KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Sept. 14) — Brandon Sheppard found himself in the perfect position when the final yellow flag waved over Friday’s Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals preliminary feature. Overtaking race-long leader Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., on the restart, Sheppard led the final six laps to earn a $7,000 payday at the famed Knoxville Raceway.
Charging from the 19th starting spot, Sheppard worked his way through the field to join the top three on lap 18. Powering ahead of Heckenast down the frontstretch, Sheppard pulled ahead out of turns one and two to assume the point on lap 20 of 25, leading the remaining distance for his fifth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the 2018 season.
“The feature tonight, I hope the race tomorrow is just like this because it was a lot of fun to drive,” the Rocket Chassis house car pilot said in victory lane. “This is the Knoxville that I love coming to. We got really tight there on the cushion. I was having a really hard time running it. I could make good time on the bottom and I had a good restart one time and hit the middle in (turns) one and two just right and got by quite a few guys.
“Luckily we were across the checkered when the caution came out, gave us that third starting spot. I took a lesson from my buddy Josh (Richards). I was leading a race here in 2013, just like Frankie was, and entered in on the top and Josh snuck in from the inside behind me. I guess I learned one from him on that one.”
After leading the first 19 laps, Heckenast finished runner-up, with Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., running third. Racing as high as second, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., slipped back to finish fourth, with Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., advancing from the 10th starting spot to round out the top five.
Heckenast, the only driver to post top-five finishes in both Thursday and Friday’s preliminary features, was just laps away from scoring his first career Lucas Oil Series victory. The final caution did not work in his favor, he said.
“Our car was really good,” Heckenast said after the race. “That was all me right there. My crew did a good job. We’ve been gelling together all weekend pretty good, just parked over there by ourselves kind of doing our own thing. We were really close. I gave the race away on the restart there.
“When I would come off the bottom on the restarts, they’d get such a run on me going in one there, (Jonathan Davenport) and them. I thought maybe if I hung out there, tried to get the run on the top, that I could beat them coming out of two. But Brandon obviously had a lot of traction on the bottom. … I guess if you’re going to get one taken away, I’d rather tonight than tomorrow night.”
O’Neal, a former Knoxville Nationals champion, battled Davenport in the final laps, rebounding with a podium finish after running a quiet 15th in Thursday’s weekend opener.
“He left me lane there on the top,” O’Neal said. “All in all it was a good run for the No. 5 car. Hopefully we can make a few little changes and get a little better for tomorrow night.”
With his Friday victory, Sheppard topped the weekend’s final points standings. He’ll start on the pole of Saturday’s 100-lap, $40,000-to-win Knoxville Nationals finale.
“We’ve had a good race car all weekend,” Sheppard said. “I think we’ll be starting up front somewhere tomorrow. We’ll just have to bide our time and hopefully keep it up there.”
Notes: The race was slowed by three cautions. ... Austin Rettig drew a caution on the first lap when he slowed in turn four; Scott Bloomquist retired to the pits under the yellow flag. … A yellow flag waved on lap 18 when Jesse Stovall slowed in the bottom of turn four. … Matt Furman came to a stop in turn three to draw a caution on lap 19.
Final Knoxville Nationals points standings
1. Brandon Sheppard - 489
2. Earl Pearson Jr. - 488
3. Scott Bloomquist - 487
4. Don O’Neal - 486
5. Tyler Erb - 482
6. Chad Simpson - 480
7. Jimmy Owens - 479
8. Frank Heckenast Jr. - 473
9. Jonathan Davenport - 471
10. Chris Simpson - 467
11. Kyle Bronson - 464
12. Brandon Overton - 463
13. Tim McCreadie- 462
14. Tyler Bruening - 461
15. Shane Clanton - 459
16. Jimmy Mars - 455
17. Shannon Babb - 454
18. Mason Zeigler - 452
19. Brian Birkhofer - 448
20. Chase Junghans - 448
21. Josh Richards - 447
22. Bobby Pierce - 442
23. Jesse Stovall - 440
24. Billy Moyer - 438
Row 1: Tyler Bruening, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Don O’Neal
Row 3: Jesse Stovall, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Chad Simpson, Scott Bloomquist
Row 5: Billy Moyer, Tim McCreadie
Row 6: Jeremiah Hurst, Jimmy Mars
Row 7: Matt Furman, Justin Duty
Row 8: Brian Shirley, Austin Rettig
Row 9: Scott Ward, Bobby Pierce
Row 10: Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb
Row 11: Kyle Bronson, Josh Richards
Row 12: Shannon Babb, Shane Clanton
Front-row starters Brandon Sheppard and Tyler Erb raced side-by-side down the backstretch, with Erb pulling ahead in turns three and four to take an early lead. A yellow flag waved on lap two when Zach McMillan made hard contact with the wall in turns one and two, heavily damaging his No. 14 machine. Gaining momentum from the restart, Sheppard challenged Erb for the lead, with the pair crossing the line nearly side-by-side on lap five. Erb continued to show the way out front at the halfway mark, with Kyle Bronson challenging Sheppard for the second-place spot. Sheppard pulled ahead of Erb down the backstretch on lap nine, with Erb shooting back ahead out of turn four to maintain the advantage at the line. Erb and Sheppard again raced door-to-door at the line on lap 13, with Sheppard taking the lead one circuit later. Sheppard won the heat, with Erb holding off Bronson to run second.
