OCALA, Fla. (Feb. 19) — Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., put the punctuation mark on a wild Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature, blasting around the outside of Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., on the final circuit to win a 50-lap thriller Sunday night at Bubba Raceway Park.
Sheppard was sitting third on a lap-48 restart, but when both Bloomquist and second-place Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., left the inside open, B-Shepp swung to the top and powered past them both for a $10,000 triumph. The 24-year-old beat Bloomquist, who led the first lap and laps 21-49, to the finish line by 0.264 of a second.
“I guess I played my cards just right on that one,” Sheppard said after his second Lucas Oil Series triumph of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks 2017, “and we had a little luck on our side too.”
Erb, who was pressuring Bloomquist for the lead when the caution flag flew on lap 48 for the slowing car of Martinsville, Ind.’s Hudson O'Neal, settled for third place. Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., placed fourth after starting seventh and climbing as high as second and Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfurt, Ill., who reached second place on lap 36 after starting 16th, finished fifth.
Sheppard, who started 11th in the Rocket Chassis house car, didn’t crack the top five until lap 29. It then took him until lap 43 to position himself in third place.
When Erb caught Bloomquist on lap 46 to begin bidding for the lead, Sheppard was several car lengths behind. The lap-48 caution flag, however, gave Sheppard the reprieve he needed to mount a final, go-for-broke charge.
After watching Heckenast use the outside lane to vault from seventh place to second in a stirring span of five circuits following a lap-31 restart, Sheppard’s eyes were opened to a new strategy that he used to his advantage.
“The later the race went on, I was trying to save my tire and run around that bottom because the top was too crumby,” Sheppard said. “And then here comes Frankie blowing past me, and I’m like, ‘Whew!’
“I think he just showed me that the top was starting to clean up a little bit — especially after the cautions. We could pack that top in and it was just that much better for like three laps right off the get-go.”
But did Sheppard think both Bloomquist, 53, and Erb, 44, would dive to the inside of the 3/8-mile, D-shaped oval in turn one when the green flag flew on lap 48 and clear the high side for him?
“No, negative,” Sheppard related. “Scott was running the top and Erb about had Scott passed on the bottom before that caution came out. I was thinking that Scott was gonna go back to the top, but they must not have been paying attention to where I was at.
“Fortunately, they both just went to the bottom and left that lane open for me, and when I seen that, I just put it on the mat. That’s all I could do.”
Sheppard surged ahead of Erb at the start/finish as the white flag waved. He proceeded to use every bit of horsepower in his Andy Durham-built engine to overtake Bloomquist on the final lap.
“It’s really slippery there (through turns three and four), so I knew I had to beat him to the (third) corner,” Sheppard said of the last circuit. “If I didn’t beat him to the corner there was no way I was gonna beat him, so I just drove off into one and never lifted until I got down to three. Luckily we were just a nose ahead of him and I was able to chop him down a little bit and just barely edge him (at the checkered flag).”
“I guess you could say it’s an honor to be able to beat (Bloomquist) like that,” he added. “It’s an honor to be able to beat him in general, but when you beat him on the last lap for the win at a Lucas race, it means a lot to you.”
Sheppard noted that the 53-year-old Bloomquist offered him a congratulatory handshake in victory lane, but he didn’t engage in a lengthy conversation.
“He just said good job,” said Sheppard, who recorded his sixth career Lucas Oil Series win. “He’s a man of few words … when that happens.”
Indeed, Bloomquist wasn’t in the most talkative of moods following his bitter defeat. He answered questions but brought a post-race interview to an abrupt end with a succinct summation of his fate.
While Bloomquist did acknowledge that his car began to give up late in the race — he said the old tire he ran “didn’t go as good as what I expected” — his biggest problem was the groove he chose following the final restart.
“We were running up high (before the caution), and really, we should’ve stayed up high in (turns) one and two,” Bloomquist said. “That was really the faster lane. The first lap I got down there (on the inside) and I was like, ‘I don’t think that felt as good.’ But we just thought, Well, maybe that’s the only groove. But again, should’ve stayed on the top.
“I heard (Sheppard) a little bit, and then when I saw him (on the outside entering turn three) I didn’t know if he could actually stick it. He got in a little hot and run out of track coming off … and I took it in with him, though, was the problem. I should’ve really just checked up and let him slide up there and about hit the fence off of four there. I was up too high to avoid him. If I would’ve just checked up and come off real low we probably could’ve still got him back.
“But you know,” he concluded, “s— happens.”
Erb, meanwhile, thought the race might have been his if the caution light didn’t blink on with two laps remaining.
“I think we were were gonna have a good race between me and Scott there, but for some reason the caution come out,” said Erb, who started sixth. “I haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t know what the caution was for … that kind of screwed us up.
“But the way this has been going, to come home with a third, I’m happy with that. We had a good car. We were struggling a lot with this new (Black Diamond) car, but after four nights with it we brought my other car out for a couple nights and we went back to this one tonight and made a lot of changes. I think we’re making some gains.”
