PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (Oct. 15) — Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., made history Saturday night at Portsmouth Raceway Park, becoming one of just seven drivers to capture multiple career victories in the Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima at Portsmouth Raceway Park.
But it was no easy feat for the 23-year-old star to add a second DTWC crown to his 2013 victory.
After advancing forward from the 21st starting spot to take the lead briefly on lap 72, Sheppard charged back ahead of seventh-starting Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., five laps later and led the remaining distance to score a career-richest $100,000 payday for capturing the 100-lap event.
“It’s pretty unbelievable really,” Sheppard said after steering his Best Performance Motorsports Rocket XR1 machine to the checkered flag. “We went with that tire call that I wasn’t real sure of and (crew chief) Randall (Edwards) wasn’t real sure of. We didn’t know how much the track was going to blacken up. We knew there was a little bit of moisture down in the bottom of the track, but, you know me — normally the bottom ain’t my place.
"I just kind of slowed down and kept hitting my marks and found some speed down there, was picking cars off early and just kept up my momentum, and came up through there somehow. The tires hung on. They were really soft tires compared to some of the guys. This place wears tires compared to some places where it just gets hot and blisters them. We just had a really good car tonight.”
Third-starting Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., passed Richards for second on lap 78 and chased Sheppard for the remainder of the distance, but the former DTWC winner was never able to make a serious bid for the lead and finished in the runner-up spot. Richards, who was hampered throughout the race's second half by a bent front bumper, held on to finish third after leading laps 46-71 and 73-76. Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., placed fourth after rallying from a lap-29 pit stop for a left-rear tire change and eighth-starting Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., quietly rounded out the top five.
Starting outside the front row, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag. But Bloomquist, who was seeking his third straight DTWC victory, was overtaken by Richards just short of the halfway mark as the Rocket Chassis house car driver worked around the top side of the racetrack for the lead on lap 46.
Using mid-race restarts to his advantage, Sheppard raced from deep in the field to join the frontrunners. He was challenging Richards for the lead when a yellow flag waved on lap 63.
Sheppard edged ahead of Richards at the line to lead lap 72, only to fall back to second one circuit later. But the race wasn't over. Powering to the inside of Richards down the backstretch, Sheppard shot ahead for good on lap 77 and marched on to pick up his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season.
“I knew I had to kind of make my car pretty wide there," Sheppard said of late-race cautions. "I don’t want to say I was blocking, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for $100,000. I knew Earl (Pearson) was pretty good out there in the middle. He showed me a nose one time whenever me and Josh (Richards) were battling for the lead.
“I saw on the scoreboard that (Pearson) was second and Randall was telling me that that’s where he was running, so I knew I just had to keep up as much speed as I could and just hit my marks and not mess up. I think he was messing with me a little bit because he was showing me not very much of a lead and then the last lap I go by and he showed me a pretty good gap."
The 44-year-old Pearson couldn't quite build up enough speed to offer Sheppard a stiff challenge.
“It does make you feel good to be up here with these guys,” said Pearson, who earned $20,000 as he ended a winless Lucas Oil season on a high note with the Dunn-Benson team. “We had one heck of a race there at one point. It was Brandon, Josh me and Scott and (Don) O’Neal. We were all right there in a wad for a little while … one heck of a race.
“I couldn’t get up there beside (Sheppard) and make him nervous or anything. Those restarts were killing me. If I could have had a long green-flag run, I think I could have got up there and at least raced him a little bit harder. But he did one heck of a job."
After taking an early lead, front end damage slowed Richard's pace, forcing him to settle for a third-place finish at the checkers.
“I just got a little carried away down in the yuke tires,” Richards said. “I was under Scott and I bounced it and I felt (the nose) bend a little bit when I passed him. Once I got that I clipped it one more time. That was it. I knew at that point our race was over. I just had to drive stupid after that and spin the tires and run sideways.
"We had a phenomenal car. It’s all I could ask for. Hats off to Brandon for winning this race again."
