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Daily Dirt 04/15/2024 19:53:24

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December 16
The Dome at America's Center,
St. Louis, MO
Sanction: Unsanctioned Supers (Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals) - $30,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac, Kyle McFadden, series and track reports (last updated December 17, 8:43 am)
Sheppard repels RTJ for $30,000 Gateway finale
Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals
  1. Brandon Sheppard
  2. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  3. Tanner English
  4. Devin Moran
  5. Chris Simpson
  6. Tyler Erb
  7. Freddie Carpenter
  8. Mike Harrison
  9. Nick Hoffman
  10. Jadon Frame
  11. Kyle Hardy
  12. Jason Welshan
  13. Ryan Montgomery
  14. Shannon Babb
  15. Bob Gardner
  16. Spencer Hughes
  17. Jacob Magee
  18. Chad Zobrist
  19. Tyler Carpenter
  20. Jimmy Owens
presented by
Todd Boyd/photosbyboyd.smugmug.com
Brandon Sheppard earned $30,000 for his flag-to-flag victory at The Dome.
What won the race: Repelling a last-lap challenge from Ricky Thornton Jr., second-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., led all 40 laps to win Saturday's $30,000 seventh annual Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals at The Dome at America's Center. Sheppard secured his seventh full-field feature victory — six of which have paid $20,000-to-win or more — and boosts his total race winnings to upwards of $250,000 on the season.
Key notes: The third-starting Thornton, of Chandler, Ariz., marched from fourth-to-second in 10 laps and finished 1.942 seconds behind Sheppard after backing into the turn-one wall following a failed last-lap slide job. ... Tenth-starting Tanner English completed the podium after taking third on lap 38; Devin Moran followed him and finished fourth. ... Chris Simpson completed the top-five finishers aboard the Suhre Racing entry. ... Defending event winner Tyler Erb finished sixth after utilizing a provisional starting position. ... Mike Harrison improved seven positions and finished eighth. ... Nick Hoffman pursued Sheppard until lap 31 and dropped steadily until losing a right-rear on the last lap and crossing the checkers in ninth. ... Pole-starting Jason Welshan faded to finish 12th, the last car to complete 40 laps. ... Tyler Carpenter sustained a flat right-front tire while running 13th on lap seven, drawing the race's first caution. ... Chad Zobrist brought out the second and final yellow when he slowed with a flat on lap 16. ... Jimmy Owens pulled off with a flat left-rear on lap two. ... Saturday's feature lasted 12 minutes, with 17 drivers running at the finish.
On the move: Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, started 20th and finished sixth.
Winner's sponsors: Sheppard’s Sheppard Riggs Racing Longhorn Chassis is sponsored by Black Rifle Coffee Company, Valvoline, TrueTimber Camo, Budweiser, Wild Gear, Riggs Drilling Solutions, Dennis G. Woodworth Attorney at Law, Allgaier Performance Parts, Keyser Manufacturing, Budda Dirt Car Transmissions, Guse’s Pub & Eatery, Sheppard Auto Sales and Salvage, Speedwerx, Shepp’s Bar & Grill, Speed Stampz, Sunoco Race Fuels, Corrigan Race Fuels and Nightowl Design.
Car count: 127
Polesitter: Jason Welshan
Heat race winners: Freddie Carpenter, Devin Moran, Kyle Hardy, Tanner English, Chad Zobrist, Spencer Hughes
Consolation race winners: Jacob Magee
Provisional starters: Tyler Erb
Editor's note: Corrects winner's car to Sheppard Riggs Racing sted Kevin Rumley development car.
From staff reports

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Victories on the rough-and-tumble fifth-mile oval inside the The Dome at America's Center never come easy, but Brandon Sheppard’s Saturday night run from the front row in the 40-lap Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals was about as uneventful as possible for 11 of the race’s 12 minutes.

But when Sheppard caught a flash of a rallying blue car as his No. B5 was hampered by lapped traffic in the closing laps, the 30-year-old New Berlin, Ill., driver knew things were getting too close for comfort with Ricky Thornton Jr. bearing down.

“Lappers were all over me and I seen a blue car underneath me getting into (turn) one here,” Sheppard said, “and I was like ‘Oh snap, I better get up on the wheel here for these last corners.’ ”

With what had been a 2.5 second lead cut to nearly nothing with a lap to go, Sheppard withstood Thornton’s last-ditch bid at the lead in turns one and two on the final lap, pulling back away to win by 1.942 seconds at the checkers.

