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Daily Dirt 05/17/2024 18:52:16

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July 30
Fairbury Speedway,
Fairbury, IL
Sanction: World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series (Prairie Dirt Classic) - $50,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac and staff reports (last updated July 31, 2:05 pm)
B-Shepp unassailable in $100,000 drive at PDC
Prairie Dirt Classic
  1. Brandon Sheppard
  2. Mike Marlar
  3. Tanner English
  4. Tyler Erb
  5. Ryan Gustin
  6. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  7. Chris Simpson
  8. Max Blair
  9. Jason Feger
  10. Gordy Gundaker
  11. Shane Clanton
  12. Tyler Bruening
  13. Josh Richards
  14. Josh Rice
  15. Garrett Smith
  16. Dennis Erb Jr.
  17. Brent Larson
  18. Kyle Larson
  19. Bobby Pierce
  20. Ryan Unzicker
  21. Johnny Scott
  22. McKay Wenger
  23. Chris Ferguson
  24. Mike Spatola
  25. Ashton Winger
  26. Jimmy Owens
  27. Jonathan Davenport
  28. Kyle Bronson
  29. Garrett Alberson
presented by
Jacy Norgaard/jacynorgaardphotography.com
Brandon Sheppard takes the checkers for his $100,000 domination.
What won the race: Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., dominated Saturday's Prairie Dirt Classic with the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway to win his third event title worth a grand total of $100,000. Sheppard beat Mike Marlar by 0.923 seconds for the $50,000 winner's share and led all 100 laps at $500 apiece in bonus money for an extra $50,000 in earnings.
Key notes: Brandon Sheppard has won three of the last five Prairie Dirt Classics, adding to previous triumphs in 2017 and '19. The Rocket Chassis house car driver is now tied with Shannon Babb for third all-time in event wins. ... Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., stayed within reach of Sheppard for most of the night, but couldn't turn his 21st straight top-five into his first PDC crown. ... Reigning event winner Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., ran second with 19 laps to go, but suffered two flat tires shortly after and finished 18th. ... The 32nd Prairie Dirt Classic feature was slowed by eight cautions. ... The Bank of Pontiac and Illinois State Rifle Association were presenting sponsors.
On the move: Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, started 27th and finished seventh.
Winner's sponsors: Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis has a Durham Racing Engine and sponsorship from Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Rocket Chassis, Ace Metal Works, Gunter’s Honey, Hoosier Racing Tire, Integra Racing Shocks, Keyser Manufacturing Co., Petroff Towing, Slavic Shirts & Decals, Sunoco Race Fuels and Rocket Preowned Motors.
Points chase: After Fairbury: 1. Dennis Erb Jr. (3,710); 2. Tanner English (3,542); 3. Max Blair (3,540); 4. Ryan Gustin (3,370); 5. Brent Larson (3,292); 6. Josh Richards (3,290); 7. Gordy Gundaker (3,248); 8. Boom Briggs (3,112); 9. Kyle Hammer (2,472); 10. Shane Clanton (2,326).
Current weather: Scattered Clouds, 63°F
Car count: 81
Fast qualifier: Ashton Winger
Time: 12.952 seconds
Polesitter: Brandon Sheppard
Consolation race winners: Chris Ferguson, McKay Wenger, Jonathan Davenport, Chris Simpson
Provisional starters: Shane Clanton, Max Blair, Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola, Brent Larson, Josh Richards
Next series race: August 4, Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI) $6,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff reports

FAIRBURY, Ill. — Kyle Larson, Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar, Tanner English and Garrett Smith shared the runner-up spot to some degree Saturday at Fairbury Speedway, the one place that had been in the vicinity of polesitter Brandon Sheppard during the 32nd Prairie Dirt Classic.

The fresh rotation of challengers — like a baseball team working through the bullpen to keep the attack raging onward — did nothing to stunt the bank-breaking momentum of the home-state wheelman, who from start-to-finish commanded the ultimate bullring crown jewel event.

Sheppard’s domination in leading all 100 laps from the point made his third career Prairie Dirt Classic triumph worth $100,000 — two $50,000 earnings in one night when accounting the winner’s share and lap money.