Bloomquist, who led laps 1-45, slipped back to fifth place as he struggled with his tire choice. He ultimately relinquished the spot on lap 95 when he stopped on the backstretch to draw a caution flag because he inadvertently hit the master switch on his car's dashboard and killed the engine. The 52-year-old Hall of Famer restarted and finished 11th, but he still stood on the winner's stage after the race as he was honored for capturing his third career Lucas Oil Series championship, which he had clinched before even entering the weekend's action.
The race was slowed by 12 caution flags, the vast majority for cars slowing or stopping on the track. The only notable incident came on a lap-27 restart when Nick Hoffman of Mooresburg, Tenn., spun in turn two and was clipped by 2016 Lucas Oil rookie of the year Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa., leaving both cars with body damage.
Other drivers who triggered yellow-flag conditions included Stephen Breeding (lap five); Dennis Erb Jr. (lap 14); Tyler Carpenter (lap 27); Jimmy Owens (lap 28 while running fourth); Jason Covert (;ap 30); Steve Francis (lap 51); Rick Eckert (lap 63); Jonathan Davenport (lap 67); Don O’Neal (lap 92 due to a flat tire while running fourth); and Bloomquist (lap 95).
Notes: Sheppard recorded his fourth career triumph on the Lucas Oil Series. Two have come in the DTWC. ... Sheppard's second DTWC triumph put him on the race's multiple-time winners' list alongside Freddy Smith (five), Bloomquist (three), Jack Boggs (three), Billy Moyer (two), Ronnie Johnson (two) and Shannon Babb (two). ... Sheppard also clinched a career-high fourth-place finish in the tour's points standings. ... Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., fell short of a second consecutive Lucas Oil title but placed second in the points standings despite never seriously contending in the DTWC feature. He finished 15th after running into trouble during the race's second half; he pitted on lap 63 and slowed to bring out a caution flag on lap 67. ... Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., secured a third-place points finish in his first season as a Lucas Oil regular after crossing the finish line in ninth.
36th annual Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, finish, chassis, earnings
1. Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., Rocket, $100,000
2. Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., Longhorn, $20,000
3. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., Rocket, $10,000
4. Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., Rocket, $7,000
5. Darrell Lanigan (15), Union, Ky., Club 29, $5,000
6. Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., Club 29, $3,500
7. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, Barry Wright, $3,200
8. Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, Swartz, $3,000
9. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $2,800
10. Rod Conley (71R), Wheelersburg, Ohio, Rocket, $2,500
11. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Sweet-Bloomquist, $2,450
12. Tyler Carpenter (28c), Parkersburg, W.Va., Kryptonite, $2,400
13. Rick Eckert (7V), York, Pa., Longhorn, $2,350
14. Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., Rocket, $2,300
15. Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $2,250
16. Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., Longhorn, $2,200
17. Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., Sweet-Bloomquist, $2,150
18. Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., Black Diamond, $2,100
19. Dustin Linville (d8), Bryantsville, Ky., Swartz, $2,075
20. Nick Bocook (1b), Wheelersburg, Ohio, Swartz, $2,060
21. Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., Rocket, $2,050
22. Chris Ferguson (22), Mt. Holly, N.C., Rocket, $2,040
23. Jason Covert (72), York Haven, Pa., Rocket, $2,030
24. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $2,020
25. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., Black Diamond, $2,010
26. R.J. Conley (71c), Wheelersburg, Ohio, Rocket, $2,000
27. Stephen Breeding (5b), Isom, Ky., Rocket, $2,000
28. Jackie Boggs (4b), Grayson, Ky., Swartz, $2,000
Heat race winners (among 80 cars): Boggs, Rod Conley, Richards, Bloomquist, Brandon Fouts, McDowell (2), Eckert, Hoffman, Drown, Billy Gullion, Carpenter, McCreadie, Satterlee, Pearson, Chub Frank
Consolation winners: Wells, Linville, R.J. Conley
Provisional starters: McCreadie, Erb, Flinner, Boggs, Bocook
Non-qualifiers’ race winner: Moran
Lap leaders: Bloomquist (1-45); Richards (46-71); Sheppard (72); Richards (73-76); Sheppard (77-100)
Blog-style reports and Saturday's preliminaries:
Main event notes
Lap 100: Sheppard scores his second career DTWC victory.
