GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 8) — Brandon Sheppard’s Thursday night did not get off to a good start. Sustaining heavy damage to his Rocket Chassis house car in a heat race tangle with Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., the New Berlin, Ill., driver and team had to thrash to get the No. 1 machine back out on the track in time for the evening’s first consolation.
Charging past Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., on the final lap of the B-main, Sheppard finished second, securing the final transfer spot to lineup 21st in the feature starting grid. A victory in the 40-lap main event would be no easy feat, but Sheppard proved up to the challenge.
Rallying through the field, Sheppard overtook race leader Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, on lap 22, holding off late-race challenges from polesitter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., for his second Wrisco Industries Winternationals victory of the week at East Bay Raceway Park.
“This last laps, I was having a hard time seeing my signal guy, so I really didn’t know how close they were,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “I swear I kept hearing (Bloomquist) right on my left-rear. We were running pretty hard to get up through there, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if my tires are burnt up, especially as gritted up as that top got there.
“It was another rough night for us really. It started off that way any way. We got into that wreck in the heat race there. My team just never quit on me once again."
Edging ahead of Bloomquist and his fellow front-row starter Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., at the line, it was Owens taking an early lead in Thursday’s feature. But his time at the front of the field would be short-lived, as Bronson shot ahead in turns one and two to lead lap three. When the first yellow flag flew moments later, Owens had slipped back to run in fourth.
With another caution falling when the race went back green, ninth-starting Erb used momentum from the restart to his advantage, powering around the high side to lead lap six. Erb began stretching his lead at lap 10, but when another yellow flag flew on lap 15, Sheppard had already worked his way up through the field to run in fourth.
Charging around the top of the racetrack, Sheppard slid ahead of Erb in turns one and two to lead lap 22. Erb attempted to slide back ahead on the following circuit, but his attempt fell short and he dropped back to finish fifth. Closing in on Sheppard in the final laps, Bloomquist was unable to make a pass for the lead, settling for a runner-up finish at the checkers.
“It was a little bit of tire management there at the end,” Bloomquist said. “We put a little pressure on (Sheppard). I got under him coming off (turn) two and in next corner got a little bit loose. I thought, ‘You better not push your luck here.’ We managed just to stay for second. The car was good. We’ve got a couple little things still to work on. Our points racing starts tomorrow night and the next night, so we should be on our game for those races."
Shooting ahead of Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., on a late-race restart, Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, ran third to notch his second podium finish of the week. Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., came home fourth, while early race leaders Owens and Bronson finished seventh and 11th, respectively.
“This track was really gritty tonight, kind of threw us all a curveball,” Moran said. “I really wasn’t expecting it to do what it did. But we adapted and just slowly crept up through there."
Notes: Sheppard scored his eighth career Lucas Oil Series victory. … The first yellow flag waved on lap four when Boom Briggs spun in turns one and two, collecting Hudson O’Neal, Bobby Pierce and Austin Hubbard; Jason Jameson spun in turn two to draw a caution on the ensuing restart. … Jonathan Davenport slowed to draw a caution on lap 10. … A yellow flag flew on lap 15 when Don O’Neal fell off the pace in turn four. … Billy Moyer Jr. slowed on the backstretch to draw a caution on lap 23. … Another yellow flag waved on lap 32 for debris on the racing surface. … Brian Shirley slowed in the top of turns one and two to draw the final caution on lap 34.
