in Vado, NM. Tickets are on sale now; get yours today and become a part of World of Outlaws history!
As always, DIRTVision is the place to watch every race live in 2020. Get your Late Model Fast Pass today to see “The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet” all season long!