Lap 95: Fifth-running Bloomquist stops on the backstretch to draw a caution.
Lap 93: Fifth-running Don O'Neal slows with a left-rear flat.
Lap 85: Sheppard leads Pearson, Richards, O'Neal and Bloomquist.
Lap 77: Powering ahead down the backstretch, Sheppard retakes the lead, as Richards falls to third.
Lap 73: Richards pulls back ahead with Sheppard and Pearson challenging.
Lap 72: Sheppard edges Richards at the line for the lead.
Lap 67: A yellow flag waves as Jonathan Davenport stops on the backstretch, with Eric Wells slowing in turn four.
Lap 63: Just as Sheppard pulled ahead of Richards at the line to take the lead, Eckert slows in turn four to draw a caution. Richards leads Sheppard, Bloomquist, Pearson and O'Neal.
Lap 51: Steve Francis slows to draw a caution. Richards leads Bloomquist, Sheppard, Pearson and McDowell. Starting at the tail of the field, Devin Moran runs in ninth.
Lap 46: Working around the high side, Richards pulls ahead of Bloomquist to take the lead.
Lap 40: In a side-by-side battle for the lead, Richards nearly pulls ahead of Bloomquist, but the race leader holds his position across the line.
Lap 30: A yellow flag waves when Jason Covert slows in turn two. Bloomquist leads Richards, Sheppard, Pearson and McDowell.
Lap 28: As Richards begins challenging Bloomquist for the lead, Owens slows in turn four for a caution. Brandon Sheppard has improved from the 21st starting spot to run sixth.
Lap 27: Nick Hoffman spins in turn two to draw a caution on the restart.
Lap 27: A yellow flag waves when Tyler Carpenter slows in turn two. Richards has passed McDowell for third.
Lap 25: The front of the field approaches lapped traffic. Bloomquist leads Pearson, McDowell, Richards and Owens. Don O'Neal has improved from the 16th starting spot to run seventh.
Lap 14: Dennis Erb slows down the backstretch to draw a caution. Bloomquist leads Pearson, McDowell, Owens and Richards.
Lap 10: Pearson begins reeling in Bloomquist, as Josh Richards challenges Jimmy Owens for the fourth-place spot.
Lap five: The first yellow flag waves as Jackie Boggs and Stephen Breeding pull in to the infield. Bloomquist leads Earl Pearson Jr., Dale McDowell, Rick Eckert and Jimmy Owens.
Lap one: Scott Bloomquist pulls ahead to lead the opening lap.
11:21 p.m.: With introductions complete, drivers are given the call to fire engines and begin rolling off for pace laps.
11:03 p.m.: Feature cars begin making their way on to the frontstretch for driver introductions.
Jim Dunn Memorial results
Finish: Devin Moran, Zack Dohm, Bobby Pierce, Matt Irey, Corey Conley, Jason Feger, Mason Zeigler, Eddie Carrier, Boom Briggs, Ryan Markham, Michael Meyers, Steve Prince, Cameron Logan, Chris Hackett, Craig Wolford, Ben Adkins, Chub Frank, Dave Hornikel, Lee Logan, Robbie Scott, Billy Gullion, Brandon Fouts, Jason Jameson
Jim Dunn Memorial non-qualifiers’ lineup
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Chub Frank
Row 2: Robbie Scott, Jason Feger
Row 3: Matt Irey, Devin Moran
Row 4: Zack Dohm, Craig Wolford
Row 5: Ryan Markham, Michael Meyers
Row 6: Chris Hackett, Ben Adkins
Row 7: Billy Gullion, Boom Briggs
Row 8: Eddie Carrier Jr., Cameron Logan
Row 9: Steve Prince, Lee Logan
Row 10: Greg Johnson, Billy Staker
Row 11: Mason Zeigler, Dave Hornikel
Row 12: Jason Jameson, Corey Conley
Row 13: Steve Stollings, Brandon Fouts
Sliding ahead of polesitter Jackie Boggs in turn four, fellow front row starter R.J. Conley shot to the front of the field to take the lead on the first lap. A yellow flag waved on lap two for Chris Hackett. Steve Stollings drew a caution on the ensuing restart when he nearly bicycled in turn one. Boggs slipped to fourth as the race went back green, with Steve Francis and Corey Conley battling for the runner-up spot. A yellow flag flew on lap five for a turn four tangle involving Austyn Mills and Andrew Reaume. Making contact with Boggs on the restart, Corey Conley slowed on the backstretch to draw a caution. Another yellow flag waved on the ensuing restart, with Ethan Burgess spinning in turns one and two and Greg Johnson slowing on the backstretch. Francis began reeling in R.J. Conley at the halfway mark, with Stollings slowing to draw a caution on lap 11. A yellow flag flew on lap 14 for Erick Christian. Conley led the remaining laps to win the third consolation, with Francis taking the second transfer spot.
