ROSSBURG, Ohio — Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., left no doubt which driver performed best during preliminary features for the 45th annual World 100.
While rain gave him a day off after his Thursday victory, the 22-year-old Sheppard went right back to work Saturday afternoon, dominating from outside the front row for another 25-lap victory worth $5,000.
Driving his car with a new vintage Valvoline graphics scheme, Sheppard ran unchallenged throughout, deftly handling traffic on a daytime-slick surface and holding at least a straightaway lead most of the race. He survived a double-file restart at the finish to head into Saturday evening’s World 100 action as the only two-time preliminary winner.
“This car is amazing right now,” Sheppard said, thanking his crew, family and sponsors.
Third-starting Matt Westfall of Ludlow Falls, Ohio, had his hands full with Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., midway through the race, but he held on for a runner-up finish ahead of Lanigan, 12th-starting Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., and Landers.
Polesitter Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, traded white-knuckle slide jobs with Westfall in the early laps before settling into second, but he got into the turn-two wall on the 11th lap and faded to seventh by the next lap and then completely out of contention thereafter.
The feature was slowed by a single caution when 16th-running Steve Casebolt stopped in turn four on the 23rd lap, providing a few tense moments for Sheppard after he cruised most of the 25-lap feature.
“I was dreading it, really,” Sheppard said of the restart. “I knew the top was going to be OK to restart on, but I wasn’t sure where everybody else was running behind me. I figured it was on the top, so I just chose the top and went for it. We pulled it off.”
Can Sheppard become the first World 100 winner from Illinois?
“I hope so, man,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “Winning both these races probably put me starting pretty deep in a heat race. So right now we’re just going to try to get in the show.”
The battle for second was a wild one in the early laps with Drown and Westfall mixing it up, then again at midrace when Landers briefly grabbed the second spot over Westfall with Lanigan right there.
Westfall shook off Landers and Lanigan and finished a solid second on the final restart.
“That cushion down in (turn) one is a little sketchy there, and down in three or four two,” Westfall said. “I want to congratulate Brandon. We was catching him there at the end … I was hoping (there wouldn’t be) a caution.”
Preliminary results and notes:
Brief rain showers hit during the sixth heat and during the consolations. ... Donald McIntosh didn’t get much time to savor his fastest qualifying lap among the even-group time-trialers. On lap one of the first heat he tangled with Canadian Ricky Weiss off turn four and bounced hard into the homestretch wall, damaging his Blount Motorsports machine sufficiently to apparently end his weekend early. “I was running the top, the car felt pretty good, and the 7 car came over the left-front and there was nothing I could do,” said McIntosh, who has never made a World 100 starting field. “I guess all I can do is keep my head up and come back next year. I just hate it for the guys — we had a great car.” … Weiss went on to win the first heat, but not without more trouble on the way. He also came together with Josh Rice off two, bending Rice’s left-front corner enough to send the young Kentucky driver spinning when he reached turn three. “It was a little interesting,” Weiss said of his heat. … Another notable scramble in the very eventful first heat involved Jason Feger and Chase Junghans, who twirled together off turn two. “I just got a run on the top on the restart and he just came up and hit me,” said Junghans, who climbed Feger’s car, bounced off the wall and was towed off the track. “I don’t think he knew I was there.” Junghans reported that his weekend appeared to be done; Feger, meanwhile, managed to transfer to the preliminary feature after quickly pitting to patch bodywork damage. “I feel terrible about what happened (with Junghans),” said Feger, who conceded that he didn’t realize Junghans had pulled alongside him on the top of the track following a restart. … Scott James was pushed into the pit area three laps into the second heat with apparent engine trouble. … Alex Ferree’s strong debut weekend at Eldora hit a major speed bump when he smashed the turn-one wall while leading the second heat