The New Berlin, Ill., driver topped Mike Marlar by 0.923 of a second to move into a tie with Shannon Babb for third all-time in Prairie Dirt Classic wins. Sheppard won the event in 2017 and ’19, but the latest clearly ranks atop them all.

“It’s all hat's off to (Fairbury owner) Matt Curl and his team, and everybody with (FloRacing) and DirtonDirt, and everybody that helps put this deal together. This is a phenomenal event,” Sheppard said. “I mean, there’s more hype here in the fans in the stands, in my opinion, than there is at Eldora. This place is electric. It’s awesome. It gives me goosebumps every time I come here.

“Then to start up front in the feature and lead all them laps is pretty amazing. I didn’t know if it could be done or not, but if I was going to do it, I was going to have to lead the first lap. I knew I had to get by (second-starting) Garrett (Smith) there, and I think we got into each other a little bit going into turn one. So I want to apologize for that.”

The initial start was perhaps the only point of the race Sheppard had been under duress.

Marlar stayed within reach of Sheppard for most of the night, but couldn't turn his 21st straight top-five run into his first Prairie Dirt Classic crown. The Tennessee driver took a peak inside Sheppard’s No. 1 Rocket Chassis house car multiple times following the race’s final restart with three laps to go, but Marlar’s bottom-groove adamancy didn’t stand much of a chance against Sheppard’s top-groove ways.

“I was a little over on the right-rear more than I needed to be. I couldn’t steer good through the center of the corner,” Marlar said. “It was a bummer, because I sat there watching him get rich every lap. I was trying to pass him. I got up beside him, but couldn’t end up completing the pass. We had plenty of opportunities, just couldn’t do it. It was a fun race. Congrats to Brandon.”

Smith, the 18-year-old who won one of Friday’s semifeatures, didn’t last long in the runner-up position and fell outside of the top-10 by halfway before finishing 15th after making a lap-73 pit stop for a tire change.

Larson, the reigning event winner, clawed his way to second on a lap-80 restart after slipping to as low as ninth in the feature, slinging his No. 6 Longhorn Chassis around the quarter-mile at a comparable rate to Sheppard’s tone-setting pace. But the NASCAR Cup champion’s hopes were shorted when a pair of flat tires shortly after his arrival in second thwarted him off the podium.

Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., stood perhaps as Sheppard’s biggest challenger of the night. Pierce charged from the 16th-starting spot to second by lap 44 and hounded Sheppard for the win all the way through lap 73.

During the race’s longest green-flag run of 28 laps between laps 21 and 49, Pierce went from ninth to second, pulling to within a second of Sheppard as the eventual winner dispatched slower cars in traffic with relative ease. It was throughout that stretch Marlar dropped from second to fifth, as the Tennessean’s bottom lane slowed in traffic.

“It was my fault I couldn’t pass. Just misadjusted on the car,” Marlar said. “We had it really close and ran really stout here against 80 some cars, and try to beat Sheppy and Bobby on their home turf. It’s a tough deal. Glad we could compete with them, that’s for sure.”

The lap-73 caution, however, made those preceding 24 laps the last run that required Sheppard to work through heavy traffic. On lap 68, Sheppard executed the move that virtually shut the door on Pierce the rest of the night, when he knifed through the middle of Smith and Shane Clanton in traffic. Pierce had lurked a car behind Sheppard at the time, and upon Sheppard’s thread of the needle Pierce went from lurking to a full second behind in a lap.

On the lap-73 restart, Pierce began his backslide with brake issues, dropping from second to seventh in three laps before retiring on lap 80 after bringing out a caution flag.

Tanner English snatched second briefly from Marlar with 16 laps to go riding around the bottom, but couldn’t quite hold on. The World of Outlaws rookie gladly wound up third.

“This is big-time for us, just to be in contention for the win,” English said. “We were up there. I don’t know if we had anything for Sheppard, but we might have got second there if a few things worked out different. I can’t say enough about this team and Riggs Motorsports. We’ve been fighting through this year pretty hard. We’ve had our ups and downs. … We’re looking forward to the future.”