Finish (top two transfer): R.J. Conley, Steve Francis, Robbie Scott, Matt Irey, Craig Wolford, Chris Hackett, Boom Briggs, Steve Prince, Erick Christian, Greg Johnson, Ethan Burgess, Jackie Boggs, Dennis Erb Jr., Austyn Mills, Delmas Conley. Scratched: Steve Casebolt, Evyian Terry
Outside polesitter Dustin Linville charged to an early lead, as polesitter Billy Gullion fought back challenges from Chub Frank for the runner-up spot. A yellow flag waved on lap three as Mason Zeigler pulled his smoking No. 25Z off the racetrack. With Linville holding his lead, another yellow flag flew on lap nine. Billy Gullion spun on the ensuing restart, collecting Michael Lake and Billy Staker to draw a caution. With Linville continuing to lead, Frank and third-starting Brandon Sheppard battled for the runner-up spot at the halfway mark. Jason Jameson slowed with a flat tire to draw a caution on lap 12. With the turns one and two lights going out as the yellow flag waved, the race was delayed roughly a half hour. The race was slowed as it went back green for a backstretch tangle involving Zack Dohm, Dave Hornikel and Staker. Linville won the consolation, with Sheppard running second to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top two transfer): Dustin Linville, Brandon Sheppard, Chub Frank, Colton Flinner, Zack Dohm, Michael Meyers, Billy Gullion, Cameron Logan, Jason Jameson, Dave Hornikel, Billy Staker, Danny Wilson, Michael Lake, Jacob Curnutte, Mason Zeigler, Nick Bocook. Scratched: Shannon Babb, Shon Flanary, Hudson O’Neal, Tyler Erb, Jason Montgomery
Front row starter Eddie Carrier Jr. slipped back to mid-field on the opening lap, with a yellow flag waving for a turn-four tangle involving Russ Frohnapel and Matthew Chapman. On the move were Devin Moran and Bobby Pierce, with ninth-starting Moran improving to fourth, while Pierce picked off several cars after a flat tire forced him to start at the rear of the field. Polesitter Eric Wells held his lead as the race went back green, with another yellow flag waving on lap five for debris on the racetrack. Continuing his charge, Pierce had moved in to the seventh position when the caution fell. Another yellow flag flew on the ensuing restart when Kirk Phillips slowed on the backstretch. Wells began stretching his lead mid-race, as Stephen Breeding and Brandon Overton battled for the runner-up spot. Off the pace on lap 15, third-running Overton retired early, giving Pierce the position. Wells picked up the consolation win, with Breeding grabbing the final transfer spot.
