‘Super’ Matt Sheppard Comes Up Just Short of ‘Holdup’ Cash at Fulton
Story By: MATT NOLES / RACERSGUIDE.COM
Photos By: DAVE DALESANDRO / RACERSGUIDE.COM
FULTON, NY- April 30, 2017- As much as racers would love to, you can’t win them all.
Despite being fourth-fastest in time trials and finishing second to Larry Wight in his qualifying event on Saturday during the Super DIRTcar Series stop at the famed Fulton Speedway in Fulton, New York, Matt Sheppard passed nearly every car he needed to during the Highbank Holdup 100-lap modified feature but one; Billy Decker.
Sheppard, who started 11th on the grid, came within two feet of making a late race pass work on eventual race winner Decker at the exit of turn four with only a handful of laps remaining but unfortunately for the defending series champion, it wasn’t meant to be as the Waterloo, New York native settled for a strong second-place finish to kick off the season.
“We’ve been solid so far this year,” Sheppard stated. “We started deep in the field in Florida [at the DIRTcar Nationals in February] and came up through and we were steady tonight and we had a really, really good car. I think that Billy [Decker] and I were fairly equal but he’s really, really good here and this isn’t one of my best tracks so to be as close as we were, I’m really happy.”
Hindsight being what it is, it’s difficult to say whether his starting position played a pivotal role in his second-place finish. With a multitude of factors that need to be taken into account, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what could have made the difference for the driver of the familiar No. 9S modified.
“I don’t know if starting further back made a difference,” continued Sheppard. “It’s possible I guess; maybe yes, maybe no, but I do think that whoever was leading when the track rubbered up and locked down was going to win tonight and he [Decker] got to the front first and he was good so congrats to those guys.”
Modesty aside, Sheppard did get close to Decker in the closing stages of the 100-lap feature on Saturday night; all he needed was for the driver of the Page Trucking No. 91 to open the door a little more and the outcome could have swung in his favor.
While Decker was dealing with heavy lapped traffic near the end of the event, he slid up off the bottom ever so slightly in an effort to crossover and dispose of a slower competitor; it was nearly the costly mistake that Sheppard had been patiently waiting for.
“I needed him to slide up the track about two more feet,” He explained. “Or I needed to be two feet closer to him; one or the other. I saw the hole was there but I just couldn’t get in far enough or fast enough and that might have been the difference in the race right there but like I said, it was a good night for us.”
Second-guessing can be a tumultuous and slippery slope and it’s one that Sheppard doesn’t care to venture into and yet, one can’t help but replay the decisions made when the feature event is complete. “You can always second-guess yourself,” said Sheppard. “But when you get a night like this you just except it, smile and move on to the next one.”
After wrapping up his fifth-career Super DIRTcar Series title in Charlotte last year, his strong run to kick off the 2017 season certainly creates its fair share of momentum and confidence moving forward. “We have the same car as last year so we know its good stuff,” Sheppard concluded. “Now it’s just a matter of getting going; getting some races under our belts and getting to some more racetracks.”
Matt Noles is a contributing writer for Racer’s Guide and Dirt Track Digest. He currently resides in Sprakers, New York and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.