A caution with seven laps remaining for Josh Richards erased Sheppard’s 3.4-second lead, and then the final stoppage with three laps to go again sized up last-ditch attempts for Marlar and English to possibly steal the big win. Sheppard made sure to complete the mission.

“Honestly, it’s been leading up to this. Our guys have been working their tails off on this race car. It’s been fast night in and night out,” Sheppard said. “We’ve just had a lot of bad luck lately and a little bit inconsistent. Part of it’s me. It’s good to get the confidence back at FALS here for sure.

“We unloaded at hot laps yesterday and was really fast, and progressively got better all weekend. After hot laps today I knew we were going to be really good. Actually, the track prep was awesome, but it threw me for a curve because both corners had ruts about a lane off the top and that made my normal line I run almost impossible to do.

“At the beginning, I was going to turn over in one and two, and then finally I got up above it. As I said, it’s unbelievable.”

Sheppard’s scare of the day didn’t even happen during the 100-lap feature, or at the wheel of his No. 1 Rocket Chassis house car on Saturday. His wife, Mikala, nearly went into labor this morning, which Sheppard called “a little bit of a scare for all of us.”

“But luckily she got back here and she’s all right,” said Sheppard, who smoothed the day over by midnight with his 80th career WoO triumph.

“Everything was on point tonight, so hopefully this is a confidence booster for the whole team going into next week,” Sheppard added. “We’re super excited. There’s still a lot of big money coming up. I thin we have our car pretty good. Hopefully we can carry this on.”

Notes: Brandon Sheppard has now won three of the last five Prairie Dirt Classics. ... Prairie Dirt Showdown winner Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, started 27th and finished seventh. … Fast qualifier Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., finished an uncharacteristic one-lap down in 16th. ... Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., had a top-five run spoiled by a flat tire with four laps to go. ... Fifteen of 29 starters completed 100 laps with 17 running at the finish.

Feature lineup

(100 laps)

Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Garrett Smith
Row 2: Mike Marlar, Kyle Larson
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Jason Feger
Row 4: Garrett Alberson, Tanner English
Row 5: Tyler Bruening, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 6: Kyle Bronson, Josh Rice
Row 7: Jimmy Owens, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 8: Gordy Gundaker, Bobby Pierce
Row 9: Chris Ferguson, McKay Wenger
Row 10: Jonathan Davenport, Ryan Gustin
Row 11: Johnny Scott, Ashton Winger
Row 12: Shane Clanton, Max Blair
Row 13: Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola
Row 14: Chris Simpson, Brent Larson
Row 15: Josh Richards

Non-qualifier's race results

Results (winner $2,500 or option to start feature): Chris Simpson, Josh Richards, Mason Zeigler, Stormy Scott, Justin Duty, Scott Schmitt, Nick Hoffman, Cade Dillard, Chase Junghans, Brent Larson, Tommy Sheppard Jr., Bradley Jameson, Kyle Hammer, Bob Gardner, Alex Ferree, Steven Roberts, Brent McKinnon, Nick Allen, Bill Hough, Matt Lux, Kevin Weaver.

Non-qualifiers' race lineup

(25 laps; winner earns $2,500 or starting spot in 100-lapper)

Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Chris Simpson
Row 2: Josh Richards, Stormy Scott
Row 3: Bradley Jameson, Justin Duty
Row 4: Scott Schmitt, Brent Larson
Row 5: Chase Junghans, Kevin Weaver
Row 6: Kyle Hammer, Bob Gardner
Row 7: Nick Hoffman, Brent McKinnon
Row 8: Cade Dillard, Tommy Sheppard Jr.
Row 9: Alex Ferree, Steven Roberts
Row 10: Matt Lux, Bill Hough
Row 11: Nick Allen

Consolation results

(20 laps; top two transfer)

First consolation finish: Chris Ferguson, Ryan Gustin, Mason Zeigler, Max Blair, Justin Duty, Chase Junghans, Bob Gardner, Cade Dillard, Steven Roberts, Nick Allen, Adam Tischauser, Brian Rickman, Jake Miller, Tom Thoennes, Todd Bennett, Mike Spatola, Ryan Unzicker, Thomas Hunziker, Bill Weistart, Kye Blight (DNS) Kyle Strickler, Trevor Gundaker.