Finish (top six transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Kyle Bronson, Josh Richards, Shannon Babb, Shane Clanton, Ricky Thornton Jr., Spencer Diercks, Dennis Erb Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Overton, Darrell Lanigan, Gregg Satterlee, Chris Spieker, Jason Feger, Mike Mataragas, Morgan Bagley, Jake Neal, Brent Larson, Jared Landers, Zach McMillan. Scratched: Chris Simpson.
Finish (top four transfer to B-main): Darrell Lanigan, Jason Feger, Jared Landers, Jake Neal, Brian Birkhofer, Scott James, Mason Zeigler, Joey Moriarty, Rob Toland, Nick Marolf, Brian Harris, Dave Eckrich, Mike Fryer, J.C. Wyman, Al Humphrey, Justin Zeitner, Jonathan Brauns, Lyle Zanker. Scratched: Chase Junghans, Junior Coover.
(15 laps; top six transfer)
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Josh Richards, Kyle Bronson
Row 3: Mike Mataragas, Spencer Diercks
Row 4: Shannon Babb, Zach McMillan
Row 5: Brandon Overton, Chris Simpson
Row 6: Earl Pearson Jr., Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 7: Shane Clanton, Chris Spieker
Row 8: Dennis Erb Jr., Morgan Bagley
Row 9: Brent Larson, Gregg Satterlee
(12 laps; top four transfer to B-main)
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Jason Feger, Nick Marolf
Row 3: Jared Landers, Jake Neal
Row 4: Brian Birkhofer, Joey Moriarty
Row 5: Rob Toland, Justin Zeitner
Row 6: Mike Fryer, Lyle Zanker
Row 7: Scott James, J.C. Wyman
Row 8: Jonathan Brauns, Al Humphrey
Row 9: Dave Eckrich, Brian Harris
Row 10: Mason Zeigler, Junior Coover
Polesitter Lyle Zanker led the opening lap, relinquishing the position to second-startingJustin Duty one circuit later. Eighth-starting Jimmy Owens made his way through the field early, battling Don O’Neal for third on the fifth lap. Duty fought off challenges from fourth-starting Ricky Thornton Jr. at the halfway mark, with O’Neal overtaking Thornton for second on lap eight. Owens shot ahead of Duty and O’Neal out of turn four to lead lap 11, with O’Neal edging ahead of Owens at the line to win the heat.
Finish (top three transfer): Don O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, Justin Duty, Ricky Thornton Jr., Chris Spieker, Zach McMillan, Joey Moriarty, Brian Harris, Lyle Zanker.
Polesitter Bobby Pierce charged to the lead at the drop of the green flag, with third-starting Jimmy Mars closing in on the race leader on the third circuit. It was Frank Heckenast Jr. on the move early, advancing from the the fifth starting spot to run third on lap five. As the top two cars distanced themselves from the field at the halfway mark, Mars continued his attempts to reel in Pierce. Stretching his lead late-race, Pierce won the heat, with Mars finishing second. Heckenast Jr. grabbed the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Bobby Pierce, Jimmy Mars, Frank Heckenast Jr., Chris Simpson, Gregg Satterlee, Tyler Erb, Darrell Lanigan, Jake Neal, Al Humphrey.
Polesitter Morgan Bagley led the opening lap, with fellow front-row starter Austin Rettig edging ahead out of turn four to take the lead on the second circuit. Fourth-starting Tim McCreadie shot to second to join the early battle up front, with Scott Bloomquist charging from the eighth starting spot to run in third on lap five. As Rettig held off a charging McCreadie, a yellow flag waved on lap 10 when Junior Coover stopped in the top of turn four. McCreadie and Bloomquist raced side-by-side for second on the restart, with Bloomquist narrowly edging out Rettig at the checkers to win the heat.