Early in the race, it appeared that Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was primed to register his third win of the young Lucas Oil campaign. The race’s polesitter grabbed the lead from fellow front-row starter Bloomquist on lap two and set the pace until lap 20 when, while amidst heavy lapped traffic, the slower car driven by Bob Gardner of East Peoria, Ill., spun in front of Richards in turn four.
Both Richards and second-place runner Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., were left with nowhere to go. Richards hit Gardner’s car and spun around, while O’Neal clobbered both machines and had his car’s rearend bounce high into the air before coming to rest on all four wheels. The three cars came to rest in a heap and a red flag was thrown.
Richards was able to continue and salvage a 10th-place finish after pitting for nosepiece damage to his Best Performance Motorsports car, while O’Neal was towed off with heavy front-end damage and scored 25th in the rundown.
Four caution flags slowed the event. The first came on lap eight when G.R. Smith of Cornelius, N.C., spun in turn two. Subsequent yellows were needed on lap 25 when Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, stopped on the homestretch; lap 31 when Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky., spun in turn four; and lap 48 when teenager Hudson O’Neal, who had pitted on lap 31 while running sixth, slowed sufficiently for a caution call.
An early contender who ran into trouble was Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who relinquished second place when he pitted with a soft left-rear tire when the caution lights came back on following the lap-20 red flag.
Preliminary results and notes:
Kyle Bronson powered by Bob Gardner for the lead early in the race and went to win by 1.597 seconds over Austin Hubbard, who passed Gardner for second with two laps remaining. Gardner grabbed the final transfer spot over his brother, John Gardner Jr.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Kyle Bronson, Austin Hubbard, Bob Gardner, John Gardner Jr., Coleby Frye, Jason Jameson, Shan Smith, Doug Drown, Pancho Lawler, Timothy Culp, Colton Flinner (DNS) Tyler Clem, Austin Kirkpatrick, Tyler Carpenter.
Jonathan Davenport led all the way to defeat Tim McCreadie, who finished 0.547 of a second behind the victor after overtaking Kenny Pettyjohn for second late in the distance. Pettyjohn claimed the final transfer spot while Dale Hollidge fell one position short after pitting early in the race.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Tim McCreadie, Kenny Pettyjohn, Dale Hollidge, Gregg Satterlee, Morgan Bagley, Brent Larson, Corey Conley, Jared Miley, Austin Rettig (DNS) Darrell Lanigan, Steve Francis, Larry Baer, Steve Casebolt.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 2: Gregg Satterlee, Dale Hollidge
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Jared Miley
Row 4: Steve Casebolt, Corey Conley
Row 5: Morgan Bagley, Brent Larson
Row 6: Darrell Lanigan, Steve Francis
Row 7: Austin Rettig, Larry Baer
Row 1: Bob Gardner, Kyle Bronson
Row 2: Doug Drown, Austin Hubbard
Row 3: John Gardner Jr., Coleby Frye
Row 4: Jason Jameson, Shan Smith
Row 5: Timothy Culp, Colton Flinner
Row 6: Pancho Lawler, Freddie Carpenter
Row 7: Austin Kirkpatrick, Tyler Clem
Hudson O'Neal shot into the lead on lap eight when race-long pacesetter Austin Hubbard slid sideways between turns one and two and nearly stopped; Hubbard fell all the way back to sixth in the finishing order. Tyler Erb finished second, followed by G.R. Smith and Frank Heckenast Jr. Freddie Carpenter brought out the race's lone caution flag, slowing in turn four on lap five.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Hudson O'Neal, Tyler Erb, G.R. Smith, Frank Heckenast Jr., Kyle Bronson, Austin Hubbard, Coleby Frye, Shan Smith, Colton Flinner, Freddie Carpenter (DNS) Tyler Clem.
Scott Bloomquist ran away with the prelim, outdistancing Dennis Erb Jr. by a commanding margin of 2.966 seconds. Floridians Jason Fitzgerald and Ivedent Lloyd Jr. claimed the final transfer spots.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr., Jason Fitzgerald, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Bob Gardner, Doug Drown, John Gardner Jr., Jason Jameson, Timothy Culp, Pancho Lawler, Austin Kirkpatrick.
Jimmy Owens led all the way, beating Earl Pearson Jr. to the finish line by 0.542 of a second. Brandon Sheppard was a fast-closing third and Donald McIntosh wasa distant fourth. Steve Francis brought out a caution flag on lap three, slowing on the backstretch with a flat left-front tire after contact with Sheppard.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Sheppard, Donald McIntosh, Kenny Pettyjohn, Dale Hollidge, Jared Miley, Corey Conley, Brent Larson, Steve Francis (DNS) Larry Baer.