“It feels good man. I've been trying a long time,” said Sheppard, who had three top-five finishes at Gateway in six previous starts. “Every year I come here, I either run top four or get a flat tire. So I guess this year was my year finally. Luck kinda fell my way a little bit. The redraw (for an outside front-row starting position) really helped. Out front, Ricky would have been really hard to pass, too.”

The second-starting Sheppard collected $30,000 while the third-starting Thornton, his SSI Motorsports entry in tatters in part because he hit the wall after bailing out of a last-lap slide job attempt, then got hung up with a lapped car on the backstretch, settled for second to conclude a 34-victory season for the Chandler, Ariz., driver. The 10th-starting Tanner English of Benton, Ky., gained two positions in the final five laps for third with Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, and Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, rounding out the top five.

Provisional starter Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, last year’s winner, rallied from the tail of the 20-car field to finish sixth while polesitter Jason Welshan of Maryville, Tenn., dropped out of the top five on the 11th lap and wasn’t a factor the rest of the way.

Sheppard jumped into the lead at the outset and never faced a serious challenge most of the race minus the rough spots that briefly bounced his car airborne. But as he navigated slower cars late in the race, he was certain he wasn’t turning laps nearly as quick as he’d been with clean racetrack.

“Man, it was crazy, because I knew that traffic was holding me up a bunch,” Sheppard said. “There’s no way to really tell how close (the pursuers) are. You can see a little bit on the (video) screen up there. Honestly, the last lap getting in here, I knew I was slowing down I was trying to pick the pace up.”

Sheppard hurried his way through the traffic the best he could, but Thornton gained on him every lap after taking the second spot from Nick Hoffman with 10 laps remaining. The winner may not realize how close Thornton came to taking a last-lap shot at him until watching the video after the race.

“Man, Ricky’s been tough all year. Congratulations to them guys on a phenomenal season,” said Sheppard, who dedicated the victory to his great grandmother who died earlier this week.

“I was able to go visit her this week while I was home, so that really was awesome and just got to see some of the family,” he said. “They knew that the Dome was this weekend, so I know this is where she would’ve wanted me to be, for sure.”

And the Dome’s victory lane is exactly where Sheppard wanted to be.

“An awesome clean race. It was nice and rough out there, just like the Dome likes it. So how about St. Louis? What did you think about that?” Sheppard asked the event’s biggest-ever crowd. “This crowd is phenomenal. Oh my God. I’ve never seen anything like it at a dirt track race. It's crazy to see all you fans in here, inside the Dome like this, it means the world to us drivers.”

Thornton started inside the second row but was running fifth at halfway. He eventually decided it was time to turn up the wick.

"I don't know, he was really good. I looked (at the scoreboard) and there was 11 (laps) to go, and I’m like, ‘Man, we didn’t come all the way here to run sixth.’ So I figured it was time to pony up and just get after it,” he said. “I had a good shot. I tried to (pull off a) slider on that last lap, but I knew I was gonna destroy him. I had to just kind of park it, and that kind of ruined any shot of winning it."

“I feel bad for my boys. I about destroyed the whole body in front of everything on this thing.”

Tanner English finished on the podium for the third consecutive year after starting outside the fifth row and breaking into the top five after 11 laps.

“We've been right there, two seconds, a third, should have won it twice, blew up, crashed … we've been knocking at the door for a long time,” English said. “I said this last year, I think, but I promise, one of these days I'm going to win this thing, and I hope this place erupts and maybe we can burn the place down. Hopefully (promoter) Cody (Sommer) don't end this deal any time soon and we can keep on coming back and maybe maybe get one of these.”

Notes: Nick Hoffman, who ran second the first 30 laps, slipped back late and blew a right-rear tire on the final lap with a huge piece of rubber flying off the racing surface and into the flagstand. He ended up ninth. … The 40-lapper was slowed by two cautions, the first when two-time race winner Tyler Carpenter slowed after getting into the frontstretch concrete and causing right-side damage. The second yellow appeared on the 17th lap when Chad Zobrist slowed on the frontstretch and pulled to the infield. … Zobrist and Carpenter were the lone retirees along with first-time Gateway starter Jimmy Owens, who had a flat tire after two laps.