Second consolation finish: McKay Wenger, Johnny Scott, Chris Simpson, Stormy Scott, Scott Schmitt, Kevin Weaver, Nick Hoffman, Tommy Sheppard Jr., Matt Lux, Doug Drown, Joseph Joiner, Cody Bauer, Dale Markham, Boom Briggs, Daryn Klein, Paul Parker, Mike Provenzano, Greg Wagner, Chris Nash, Glen Thompson (DNS) Frank Heckenast Jr., Drake Troutman.

Third consolation finish: Jonathan Davenport, Ashton Winger, Josh Richards, Bradley Jameson, Brent Larson, Kyle Hammer, Brent McKinnon, Alex Ferree, Bill Hough, Derek Chandler, Shane Clanton, Brian Shirley, Shannon Babb, Jeff Larson, Jay Sparks, Mike Mataragas, Jason Suhre (DNS) Titus Sneed, Logan Martin, Myles Moos, Josh Putnam.

Consolation race lineups

(20 laps; top two transfer)

First consolation
Row 1: Max Blair, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Ryan Unzicker
Row 3: Ryan Gustin, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Steven Roberts, Bob Gardner
Row 5: Adam Tischhauser, Mike Spatola
Row 6: Thomas Hunziker, Justin Duty
Row 7: Tom Thoennes, Kye Blight
Row 8: Cade Dillard, Brian Rickman
Row 9: Kyle Strickler, Todd Bennett
Row 10: Nick Allen, Trevor Gundaker
Row 11: Bill Weistart, Jake Miller
Second consolation
Row 1: McKay Wenger, Chris Simpson
Row 2: Johnny Scott, Tommy Sheppard Jr.
Row 3: Nick Hoffman, Stormy Scott
Row 4: Boom Briggs, Daryn Klein
Row 5: Scott Schmitt, Matt Lux
Row 6: Joseph Joiner, Glen Thompson
Row 7: Kevin Weaver, Chris Nash
Row 8: Dale Markham, Doug Drown
Row 9: Cody Bauer, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 10: Drake Troutman, Mike Provenzano
Row 11: Greg Wagner, Paul Parker
Third consolation
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Kyle Hammer
Row 2: Ashton Winger, Brian Shirley
Row 3: Jonathan Davenport, Brent Larson
Row 4: Derek Chandler, Jeff Larson
Row 5: Josh Richards, Alex Ferree
Row 6: Bradley Jameson, Shannon Babb
Row 7: Bill Hough, Titus Sneed
Row 8: Logan Martin, Mike Mataragas
Row 9: Jay Sparks, Jason Suhre
Row 10: Myles Moos, Brent McKinnon
Row 11: Josh Putnam

Saturday’s schedule

7 a.m.-noon - SELCAS breakfast at Legion Home
3 p.m. - SuaveTalk Live! (backstretch bus)
4 p.m. - Drivers’ autographer session on vendor row
5:15 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
5:45 p.m. - On-track activity
- Modified hot laps (consolation cars)
- Late Model hot laps (consolation cars)
6:20 p.m. - Redraw and pre-race festivities
- Modified consolations (15 laps)
- Modified hot laps (feature cars)
- Late Model consolations (20 laps)
- Late Model hot laps (feature cars)
- Modified feature (40 laps)
- Late Model non-qualifiers’ race (25 laps)
- Intermission
- Late Model Prairie Dirt Classic (100 laps)

Feature lineup

Row 1: Sheppard, G. Smith
Row 2: Marlar, K. Larson
Row 3: T. Erb, Feger
Row 4: Alberson, English
Row 5: Bruening, Thornton
Row 6: Bronson, Rice
Row 7: Owens, D. Erb
Row 8: G. Gundaker, Pierce
Row 9: Ferguson, Wenger
Row 10: Davenport, Gustin
Row 11: J. Scott, Winger
Row 12: Clanton, Blair
Row 13: Unzicker, Spatola
Row 14: Chr. Simpson, B. Larson
Row 15: Richards

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