Josh Richards dominated the action, leading the entire distance and beating Don O'Neal to the finish line by 2.114 seconds. Boom Briggs was a distant third and Chub Frank turned back Jonathan Davenport's last-lap challenge to place fourth. A caution flag flew on lap one after Darrell Lanigan bounced off Steve Casebolt's passing car and slapped the turn-three wall; his car spun around and he limped off with his right-front wheel bent outward and not turning.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Josh Richards, Don O'Neal, Boom Briggs, Chub Frank, Jonathan Davenport, Gregg Satterlee, Tim McCreadie, Steve Casebolt, Morgan Bagley, Darrell Lanigan (DNS) Austin Rettig.
Bubba Raceway Park, which is owned by well-known radio show host Bubba (The Love Sponge) Clem, is the third track to host a Lucas Oil Series event during Georgia-Florida Speedweeks 2017. … Bubba’s 14-year-old son, Tyler Clem, made his first-ever Lucas Oil start last year at BRP and is ready for action again tonight. … The 44-car field is up significantly from last year’s 26-car turnout. … Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who won last year’s Lucas Oil event at BRP, will attempt a repeat performance driving the Barry Wright house car. … The Lucas Oil regular who has enjoyed the most success at BRP is Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who won at least one World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series or UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature at the track each year from 2010-15. … Other Lucas Oil Series travelers who have reached victory lane at BRP are points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va. (WoO A-mains in 2012, ’13 and ’15) and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind. (2011 UMP event). … Ten drivers who competed in the Friday-Saturday WoO action at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., are in tonight’s field, including prospective WoO regulars Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. (a ’14 WoO winner at BRP), Frank Heckenast Jr. of Shinnston, W.Va. (a ’15 WoO victor at BRP ), Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas (Saturday’s runner-up at Screven), Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, and Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., as well as Ocala’s own Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Dale Hollidge of Mechanicsville, Md., and Coleby Frye of Dover, Pa. … Hollidge originally planned to run only Screven during his first-ever Speedweeks attempt, but he decided to extend his trip one more day with the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday. … Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., is back in Speedweeks action after returning to his Blount Motorsports team’s shop following last Sunday’s UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned event at North Florida Speedway in Lake City to put a new rear clip on his car (he damaged it in a wreck last weekend at Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway). He plans to stay in Florida for the remainder of the week to compete for the first time at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., is driving the car that was sidelined during Friday night’s heat action at East Bay Raceway Park due to a broken crank trigger. ... Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind., is behind the wheel of Kentucky racer Justin Rattliff's No. 16.
After a Saturday-night rainout at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., ended the Wrisco Industries Winternationals in quiet fashion, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series shifts an hour-and-a-half to the northeast to close its Georgia-Speedweeks action with a visit to Bubba Raceway Park. The 3/8-mile, D-shaped track has hosted the Lucas Oil Series for the first time in 2016 after presenting World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series programs during Speedweeks for the previous four years.
Sunday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations and a 50-lap main event. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Josh Richards, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Boom Briggs, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Chub Frank, Steve Casebolt
Row 5: Darrell Lanigan, Morgan Bagley
Row 6: Austin Rettig
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Donald McIntosh
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Kenny Pettyjohn, Steve Francis
Row 4: Jared Miley, Dale Hollidge
Row 5: Brent Larson, Corey Conley
Row 6: Larry Baer
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Jason Fitzgerald, Austin Kirkpatrick
Row 3: Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Bob Gardner
Row 4: Doug Drown, John Gardner Jr.
Row 5: Jason Jameson, Timothy Culp
Row 6: Pancho Lawler
Row 1: Austin Hubbard, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Hudson O’Neal
Row 3: Coleby Frye, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: G.R. Smith, Shan Smith
Row 5: Tyler Clem, Freddie Carpenter
Row 6: Colton Flinner
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.290
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.412
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.444
Donald McIntosh (7M), Dawsonville, Fla., 14.505
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.517
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.521
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.527
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 14.565
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.567
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 14.580
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 14.621
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., 14.640
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.644
Jared Miley (H1), South Park, Pa., 14.693
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 14.700
Dale Hollidge (0H), Mechanicsville, Md., 14.770
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 14.811
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 14.912
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 14.996
Corey Conley (14), Wellsburg, W.Va., 15.065
Larry Baer (0B), Dover, Pa., no time
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., no time
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.171
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 14.308
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.32
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 14.427
Jason Fitzgerald (7F), Middleburg, Fla., 14.443
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 14.481
Austin Kirkpatrick (11), Ocala, Fla., 14.530
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.552
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21L), Ocala, Fla., 14.589
Coleby Frey (0v), Dover, Pa., 14.655
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 14.670
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 14.72
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, 14.747
G.R. Smith (22*), Cornelius, N.C., 14.810
John Gardner Jr. (38c), Germantown Hills, Ill., 14.960
Shan Smith (17), Dade City, Fla., 14.969
Jason Jameson (16), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 14.997
Tyler Clem (14T), St. Petersburg, Fla., 15.049
Timothy Culp (c81), Prattsville, Ark., 15.053
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.150
Pancho Lawler (93v), Hanover, Pa., 15.289
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 15.388