Feature lineup

(40 laps)

Row 1: Jason Welshan, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Ricky Thornton Jr., Nick Hoffman
Row 3: Jadon Frame, Chris Simpson
Row 4: Freddie Carpenter, Devin Moran
Row 5: Kyle Hardy, Tanner English
Row 6: Chad Zobrist, Spencer Hughes
Row 7: Shannon Babb, Jimmy Owens
Row 8: Mike Harrison, Ryan Montgomery
Row 9: Bob Gardner, Tyler Carpenter
Row 10: Jacob Magee, Tyler Erb

Last-chance race results

Finish: Jacob Magee, Jeffrey Ledford, Patrik Daniel, Mike Spatola, Cody Bauer, Rusty Griffaw, Zach Wohlers, Trevor Gundaker, Jason Zobrist, Jonathan Lee, Austin Howes, Ryan Wilson.

Last-chance race lineup

(10 laps; winner transfers)

Row 1: Patrik Daniel, Jeffrey Ledford
Row 2: Jason Zobrist, Jacob Magee
Row 3: Ryan Wilson, Austin Howes
Row 4: Rusty Griffaw, Cody Bauer
Row 5: Mike Spatola, Trevor Gundaker
Row 6: Zach Wohlers, Jonathan Lee

Qualifying race recap

Pole-starting Freddie Carpenter led all 10 laps to win the first qualifier by 2.396 seconds over Shannon Babb; both drivers secure spots in Saturday’s 40-lap, $30,000-to-win finale. Myles Moos improved nine positions after transferring through a non-qualifier, but his fifth place finish ends his Gateway Dirt Nationals. While battling Babb for second on a lap-two restart attempt, Bobby Pierce spun entering turn one and collected six other drivers; the multicar incident eliminated Pierce, Rusty Schlenk and Greg Kimmons. … Fourth-starting Devin Moran took the point on a lap-four restart and led the final seven laps to win qualifier two by 0.954 of a second over Jimmy Owens, who led the first three laps. Josh Rice made heavy contact with Cody Bauer on the lap-four restart and faded to finish fifth, ending his inaugural Gateway Dirt Nationals. The second qualifier was completed without incident and lasted just three minutes. … Kyle Hardy led green-to-checkered to win the third qualifier by 1.149 seconds over Mike Harrison. Defending event winner Tyler Erb advanced from 13th to sixth; Erb later took a provisional to start last in Saturday's 20-car field. The 10-lap qualifier lasted 30 minutes after a lengthy red flag for fence repair following Kyle Mixon’s contact with the turn-one wall on lap five. … Pole-starting Tanner English dominated the fourth qualifier, winning by 1.196 seconds over Ryan Montgomery. … Third-starting Chad Zobrist inherited the point when race-long leader Gordy Gundaker broke a rear end and slowed on lap seven. Zobrist paced the final three laps to win qualifier five by 0.996 of a second over Bob Gardner; Gardner grabbed the final transfer spot from Ryan Wilson on lap eight after getting caught up in a multicar incident on lap two. … Spencer Hughes led every lap of the sixth and final qualifier, winning by 0.645 of a second over fifth-starting Tyler Carpenter. Kylan Garner and Ryan Unzicker each made contact and spun while battling for a transfer spot; Garner pulled off on lap seven and finished 10th, with Unzicker in 12th. … The six qualifiers combined for 92 minutes of racing and lasted nearly two hours, overall; the second qualifier lasted three minutes, while the third prelim took 30 minutes.

Qualifying race results

(10 laps, top two transfer to feature)

First qualifier: Freddie Carpenter, Shannon Babb, Patrik Daniel, Rusty Griffaw, Myles Moos, Jon Mitchell, Luke Bennett, Jason Miles, Matthew Tribble, David Marlow, Mike Epplett, Bobby Pierce, Rusty Schlenk, Greg Kimmons. 

Second qualifier: Devin Moran, Jimmy Owens, Jeffrey Ledford, Cody Bauer, Josh Rice, Joseph Joiner, Michael King Jr., Corey DeLancey, Carson Ferguson, Quentin White, Mike Kline, Dustin Rollins, Dakota Dellinger. Scratched: Donald Johns

Third qualifier: Kyle Hardy, Mike Harrison, Jason Zobrist, Mike Spatola, Pete Crum, Tyler Erb, Oakley Johns, Scott Rhoades, Alan Westling, Layne Bellm, Casey White, Jon Woods, Josh Boller, Kyle Mixon.

Fourth qualifier: Tanner English, Ryan Montgomery, Jacob Magee, Trevor Gundaker, Josh Dietz, Daniel Adam, Jordan Barbee, Shaun Wiltjer, Nicky Pennington, Bill Wagner, Erik Thorne, Lindsey Hansen, Jody Knowles, Megan Sanders.

