BROWNSTOWN, Ind. (Sept. 23) — After a more than two-and-a-half-year wait, Brandon Sheppard finally got the chance to defend his 2019 Indiana Icebreaker victory. And he did so in dominating fashion.
Earning his 21st-career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory with a flag-to-flag performance, Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was never seriously challenged in Thursday’s 50-lap feature at Brownstown Speedway on his way to collecting a $15,000 payday in an event that was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions and twice delayed in 2021.
The second-starting Sheppard crossed the finish line 1.889 seconds ahead of fifth-starting Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., in earning his 16th overall victory of the season. Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, finished where he started in the third spot with 10th-starting Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., fourth and sixth-starting Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., fifth.
Thursday’s program was started on March 20 before rough track conditions forced Lucas Oil Series officials to postpone consolation races and the main event to May 2. The makeup date rained out, pushing the remainder of the event to Brownstown’s annual Jackson 100 weekend.
The elbows-up Sheppard enjoyed another tricky track surface on Thursday, and said he wouldn’t mind similar conditions for Friday’s $10,000-to-win Night Before the Jackson and Saturday’s $20,000-to-win Jackson 100 finale.
“The track had a lot of character to it tonight, but if it’s like that all weekend I won’t be mad about it all,” said Sheppard, the Rocket Chassis house car driver who matched his highest paying victory of a 2021 campaign that’s been below his usual standards. “Huge hat’s off to Rocket Chassis, Mark Richards, Steve Baker and everybody involved for building a strong, really good race car.
“It’s been an up-and-down year for us for sure, but we’ve got a really good car this weekend so hopefully we can keep this thing up front the whole time.”
With another $35,000 up for grabs at Brownstown over the next two nights, Sheppard is optimistic that his up-and-down season will remain on the upside this weekend.
“We want to win these races and we’re working our butts off to get there. It’s paying off slowly but surely throughout the year,” Sheppard said. “It’s hard to win these races so if we can be in contention and maybe win one of them or maybe both of them, you never know. If things fall our way, they fall our way. If they don’t we’ll still trying to best we can to put ourselves in position to make it happen.”
Earning his second runner-up finish in nine Indiana Icebreaker starts, Casebolt was happy with his run after an up-and-down season of his own.
“It’s nice to get a podium. That’s kind of like a win for us,” said Casebolt, a former Lucas Oil Series regular who has cut back to part-time racing in recent years. “These guys race think about racing 24/7 and it’s turned into just a hobby for me. So to be able to come out here and compete with these guys is huge.”
Moran was once again denied his first Lucas Oil Series win of the season in settling for third, but felt good about his run on the first of three straight nights at Brownstown.
“We just got to go over the car real good obviously because it was going for a ride,” Moran said. “I wasn’t up there like Brandon was … I felt like our car was really good. I could circle that bottom and once I found it I just kind of stayed there out of the rough.”
Two potential contenders saw their runs end early. Polesitter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was running second when he dropped out on lap 14. Richards’s demise moved third-starting Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., to second, but he dropped out two laps later.
The race was slowed by nine cautions. The worst was for Ricky Thornton Jr.’s violent rollover wreck on lap four. The Chandler, Ariz., driver was OK.
Lucas Oil Series title contender Jonathan Davenport did not compete in Thursday’s event and will miss the remainder of the weekend after testing positive for Covid-19. Davenport, who skipped the event on its original date but ranked third in Lucas Oil Series points entering the weekend, had planned on starting from the tail of a consolation race Thursday before being sidelined.
Consolation race results
(10 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation race:Shelby Miles, Tyler Erb, Josh Rice, Devin Gilpin, Spencer Hughes, Ashton Winger, Tristian Chamberlain, Zack Burton.
Second consolation race: Joe Godsey, Dennis Erb Jr., Robby Hensley, Matt Cosner, Quentin White, Jeff Roth, Brayton Laster, Britan Godsey.
Heat race results
First heat: Josh Richards, Tony Jackson Jr., Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer Jr., Shelby Miles, Chris Simpson, Tristan Chamberlain, Michael Wesselman, Devin Gilpin, Frank Heckenast Jr., Larry Greer.
Second heat: Kyle Bronson, Jimmy Owens, Hudson O’Neal, Mike Marlar, Josh Rice, Tyler Erb, Darrell Lanigan, Fast Eddy, Zack Burton, Jared Bailey, Mark Robbins.
Third heat: Brandon Sheppard, Steve Casebolt, Shane Clanton, Kyle Strickler, Robby Hensley, Jeff Roth, Britan Godsey, Cameron Marlar, Justin Ratliff, Brian Shirley, Dennis Erb Jr.
Fourth heat: Devin Moran, Tanner English, Earl Pearson Jr., Ricky Thornton Jr., Joe Godsey, Dustin Linville, Todd Brennan, Jeffrey Ledford, Ryan Gustin, Brayton Laster, Greg Johnson.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown
1. Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 12.509
2. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 12.518
3. Tony Jackson Jr. (56), Lebanon, Mo., 12.645
4. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 12.660
5. Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 12.681
6. Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 12.715
7. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 12.742
8. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 12.747
9. Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 12.826
10. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 12.868
11. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 12.872
12. Josh Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., 12.953
13. Shelby Miles (76), Bloomington, Ind., 13.073
14. Darrell Lanigan (29V), Union, Ky., 13.132
15. Chris Simpson (32s), Oxford, Iowa, 13.291
16. Jared Bailey (24), Bedford, Ind., 13.313
17. Larry Greer (9G), Bowling Green, Ky., 13.489
18. Fast Eddy (316), Lebanon, Ohio, 13.625
19. Tristan Chamberlain (20TC), Richmond, Ind., 13.916
20. Mark Robbins (14M), Shoals, Ind., 14.057
21. Michael Wesselman (418), Bargersville, Ind., 14.352
22. Zack Burton (3Z), Edinburgh, Ind., 14.390
1. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 12.620
2. Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 12.754
3. Steve Casebolt (C9), Richmond, Ind., 12.772
4. Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 12.833
5. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 12.839
6. Ryan Gustin (19R), Marshalltown, Iowa, 12.854
7. Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., 12.896
8. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 12.946
9. Cameron Marlar (57M), Winfield, Tenn., 12.982
10. Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 13.023
11. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 13.024
12. Jeffrey Ledford (18A), Pontiac, Ill., 13.150
13. Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 13.195
14. Joe Godsey (14G), Bentonville, Ark., 13.226
15. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 13.424
16. Greg Johnson (17J), Bedford, Ind., 13.491
17. Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., 13.551
18. Dustin Linville (D8), Lancaster, Ky., 13.791
19. Britan Godsey (14B), Bedford, Ind., 13.944
20. Brayton Laster (13W), Greenwood, Ind., 15.925
21. Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.537
22. Todd Brennan (20), Zanesville, Ohio, 16.537