Finish (top two transfer): Eric Wells, Stephen Breeding, Bobby Pierce, Devin Moran, Jason Feger, Ryan Markham, Ben Adkins, Eddie Carrier Jr., Lee Logan, Brandon Overton, John Melvin, Matthew Chapman, Tim McCreadie, Kirk Phillips, Colton Burdette, Byron Meeks, Brandon Fouts, Russ Frohnapel. Scratched: Brad Malcuit, Tim Dohm, Chris Combs
After a cool night of racing for qualifying, Saturday has brought unseasonably warm fall conditions. The high temperature has risen into the upper 70s and temps aren’t expected to drop lower than 60 until after midnight. … Among the 16 drivers locked into the 100-lapper following Friday’s qualifying, four — Tyler Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., Chris Ferguson of Mt. Holly, N.C., and Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C. — will make their first career starts in the DTWC feature. Two more qualified drivers — Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., and Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio — will take the green flag in the century grind for the second time (both started the 2014 event). … Former DTWC winner Rick Eckert of York, Pa., will make his 17th career start in the crown jewel event but only his second since the race was relocated to Portsmouth. His previous PRP appearance came last year when he finished 17th. … Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, faces the challenge of charging forward from the ninth starting spot in the first B-Main after dropping out of his first heat on Friday because his car lost fuel pressure. He made repairs to come back and run the second preliminary. … Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., struggled in last year’s DTWC and struggled again in Friday night’s heat races — though he still managed to accumulate enough points to land the 12th starting spot for the 100. “We sucked … we just got lucky (to lock in),” he said. “I felt like I had (hard) 55s on out there. I just couldn’t get any grip.” Davenport noted that he’s “never been really good here,” which makes his victory in the track’s Sept. 3 Lucas Oil Series event especially unthinkable to him. “I really don’t how we ended up winning that,” he said with a laugh. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., unloaded his backup car for a second-round heat Friday night after his primary machine was sidelined by terminal motor problems in the first prelim. He was running second when something kicked up by another car smashed into the nose of his vehicle, punching a hole in the bodywork and shoving the radiator into the fan. … Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., headed home after experiencing two rough heat outings on Friday night. His machine sustained significant body damage in the first heat after a scrape with Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., sent him spinning in turn turn (Sheppard conceded that he triggered the problems by pushing in mud on the bottom of the track), and Casebolt dropped out of the second heat due to a blown right-rear tire. … Lucas Oil Series officials released the national tour’s 2017 schedule during Saturday night’s drivers’ meeting. The slate includes 53 events at 35 tracks in 22 states.
(20 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Eric Wells, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Ben Adkins
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Stephen Breeding, Colten Burdette
Row 5: Devin Moran, Brandon Fouts
Row 6: Ryan Markham, Brad Malcuit
Row 7: Jason Feger, John Melvin
Row 8: Tim Dohm, Russ Frohnapfel
Row 9: Matthew Chapman, Byron Meeks
Row 10: Lee Logan, Kirk Phillips
Row 11: Chris Combs
Row 1: Billy Gullion, Dustin Linville
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Chub Frank
Row 3: Jason Jameson, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Zack Dohm, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Michael Meyers, Shannon Babb
Row 6: Shon Flanary, Dave Hornikel
Row 7: Cameron Logan, Nick Bocook
Row 8: Hudson O’Neal, Jacob Curnutte
Row 9: Michael Lake, Tyler Erb
Row 10: Billy Staker, Jason Montgomery
Row 11: Danny Wilson
Row 1: Jackie Boggs, R.J. Conley
Row 2: Steve Francis, Matt Irey
Row 3: Ethan Burgess, Corey Conley
Row 4: Greg Johnson, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 5: Andrew Reaume, Austyn Mills
Row 6: Shannon Thornsberry, Delmas Conley
Row 7: Craig Wolford, Boom Briggs
Row 8: Robbie Scott, Erick Christian
Row 9: Chris Hackett, Steve Stollings
Row 10: Steve Casebolt, Steve Prince
Row 11: Evyian Terry
Lucas Oil Series action continues at Portsmouth Raceway Park on Saturday night with the conclusion of the 36th annual Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship. The evening’s race lineups have already been determined by the double round of heat race preliminaries contested on Friday night.
The top 16 drivers in Friday’s combined passing points totals are already locked in to Saturday’s 100-lap feature. Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and defending DTWC winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., will make up the front row of the $100,000-to-win crown jewel event.
Saturday’s program will include three consolation races, with the top two finishers from each race transferring to the feature. The show will also include the Jim Dunn Memorial non-qualifiers’ race paying $3,000 to win and a $4,000-to-win modified feature.
Saturday's drivers' meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. with the first B-Main scheduled to get the green flag at 7 p.m.