FAIRBURY, Ill. — Stealing the lead on a lap-20 restart, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., led the rest of the way Monday at Fairbury Speedway for a 50-lap Castrol FloRacing Night in America victory. The third-starting Sheppard, the fourth of four leaders, drove his Rocket Chassis house car to a 3.012-second victory over 12th-starting Tanner English at the quarter-mile oval.
"It's always special to win at FALS for sure," Sheppard said in victory lane after his 15th overall victory of the season.
Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., rallied late for a third-place finish over track champion Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., who improved 11 positions and held the second spot from laps 42-49. Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., rounded out the top five while Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who led the first nine laps, faded to finish eighth. Two other first-half leaders fell from contention near the midpoint.
Pole-starting Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., led laps 10-13, but he was forced to pit when his crew discovered a flat right-rear tire during a lap-20 caution period while the NASCAR star held the second spot. Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M., led laps 14-20 but dropped back on a restart and had to pit during a lap-27 caution after his right-rear wheel became mudpacked.
Larson rallied back to finish sixth while Alberson ended up two laps down in 15th.
The third-starting Sheppard had never even held the second spot over the first 20 laps when he found himself restarting behind Alberson, but Sheppard jumped into the high groove and took command in the 50-lapper.
"I was really hoping that top (groove) was going to be there at the end of the race, because that's, you know, that's where this Rocket house car, that's where we win most of our races is on the top," Sheppard said. "We were pretty good in the bottom really, but I blazed the top for a long time before I went down there, and then my left-rear tire was overheated and it was shaking so hard I couldn't even hardly go down there. About the time it got cooled down, the caution came out (on lap 20) and I had to go to the top (on the restart)."
The winner would've liked to have battled Larson — "He was definitely going to be tough tonight without that flat tire, so I hate that for him," Sheppard said — but no one challenged him in the late stages.
"It was too treacherous going down the straightaway with the curb and everything to look down and see if (crew chief) Dan (White) was telling me I had a lead or not," Sheppard said, "so I was just going for all she had, and hopefully I put on a good show for everybody at FALS tonight."
English got to second on the 28th lap while running lower on the track than Sheppard, but he couldn't find a way past.
"I think I just showed Brandon my nose too soon," English said. "He turned up the wick there and really got on it after I got up beside him there. Congratulations to him and Bobby on third. We'll take it. Like I said, it was a good run for us. It was pretty awesome.
"I tightened up quite a bit because I knew (the track surface) was hard underneath that slop, and it just took some time to get down to it. So I tightened up quite a bit. I was too tight to run the top and that's just kind of my deal. I can roll that bottom pretty good, and the middle, and pick off some cars. Like I said, this new Rocket Chassis is really good. We've ran it maybe four times and it's been good every time. We've just gotta fine-tune it and get it going and maybe we can win one of these."
The feature was slowed by four cautions, including two multiple-car incidents on the second lap. The first came when Boom Briggs, Jeffrey Ledford, Bobby Pierce and Bob Gardner were part of a turn-two mess. On the restart, Shannon Babb spun in turn three, collecting Frank Heckenast Jr. and Tyler Erb.
Hometown driver McKay Wenger caused a yellow on the 20th lap when his third-running car went up in smoke and debris on lap 27 caused the fourth and final yellow
Fairbury's event was the first on the tour since May 25 but the series quickly returns to action Sept. 21 just an hour down road in Farmer City, Ill.
Notes: Series points leader Jonathan Davenport had a starter wire fire in his heat race and retired, forcing him to take a provisional starting spot. He rallied to finish seventh in the feature ... Dennis Erb Jr. had to start at the tail of the feature because of a tire change; he finished 12th. ... Former track champion Kevin Weaver's race ended early when his No. B12 got upside on the frontstretch after a scramble out of turn four in the second heat. The 58-year-old Gibson City, Ill., driver climbed out under his own power but said he might've tweaked his back a bit. It took two wreckers to haul his car away. ... Bobby Pierce's car broke a framerail in the scramble but he continued to transfer to the feature. ... Rich Bell's car, which briefly got under Weaver's machine, was also towed away after the incident. ... Mike Marlar was leading the consolation just before the checkers when he slowed abruptly and Dennis Erb Jr. beat him to the finish by five-hundredths of a second. ... Fairbury's event was originally scheduled for Tuesday but moved up 24 hours because of a dire weather forecast.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
B-main: Dennis Erb Jr., Mike Marlar, Kyle Strickler, Steven Roberts, Scott Schmitt, Torin Mettille, Rich Bell, Jake Miller, Brandon Lance. Scratched: Kevin Weaver, Ryan King, Jonathan Davenport, Dustin Vandermeir.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top six transfer)
First heat: Kyle Larson, Garrett Alberson, Frank Heckenast Jr., Boom Briggs, Jeffrey Ledford, Ryan Unzicker, Dennis Erb Jr., Scott Schmitt, Brandon Lance, Jonathan Davenport, Dustin Vandermeir.
Second heat: Shane Clanton, McKay Wenger, Tyler Erb, Trevor Gundaker, Bob Gardner, Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar, Ryan King, Kevin Weaver, Rich Bell.
Third heat: Brandon Sheppard, Shannon Babb, Gordy Gundaker, Tanner English, MIke Spatola, Jason Feger, Kyle Strickler, Steven Roberts, Torin Mettille, Jake Miller.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Kyle Larson (6), Elk Grove, Calif., 12.727
Trevor Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 12.803
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 12.852
Jeffrey Ledford (18), Pontiac, Ill., 12.865
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 12.889
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 12.908
Garrett Alberson (59), Las Cruces, N.M., 12.915
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 12.936
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 12.937
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 12.939
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill., 13.022
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 13.035
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 13.043
Tyler Erb (11), New Waverly, Texas, 13.078
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 13.098
Scott Schmitt (10), Tonica, Ill., 13.108
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.120
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.128
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 13.141
Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 13.151
Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., 13.167
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.185
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 13.193
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 13.207
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 13.242
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 13.285
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Tenn., 13.345
Dustin Vandermeir (20), Joliet, Ill., 13.372
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 13.521
Jake Miller (28), Mendota, Ill., 13.859
Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill., 16.235
6 p.m. - Hot laps
- Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials
- Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model B-main (10 laps)
- Modified B-main (10 laps)
- Late Model feature (50 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)