Fifth qualifier: Chad Zobrist, Bob Gardner, Ryan Wilson, Zach Wohlers, Jack Riggs, Jayme Zidar, Ruben Mayfield, Jason Knowles, Gordy Gundaker, David Seibers, Derek Fetter, Blake Creech, Robbie Bostic. Scratched: Scott Cimfl

Sixth qualifier: Spencer Hughes, Tyler Carpenter, Austin Howes, Jonathan Lee, Kip Hughes, Manny Falcon, Chris Fetter, Tegan Evans, Joe Bellm, Kylan Garner, Lance Brasington, Ryan Unzicker, Tim Hancock Jr. Scratched: Brandon Tibaldi 

Pre-race notes

The format for Saturday’s grand finale of the Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals begins with three 10-lap non-qualifiers’ races that will send the top two finishers in each on to tag the rear of the six 10-lap qualifier events. Two drivers will transfer to the 40-lap, $30,000-to-win A-main from each qualifier while the third- and fourth-place finishers move on to a 10-lap last-chance race that earns its winner the 19th starting spot in the feature. … Event officials said a hard 10-minute time limit will be in place for the non-qualifiers’ races. … With a record crowd expected for Saturday’s program, several sections of the Dome’s upper deck will be open for the first time in the seven-year history of the event. … Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, has a difficult road ahead of him to repeat his 2022 Gateway Dirt Nationals victory after his disastrous Thursday outing when he lost a transfer spot in his heat because his transponder was mounted in the wrong spot (he was docked three positions) and he was eliminated from his B-main by a flat tire. Scheduled to start 13th in the third qualifier, he asserted that he will give his all in pursuit of a transfer spot — and if he falls short, he hopes his effort will worthy enough for event promoter Cody Sommer to grant him a past-winner provisional. … Friday preliminary feature winner Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., said after his victory— his first in a Late Model at the Dome — that he’s glad he’s made the Gateway Dirt Nationals a regular stop on his schedule since 2019. “It's chaos, but it's fun and we all kind of know what we got when we sign up for it,” he said. “That's why we're all here. I mean, the crowd kind of speaks for for how nice this venue is. I didn’t really know the first couple of years how high (the event) could go and now I kick myself in the but for not coming the first couple of years so. It’s pretty special to come out and do it and it kind of kicks off the whole indoor season I guess you could say.” … Thornton’s winning pass in Friday’s feature did agitate Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, who took exception to the slider by pulling up alongside Thornton in turn two after the checkered flag to express his displeasure. “I expected (the slider on the lap-14 restart). I just didn't quite expect it like that,” Simpson said. “I’m not mad. You know, in the heat of the moment, I’m mad. I didn’t expect that from him, but he did it (and) obviously he passed me and drove away.” … After locking into the feature with a third-place finish in Friday’s preliminary action, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., is hoping for some luck to help propel him to an elusive victory in the Gateway Dirt Nationals finale. “We've ran second (in 2019), third (’16), fourth (’21), and every other time we’ve had a flat tire,” he said. “Somebody asked what my expectation for us was, and I said I was going to run top four or get a flat tire. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles here for me for some reason.”

Qualifying race lineups

(10 laps, top two transfer to feature)

First qualifier
Row 1: Freddie Carpenter, Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Rusty Schlenk, Shannon Babb
Row 3: Luke Bennett, Rusty Griffaw
Row 4: Patrik Daniel, Mike Epplett
Row 5: Jason Miles, Greg Kimmons
Row 6: Matthew Tribble, David Marlow
Row 7: Jon Mitchell, Myles Moos
Second qualifier
Row 1: Josh Rice, Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Cody Bauer, Devin Moran
Row 3: Jeffrey Ledford, Quentin White
Row 4: Joseph Joiner, Michael King Jr.
Row 5: Corey DeLancey, Dakota Dellinger
Row 6: Mike Kline, Dustin Rollins
Row 7: Donald Johns, Carson Ferguson
Third qualifier
Row 1: Mike Harrison, Kyle Hardy
Row 2: Josh Boller, Jason Zobrist
Row 3: Alan Westling, Oakley Johns
Row 4: Mike Spatola, Pete Crum
Row 5: Layne Bellm, Casey White
Row 6: Kyle Mixon, Jon Woods
Row 7: Tyler Erb, Scott Rhoades
Fourth qualifier
Row 1: Tanner English, Trevor Gundaker
Row 2: Ryan Montgomery, Josh Dietz
Row 3: Jacob Magee, Jody Knowles
Row 4: Bill Wagner, Nicky Pennington
Row 5: Lindsey Hansen, Daniel Adam
Row 6: Jordan Barbee, Shaun Wiltjer
Row 7: Megan Sanders, Erik Thorne
Fifth qualifier
Row 1: Gordy Gundaker, Bob Gardner
Row 2: Chad Zobrist, Ryan Wilson
Row 3: Jack Riggs, David Seibers
Row 4: Jason Knowles, Scott Cimfl
Row 5: Jayme Zidar, Robbie Bostic
Row 6: Ruben Mayfield, Zach Wohlers
Row 7: Derek Fetter, Blake Creech
Sixth qualifier
Row 1: Spencer Hughes, Kylan Garner
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Austin Howes
Row 3: Tyler Carpenter, Jonathan Lee
Row 4: Manny Falcon, Kip Hughes
Row 5: Tim Hancock Jr., Joe Bellm
Row 6: Tegan Evans, Chris Fetter
Row 7: Brandon Tibaldi, Lance Brasington