and was clipped hard by the passing Brad Eitniear, heavily damaging the right side of Ferree’s Bucky Johnson-owned Club 29 car. The rearend of Ferree’s car was dangling precariously as it was towed in and the right-side sheet metal was throughly twisted, making it appear that Ferree’s weekend could be over — though he refused to concede that fact. “We’re gonna bust our ass and see if we can get it fixed,” Ferree said while working diligently on his machine. … North Carolina’s Doug Sanders qualified for his first-ever Eldora feature with a third-place finish in the second heat. … Thursday-night preliminary feature winner Brandon Sheppard put himself in position for a sweep of the prelim action after capturing the fifth heat, but even though he’ll start among the top six in the A-Main his eyes are most certainly set on this evening’s World 100. “We’re happy with the way everything’s going,” he said. “We’re gonna try some stuff in the feature — we have a little wiggle room here and we’re gonna see if we can get a little better for the hundred-lapper.” … The big surprise of Heat 5? Thursday-night preliminary feature winner Dale McDowell failed to qualify, slipping to a fourth-place finish after starting from the pole position. … Former World 100 winner Chub Frank had the left-side door on his car throughly ripped apart on the opening lap of the sixth heat when polesitter Garrett Alberson slid across the the first and second turns and Frank caught the rear of Alberson’s car, which spun to a stop. Frank tried to continue with his door dangling in the breeze but blew a left-rear tire after one circuit; the explosion knocked the door off completely off Frank’s car, which actually allowed him to return to the race after a pit stop and mount a stirring rally that carried him to a third-place finish and feature berth.
Dale McDowell, a Thursday preliminary feature winner, led all the way from outside the front row to take a victory over Jimmy Mars in a two-car breakaway. Australian invader Craig Vosbergen gave the race some international flavor by securing the third and final transfer spot over Chris Simpson.
Finish (top three transfer): Dale McDowell, Jimmy Mars, Craig Vosbergen, Chris Simpson, Brian Ruhlman, Morgan Bagley, Jason Riggs, Garrett Alberson, Kolby Vandenbergh, Tommy Bailey, Jeff Wolfenbarger, Scott Lewis, Don Hammer, Jason Croft, Rob Anderzack, Brandon Kinzer, Lauren Longbrake.
Eldora Late Model points leader Josh Rice's slide job on the first lap took him from third to first and he led the rest of the 10-lapper. Jerry Bowersock and scheduled 12th starting Austin Smith got the other two transfer spots in a race where many drivers scratchd. Shane Unger drew a lap-three caution with a turn-two spin (Mason Zeigler pulled off under the caution after slapped the frontstretch wall). Shannon Thornsberry hit the turn-four wall on the first lap.
Finish (top three transfer): Josh Rice, Jerry Bowersock, Austin Smith, Rick Rickman, Ted Nobbe, John Mayes, Cameron Guidi, Wayne Chinn, Mason Zeigler, Shane Unger, Shannon Thornsberry. Scratched: Scott James, Randy Weaver, Brian Rickman, Brad Eitinear, Donald McIntosh, Alex Ferree, Chsae Junghans.
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Rick Rickman, Shane Unger
Row 2: Jerry Bowersock, Josh Rice
Row 3: Cameron Guidi, Shannon Thornsberry
Row 4: Chase Junghans, Alex Ferree
Row 5: Wayne Chinn, Donald McIntosh
Row 6: Brad Eitinear, Austin Smith
Row 7: John Mayes, Brian Rickman
Row 8: Mason Zeigler, Randy Weaver
Row 9: Scott James, Ted Nobbe
Row 1: Jimmy Mars, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Chris Simpson, Craig Vosbergen
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Tommy Bailey
Row 4: Kolby Vandenbergh, Chad Ruhlman
Row 5: Jeff Wolfenbarger, Jason Riggs
Row 6: Jason Croft, Garrett Alberson
Row 7: Scott Lewis, Don Hammer
Row 8: Brandon Kinzer, Rob Anderzack
Row 9: Lauren Longbrake
Fourth-starting Matt Westfall avoided early issues up front and dominated the second half of the eight-lapper. Steve Francis grabbed the second spot whlie Chub Frank — minus his driver's side door panel — made a dazzling rally from the tail for the third and final transfer spot. Front-row starters Garrett Alberson and Frank scrapped on the first lap when the polesitting Alberson tried to slid in front of Frank in turn two. Frank was out front for the next start, but he suffered heavy sheetmetal damage and then shredded a left-rear tire on the frontstretch on the second lap, forcing him to the pits. But Frank rallied back and took the final transfer spot from Chris Simpson.