Finish (top three transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Austin Rettig, Tim McCreadie, Morgan Bagley, Kyle Bronson, Spencer Diercks, Justin Zeitner, J.C. Wyman, Nick Marolf, Junior Coover.
Outside polesitter Scott Ward held a comfortable lead in the early running, as sixth-starting Jesse Stovall advanced to challenge for third on the fourth lap. With the top two cars distancing themselves from the field at the halfway mark, third-starting Jeremiah Hurst began reeling in Ward on the eighth lap. Hurst challenged Ward in the final laps but was never able to make the pass for the lead. Ward won the heat, with Hurst and Stovall taking feature transfer spots.
Finish (top three transfer): Scott Ward, Jeremiah Hurst, Jesse Stovall, Dennis Erb Jr., Josh Richards, Brandon Overton, Mason Zeigler, Jared Landers, Mike Fryer. Scratched: Dave Eckrich.
Outside polesitter Brian Shirley shot to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, with fellow front-row starter Rob Toland dropping back to fourth. Shirley and third-starting Billy Moyer raced door-to-door out of turn four on the third circuit, with Moyer pulling ahead of Shirley in turn two to take the lead on lap four. As Moyer continued to show the way at the halfway mark, it was a tight battle for third, with Shirley fighting back challenges from eighth-starting Brandon Sheppard. Sixth-starting Jonathan Davenport began closing in on Moyer in the final laps but his charge would not be enough. Moyer picked up the heat race win, with Davenport running second. Shirley grabbed the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Billy Moyer, Jonathan Davenport, Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Shane Clanton, Jason Feger, Jonathan Brauns, Rob Toland.
Polesitter Brent Larson led the opening laps, running side-by-side with fellow front-row starter Matt Furman when the pair crossed the line on the second circuit. Furman overtook Larson for the lead on lap three, with Earl Pearson Jr. advancing from the sixth starting spot to run in fourth. It was a three-car battle for third on lap six, with eighth-starting Chad Simpson slipping past Pearson and Larson to claim the position. Stretching his lead late-race, Furman won the heat. Tyler Bruening finished second, with Simpson running third to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Matt Furman, Tyler Bruening, Chad Simpson, Earl Pearson Jr., Brent Larson, Mike Mataragas, Scott James, Brian Birkhofer, Chase Junghans. Scratched: Mason Zeigler.
Heat race lineups
(12 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Brent Larson, Matt Furman
Row 2: Brian Birkhofer, Tyler Bruening
Row 3: Chase Junghans, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: Mike Mataragas, Chad Simpson
Row 5: Scott James, Mason Zeigler
Row 1: Rob Toland, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Billy Moyer, Jason Feger
Row 3: Jonathan Davenport, Shane Clanton
Row 4: Shannon Babb, Brandon Sheppard
Row 5: Jonathan Brauns
Row 1: Mike Fryer, Scott Ward
Row 2: Jeremiah Hurst, Jared Landers
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Jesse Stovall
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Josh Richards
Row 5: Dave Eckrich
Row 1: Austin Rettig, Morgan Bagley
Row 2: Justin Zeitner, Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Spencer Diercks, Nick Marolf
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Scott Bloomqist
Row 5: J.C. Wyman, Junior Coover
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Gregg Satterlee
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Chris Simpson
Row 3: Frank Heckenast Jr., Jake Neal
Row 4: Darrell Lanigan, Tyler Erb
Row 5: Al Humphrey
Row 1: Lyle Zanker, Justin Duty
Row 2: Chris Spieker, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 3: Zach McMillan, Joey Moriarty
Row 4: Don O’Neal, Jimmy Owens
Row 5: Brian Harris
Weather conditions are wonderful again for Night 2 of the Knoxville Nationals: partly sunny skies with high temperatures in the mid-80s. … Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., had a short Thursday night because his car’s 12-lap-old engine was felled by terminal trouble during heat action. Without a backup engine, the 60-year-old Hall of Famer was uncertain of his prospects for continuing to race and, in fact, early Friday afternoon had his car loaded up and was on the verge of leaving to head him. But an 11th-hour deal negotiated by engine builder Bill Schlieper landed Moyer a motor to purchase; as of 4:30 p.m., however, his team was still changing oil lines in preparation for dropping the replacement piece in the car. … Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., lost a powerplant on lap 18 of Thursday’s feature, forcing his Dunn-Benson Racing crew to pull out the team’s backup car for Friday’s program. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., also was knocked out of Thursday’s A-main due to a broken motor. He will shift to his second car for Friday’s show. … The Knoxville Nationals appeared to be ending early for Jeremiah Hurst of Dubuque, Iowa, who survived a smoking Black Diamond car to finish second in his Thursday heat race but was then sidelined by terminal engine woes three laps into the feature. With only one open-competition Clements motor in the stable of his team fielded by the Quad Cities’ Ken Roberts — the former owner for veteran Ray Guss Jr. — Hurst, 42, thought his weekend was over. “I was just coming here to see if I could run with ‘em and learn some stuff because I don’t know what we’re gonna do next year,” said Hurst, who is in a tight battle for the IMCA Late Model national points crown. “The car felt good. Last year I came here and the car never, ever did