Non-qualifier results  

First non-qualifier: Myles Moos, Carson Ferguson, Robbie Scott, Steve Sheppard Jr., Rachel Carpenter, Michael Luna, William Stile, Timmy Dick, Matthew Ratzlaff, Dylan Thompson, Wil Herrington, Ronnie Yanacsek, Austin Tettaton. Scratched: Scott Bell, Dakota Smith

Second non-qualifier: Scott Rhoades, Erik Thorne, Glen Powell, Dustin Dixon, Ted Johnson Jr., Jason Wagner, Preston Farmer, Carson Hocevar, Darin Weisinger, Chandler Moenning, Glen Hounshell, TeeJay Janousek, Jacob Kolwyck. Scratched: Hudson O'Neal

Third non-qualifier: Blake Creech, Lance Brasington, Jason Feger, Max Baker, James O'Hara, Matt Koch, Matthew Norman, Scott Geaschel, Sterling Freeman, Morgan Alexander, Joe Denby, Chris McKeehan. Scratched: Timothy Welch II, Justin Carter 

Non-qualifying race lineups

(10 laps; top two transfer to qualifier)

First non-qualifier
Row 1: Myles Moos, Matthew Ratzlaff
Row 2: Timmy Dick, Dylan Thompson
Row 3: William Stile, Ronnie Yanacsek
Row 4: Carson Ferguson, Michael Luna
Row 5: Austin Tettaton, Rachel Carpenter
Row 6: Scott Bell, Steve Sheppard Jr.
Row 7: Wil Herrington, Robbie Scott
Row 8: Dakota Smith
Second non-qualifier
Row 1: Erik Thorne, Carson Hocevar
Row 2: Scott Rhoades, Preston Farmer
Row 3: Chandler Moenning, Glen Powell
Row 4: Darin Weisinger, Jacob Kolwyck
Row 5: Jason Wagner, Glen Hounshell
Row 6: TeeJay Janousek, Dustin Dixon
Row 7: Ted Johnson Jr., Hudson O’Neal
Third non-qualifier
Row 1: Sterling Freeman, Lance Brasington
Row 2: Max Baker, Timothy Welch II
Row 3: Justin Carter, Morgan Alexander
Row 4: Blake Creech, James O’Hara
Row 5: Matthew Norman, Scott Geaschel
Row 6: Joe Denby, Matt Koch
Row 7: Chris McKeehan, Jason Feger

Saturday's schedule

(All times local)

10 a.m. - Registration and credentials office opens
10:30 a.m. - Permitted early access (credential required)
11 a.m. - Pits open; technical inspection begins
1 p.m. - Drivers' meeting; fuel storage and fueling lane opens
2 p.m. - Dome spectator gates open
3 p.m. - On-track activity
- Super Late Model non-qualifiers (10 laps)
- Super Late Model qualifiers (10 laps)
- Super Late Model six locked-in hot laps
- Modified qualifiers (12 laps)
- Modified six locked-in hot laps
6 p.m. - Opening ceremonies
- Super Late Model last chance race (10 laps)
- Modified last chance race (10 laps)
- Super Late Models (40 laps)
- Modifieds (30 laps)

Feature lineup

Row 1: Welshan, B. Sheppard
Row 2: Thornton, Hoffman
Row 3: Frame, Simpson
Row 4: F. Carpenter, Moran
Row 5: Hardy, English
Row 6: C. Zobrist, Hughes
Row 7: Babb, Owens
Row 8: Harrison, Montgomery
Row 9: Gardner, T. Carpenter
Row 10: Magee, Erb

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