Federated Raceway at I-55
Sheppard routs I-55 field to collect richest payday
PEVELY, Mo. (June 4) — Brandon Sheppard's biggest career victory was big in several ways. He won big money, built a big lead and had big smile in victory lane Saturday at I-55 Raceway.
The 18-year-old from New Berlin, Ill., blitzed the field in the Tri-State Challenge finale, reeling off a flag-to-flag victory in 11 minutes at the third-mile oval and lapping all but five competitors. The $5,000 payday was the richest of his career and continued a hot streak that's given him three Northern Allstars Late Model Series victories in the last five tour events. | Slideshow
"It felt awesome," said Sheppard, who raised his left hand in triumph as he took the checkered flag. "All the people that have helped me through the years. (Fellow driver) Jason Feger is the main guy that's helped me. I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for my dad and grandpa supporting, and all my uncles and everything growing (up) in racing."
Sheppard started fifth but quickly ducked into the low groove, running third early behind the son-and-father duo of Billy Moyer Jr. and Billy Moyer. Sheppard slipped under dad, then went past son and never looked back. He routed the field, taking the checkers nearly a half-lap ahead of 15th-starting Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., drivers used the entire racing surfacing in futilely trying to chase down the leader.
After Unzicker, Will Vaught of Crane, Mo., was third while Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., rounded out the top five in the caution-free 40-lapper. The elder Moyer, who won the Tri-State Challenge opener on Thursday at Highland Speedway, was sixth.
Sheppard was so far ahead that Unzicker wasn't sure where he was in the running order.
"We gambled on some tires. We started 15th and we knew we had to do something to get up front, and we knew there was some traction in the bottom. We put four soft tires on and we just ate that bottom up, and it worked for us," the runner-up said. "Honestly there, with about five laps to go, I really thought I was in the lead. But hat's off to Brandon. ... he needs that."
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., winner of Friday's Tri-State Challenge event in Paducah, Ky., missed the I-55 main event. He was leading the first heat race when his car's broken rear end ended his night.
Notes: Sheppard's Pierce Race Car is sponsored by Fromme Enterprises, Sheppard's Car Crushing and Shepp's Bar & Grill. ... Sheppard won the previous weekend at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway and Macon (Ill.) Speedway for his first-ever series triumphs. ... He was Northern Allstars Rookie of the Year in 2008. ... Mike Spatola Jr., the father of competitor Mike Spatola, suffered a hand injury in the pits and was flown to a St. Louis hospital, according to stlracing.com. The website reported the elder Spatola's hand was near the fan when the engine started, causing the injury. The team's Facebook page said Sunday morning that he underwent surgery to repair cuts and "everything is looking good." ... Sunday's Northern Allstars event at Shepp's Speedway in Alexander, Ill., was rained out.
Tri-State Challenge: (1) Brandon Sheppard, (2) Ryan Unzicker, (3) Will Vaught, (4) Randy Korte, (5) Dennis Erb Jr., (6) Billy Moyer, (7) Jason Feger, (8) Shannon Babb, (9) Michael Kloos, (10) Mike Spatola, (11) Kevin Weaver, (12) Mark Voigt, (13) Rickey Frankel, (14) Tim Manville, (15) Jason Crump, (16) Donny Walden, (17) Dillan White, (18) Dewayne Kiefer, (19) Tim Manville, (20) Roger Brickler, (21) Ron McQuerry, (22) Jeff Johnson, (23) Greg Kimmons, (24) Paul Roider, (25) Billy Moyer Jr. Fast qualifier (among 30 cars): Moyer, 12.202 seconds. Heat race winners: Brickler, Moyer Jr., Moyer. Consolation race winner: Kloos.