turn, and it actually was turning for me there. But I don’t know … the fitting (in an oil line) was cracked in the heat (causing the smoke), and it just laid down (in the feature) like it lost a cylinder. It sucks.” Alas, Hurst’s team arranged to borrow an engine from Hinsdale, Ill., driver Rob Toland’s team and will compete on Friday. … Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., was a prime contender in Thursday’s feature until sliding too high in turn one on a lap-18 restart and damaging the nose of his Capital Race Car, causing him to free-fall from third to a dismal 16th-place finish. “I was just trying to use as much as I could of (the cushion) to get a good run off turn two and hopefully I could split ‘em or something, but I was just trying to go for something that wasn’t there evidently,” Clanton said. “I jumped the cushion. It’s pretty big, and then when you get that close behind somebody you just get that little bit of aero-push. The car was real good until I jumped the cushion … I thought I had a chance to win it. I was catching all of them. I just needed two or three laps for the rear tires to get going and then I could go. The car’s good. The driver just can’t make errors.” … Brian Harris of Davenport, Iowa, will enter Friday’s program as a replacement for Jay Johnson of West Burlington, Iowa, who failed to qualify for Thursday’s A-main. … Joel Callahan of Dubuque, Iowa, has his car loaded up and won’t compete Friday due to engine trouble.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals continue on Friday with the second round of preliminary action at the famed Knoxville Raceway. The night’s 25-lap feature will once again pay $7,000-to-win.
Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, scored his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory in Thursday’s weekend opener. Runner-up finisher Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., tops the event points standings heading into the second night of prelims.
Identical to Thursday’s show, Friday’s program will include hot laps, time trials, six heat races (with an eight-car inversion), consolations and the 25-lap main event. Drivers will earn points based on their preliminary performances, which will set the lineups for Saturday’s consolations and the 100-lap finale.
Drivers will use their best points night — not combined points — to see where they stand for Saturday’s alphabet soup of features, which are topped by the $40,000-to-win main event. Twenty-four drivers will be locked directly into Saturday night’s headliner at the conclusion of Friday’s program, with the remainder positioned in Saturday’s D- (if necessary), C- and B-Mains. DirtonDirt.com is offering live coverage of Friday's prelims.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 18.130
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 18.183
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 18.220
Mike Mataragas (1m), DeKalb, Ill., 18.254
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 18.273
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 18.311
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 18.357
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 18.371
Jesse Stovall (00), Billings, Mo., 18.381
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 18.410
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 18.418
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 18.421
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 18.425
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 18.553
Jared Landers (1777), Batesville, Ark., 18.563
Brian Birkhofer (30), Muscatine, Iowa, 18.592
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 18.648
Jeremiah Hurst (58H), Dubuque, Iowa, 18.668
Matt Furman (51), Columbus, Ohio, 18.708
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 18.837
Scott Ward (37), Watertown, S.D., 18.851
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 19.025
Rob Toland (39), Hinsdale, Ill., 19.051
Mike Fryer (54), Freeport, Ill., 19.054
Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 19.067
Jonathan Brauns (22B), Muscatine, Iowa, 20.533
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., no time
Dave Eckrich (58), Oxford, Iowa, no time
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 17.875
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 18.014
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 18.093
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 18.123
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 18.213
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 18.391
Nick Marolf (33), Moscow, Iowa, 18.458
Jake Neal (14J), Omaha, Neb., 18.541
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 18.604
Spencer Diercks (29D), Davenport, Iowa, 18.613
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 18.616
Zach McMillan (14), Gladewater, Texas, 18.669
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 18.683
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 18.704
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 18.758
Justin Zeitner (1GRT), Omaha, Neb., 18.844
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 18.947
Chris Spieker (56S), Massena, Iowa, 19.033
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 19.048
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 19.135
Justin Duty (15D), Mulino, Ore., 19.250
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 19.330
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 19.357
Lyle Zanker (9), Ingleside, Ill., 19.370
Al Humphrey (6H), Giltner, Neb., 19.469
J.C. Wyman (4W), Griswold, Iowa, 19.485
Brian Harris (93), Davenport, Iowa, 19.799
Junior Coover (10C), Norfolk, Neb., 20.080