Finish (top three transfer): Matt Westfall, Steve Francis, Chub Frank, Chris Simpson, Tommy Bailey, Jeff Wolfenbarger, Garrett Alberson, Brandon Kinzer.
Doug Drown raced to victory from outside the front row, taking the caution-free win by leading all the way. Steve Casebolt grabbed second early and held it virtually all race long before Dustin Linville sneaked past at the checkers. Those three transferredvictory over Steve Casebolt and Dustin Linville. Polesitter Dale McDowell struggled down low on the first lap and slipped back to finish fourth as the top-dominant surface continued.
Finish (top three transfer): Doug Drown, Dustin Linville, Steve Casebolt, Dale McDowell, Morgan Bagley, Chad Ruhlman, Jason Croft, Don Hammer, Lauren Longbrake.
Outside front-row starter Brandon Sheppard, a preliminary feature winner Thursday, blitzed the field on the first lap and cruised to an easy victory. Fourth-starting Darrell Lanigan was a distant second while sixth-starting Neil Baggett held off Jimmy Mars for the final transfer spot and his first Eldora feature start. Polesitter Kolby Vandenbergh finished sixth in the caution-free heat.
Finish (top three transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Darrell Lanigan, Neil Baggett, Jimmy Mars, Craig Vosbergen, Kolby Vandenbergh, Jason Riggs, Scott Lewis, Rob Anderzack.
R.C. Conley overtook fellow Ohio driver Nick Latham on the third lap and led the rest of the caution-free eight-lapper. Latham couldn't keep up with Conley's high-groove charge while Brian Ruhlman took the third and final transfer spot. Jerry Bowersock was fourth with polesitter Shannon Thornsberry fifth.
Finish (top three transfer): R.J. Conley, Nick Latham, Brian Ruhlman, Jerry Bowersock, Shannon Thornsberry, Wayne Chinn, Austin Smith, Mason Zeigler, Ted Nobbe.
Fourth-starting Jared Landers outran Bobby Pierce on a mid-race restart and cruised to an eight-lap victory where Eldora rookie Alex Ferree crunched the wall while leading midway through the race. Pierce finished second while Doug Sanders got the third and final transfer spot. Ferree started outside the front row and ran the high groove until jumping the turn-one cushion and ending up in a heap, collecting fourth-running Brad Eitinear to make the wreck worse. An earlier caution appeared on the fourth lap when polesitter Brian Rickman, who slipped back to fourth early, spun against the turn-one wall; Shane Unger spun to avoid him. Scott James retired early with engine problems.
Finish (top three transfer): Jared Landers, Bobby Pierce, Doug Sanders, Shane Unger, Cameron Guidi, Alex Ferree, Brad Eitinear, Brian Rickman, Scott James.
In a wild and crazy heat race that left virtually every car damaged, Ricky Weiss led the final five laps after dropping his name off a couple of Christmas card lists. Weiss survived two early tangles to grab the victory while sixth-starting Jeep Van Wormer and polesitter Jason Feger got the other two transfers spots. The wildest wreck came in a turn-two collision among front-row starters Feger and Chase Junghans that sent both of them into the backstretch wall. Two other cautions were triggered by Weiss. On the third lap, the third-running Josh Rice suffered damage after contact with Weiss exiting turn two and spun in turn three. Donald McIntosh, the fast qualifier in the group, slammed the turn-four wall on the second restart after a tail-slap from Weiss. John Mayes spun between turns one and two for a first-lap yellow. Drivers ending up on the hook: Junghans, McIntosh and Mayes.
Finish (top three transfer): Ricky Weiss, Jeep Van Wormer, Jason Feger, Rick Rickman, Josh Rice, Donald McIntosh, John Mayes. Scratched: Randy Weaver.
Randy Weaver failed to record a qualifying lap due to a broken engine that brought an abrupt end to his weekend. He dismissed the possibility of swapping motors to continue competing. “We’re not gonna go through all that to start so far back (in evening heats),” said Weaver, whose weekend began on Thursday with a broken axle and rearend. … Thursday night preliminary feature winner Dale McDowell could only shake his head over the way the track surface slowed down so suddenly after the sun burst through the clouds early in the qualifying session. “It was like night-and-day when that sun came out,” said McDowell, whose fourth-fastest lap earned him a pole starting spot in his heat. “It went from the bottom to the top once that sun started shining.” … Donald McIntosh was the overall fastest qualifier in the second group — exactly one year after he got his first ride in the Blount Motorsports No. 7. The young racer got a last-minute chance to drive the Tennessee-based machine on the final night of last year’s World 100 weekend after Billy Ogle Jr. departed the ride.
Heat race lineups
(Eight laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Jason Feger, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Josh Rice, Donald McIntosh
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 4: Rick Rickman, John Mayes
Row 5: Randy Weaver
Row 1: Brian Rickman, Alex Ferree
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Jared Landers
Row 3: Brad Eitinear, Scott James
Row 4: Doug Sanders, Shane Unger
Row 5: Cameron Guidi
Row 1: Ted Nobbe, Shannon Thornsberry
Row 2: Nick Latham, R.J. Conley
Row 3: Brian Ruhlman, Jerry Bowersock
Row 4: Austin Smith, Wayne Chinn
Row 5: Mason Zeigler
Row 1: Kolby Vandenbergh, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Darrell Lanigan
Row 3: Scott Lewis, Neil Baggett
Row 4: Jason Riggs, Craig Vosbergen
Row 5: Rob Anderzack
Row 1: Dale McDowell, Doug Drown
Row 2: Dustin Linville, Steve Casebolt
Row 3: Don Hammer, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Chad Ruhlman, Jason Croft
Row 5: Lauren Longbrake
Row 1: Garrett Alberson, Chub Frank
Row 2: Steve Francis, Matt Westfall
Row 3: Tommy Bailey, Chris Simpson
Row 4: Brandon Kinzer, Jeff Wolfenbarger
Chris Ferguson flashed his qualifying prowess (he’s set 17 fast-times this year), setting a new track record of 14.866 seconds during the first group. The lap held up as the overall fastest circuit of the 106-car qualifying session.
“I wasn’t really sure where I needed to be on the track,” said Ferguson, who eclipsed Jared Landers’s standard of 14.922 seconds that had stood since June 10, 2011. “A lot of guys were running around the bottom at the start of hot laps and then they started going to the top, so I just went right in the middle.”
The young standout with 11 victories this season had one obvious word when asked to describe the track surface: “Fast.”
“It’s all you can get out there,” added Ferguson, who registered his fourth track record of 2015. “I didn’t come off the mat for two laps.”
Donald McIntosh was the fast qualifier among drivers in the second prelim.
Prelims beginning Saturday morning, combined with Thursday’s preliminary results, will set lineups for Saturday’s heat races, which are scheduled for 7 p.m. …. Prelims will be made up of hot laps, group time trials, 12 heat races, four consolations and a pair of 25-lap features. … There is a minor amendment to the groups posted Friday for the prelims. Rick Rickman of Columbus, Miss., was shifted to the second group from the seventh group, moving a handful of drivers into different groups for time trials (the track is using the incorrect lineups for hot laps, but drivers such as Scott Bloomquist and Josh Richards will be among these moving into different groups for qualifying). … Mostly overcast skies greeted early arrivals this morning as hot laps began about 11 a.m. … The track crew worked long and hard to whip last night’s soupy surface into shape with some of the pack trucks logging as many as 204 miles over seven hours. … Drivers will be gunning for the 14.922-second track record of Jared Landers, a mark set June 10, 2011 for the $100,000-to-win Dream.
Preliminary action at the 45th annual World 100 splits the 106 drivers into two groups running complete programs capped by a 25-lap, $5,000-to-win feature.
The draw split drivers into 12 groups that will hot-lap, time-trial and heat-race together. The odd heats (first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th) will send three drivers apiece into the first feature. The even heats (second, fourth, sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th) will send three drivers apiece into the second feature.
Three drivers apiece from each of consolation race will fill out each 24-car starting field. The first three rows of each preliminary feature will line up heat winners inverted by qualifying time.
A driver’s best combined finish in preliminary programs sets starting positions for Saturday’s six heat races.
Day-long rain that soaked Eldora postponed Friday’s preliminary program to Saturday morning, setting up a doubleheader that will be capped by the weekend’s $48,000-to-win main event.
Gates are scheduled to open at 10 a.m. Saturday with hot laps set for 10:30 a.m. for the split-field program that, combined with finishes from Thursday’s event, will set the lineups for the 7 p.m. heats Saturday night preceding the 100-lapper. Details about the makeup program will be announced Saturday.
Time trials (second prelim; unofficial)
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 15.083
Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 15.142
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.347
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.357
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba, 15.474
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 15.702
Rick Rickman (86), Columbus, Miss., 15.969
John Mayes (96), Clyde, Ohio, 16.860
Randy Weaver (116), Crossville, Tenn., no time
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.118
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.360
Alex Ferree (47), Saxonburg, Pa., 15.479
Brian Rickman (90), Columbus, Miss., 15.799
Brad Eitinear (B4U), Defiance, Ohio, 15.971
Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 15.973
Doug Sanders (42), Belmont, N.C., 16.415
Shane Unger (79), Rossburg, Ohio, 17.111
Cameron Guidi (51), Farmington, Ill., 18.737
R.J. Conley (71c), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 15.423
Wayne Chinn (15), Bradford, Ohio, 15.613
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 15.613
Shannon Thornsberry (17), Martin, Ky., 15.739
Ted Nobbe (9n), Batesville, Ind., 15.775
Jerry Bowersock (95j), Wapakoneta, Ohio, 15.839
Austin Smith (11), Cedartown, Ga., 15.906
Brian Ruhlman (49), Clarklake, Mich., 16.004
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.105
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 15.539
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.637
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.645
Kolby Vandenbergh (15), Ashland, Ill., 15.660
Scott Lewis (99), Henderson, Colo., 15.771
Neil Baggett (86), Shannon, Miss., 15.868
Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill., 15.896
Craig Vosbergen (8), Perth, Western Australia, 15.936
Rob Anderzack (8a), Raymond, Ohio, 17.160
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 15.495
Dustin Linville (D8), Bryantsville, Ky., 15.743
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, 15.758
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.785
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 16.076
Chad Ruhlman (49c), Bemus Point, N.Y., 16.119
Jason Croft (9), Woodstock, Ga., 16.277
Don Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 16.567
Lauren Longbrake (27), Columbus, Ohio, 17.222
Matt Westfall (54), Ludlow Falls, Ohio, 15.635
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.672
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.722
Garrett Alberson (F5), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.829
Tommy Bailey (11), Corbin, Ky., 15.912
Chris Simpson (R5), Oxford, Iowa, 16.262
Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., 16.284
Jeff Wolfenbarger (28), Clinton, Tenn., 16.492
Saturday preliminary schedule
Hot laps (by groups) followed by time trials
• 12 heat races (four-car inversion; eight laps; top three transfer; first and second groups alternate)
• First consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Second consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Third consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Fourth consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• First feature (25 laps; heat winners inverted by qualifying time)
• Second feature (25 laps; heat winners inverted by qualifying time)