Preliminary notes and results:
Polesitter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., will attempt to win a Winternationals feature for the third consecutive year. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., who was a group fast-timer for the second straight night and finished second to Bloomquist in the first heat, wrenched hard on his cousin Chub Frank’s Club 29 Race Car before Frank’s B-main. Their chassis builder, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., also added input — and Frank proceeded to finish second in the last-chance race, transferring him to the feature in his first East Bay appearance in over a decade. … Frank was one of three drivers who qualified for the feature in their first starts of the 2018 Winternationals, joining heat transfer Dustin Mitchell of Pine Level, N.C., and B-main 2 victor Mike Maresca of Potsdam, N.Y., who registered a preliminary triumph in what was his first-ever visit to East Bay. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., continued his superlative qualifying efforts on Thursday — he was the overall fastest time-trialer and won a heat for the third time in four nights — but acknowledged that he has to parlay the early-night success to evening’s main event. Could this be the night he solves the tight handling condition that has been plaguing him in the features? “I hope so,” he said. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., and his Rocket Chassis house car team had to scramble to get ready for the first B-main after Sheppard’s slap of the outside wall between turns three and four as he tried to avoid the spinning Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., in the second heat left him with a wide assortment of damage. His crew made repairs (panhard bar, broken frame, suspension, body, etc.) in time for B-Shepp to charge from deep in the last-chance field to finish second and make the feature. … Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind., was all smiles after his runner-up finish in the fifth heat moved him into the feature. “We finally finished a race!” exclaimed Jameson, who has been snakebit by bad luck throughout the week. His Rattliff Racing crew chief, Jeff Gullett, seconded Jameson’s statement: “I was nervous … I was wondering what was gonna fall off (the car).” … Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., expressed confidence in his feature prospects after winning Heat 5 to earn the fourth starting spot in the feature. “We came here last year and it was like I never drove a race car before,” he said. “This year we’ve been in the ballpark every night, so we’re just fine-tuning.” He paused, and then added, “This Ford (engine), it digs, and we’re about to show it off.” … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., saw his rough Speedweeks continue when a brake issue just before he was going to line up for qualifying prompted him to scratch from the remainder of the evening’s action. “We just spent the (rest of the) night trying to get a plan together and get organized,” McCreadie said.
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash results
Finish (winner transfers to feature): Austin Hubbard, Doug Drown, Nick Davis, Brent Larson, Travis Stemler, Craig Wolford, Rusty Schlenk, Ryan King, Matt Cosner, Bob Gardner, Joey Moriarty, Freddie Carpenter, Jeff Mathews.
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: Brent Larson, Jeff Mathews
Row 2: Austin Hubbard, Ryan King
Row 3: Doug Drown, Joey Moriarty
Row 4: Greg Oakes, Ryan King
Row 5: Travis Stemler, Nick Davis
Row 6: Freddie Carpenter, Craig Wolford
Row 7: Rance Garlock, Rusty Schlenk
Row 8: Matt Cosner, Coleby Frye
Polesitter Craig Wolford charged to the lead at the drop of the green flag, as Bob Geiger spun in turns three and four to draw a caution on the first lap. Michael Maresca challenged Wolford on the restart, with Geiger spinning in turns one and two to draw another caution on lap two. With Wolford slipping in turns one and two, Marseca took the lead on lap four, with Chub Frank moving into second. With the top-two cars distancing themselves from the field, a three-car battle ensued for the third-place spot between Wolford, Brent Larson and Jeff Mathews. Maresca won the consolation, with Frank grabbing the second and final transfer spot.
Finish (top two transfer): Michael Maresca, Chub Frank, Brent Larson, Jeff Mathews, Bob Gardner, Joey Moriarty, Ryan King, Nick Davis, Craig Wolford, Rusty Schlenk, Mike Benedum, Shane Tankersley, Bob Geiger, Corey Conley.
Polesitter Hudson O’Neal and third-starting Bobby Pierce raced side-by-side in the early running, with Pierce pulling ahead of O’Neal to take the lead on lap three. The pair continued their battle, as O’Neal shot back to the front of the field on lap five. Third-running Jonathan Davenport began charging around the high side at the halfway mark, set to challenge the race leaders when a yellow flag waved on lap eight for Rance Garlock. Powering ahead of O’Neal down the backstretch on the restart, Davenport took the lead on lap nine, leading the final circuits to win the consolation. After starting 11th, Brandon Sheppard slid ahead of O’Neal in turn four on the final lap to run second.
Finish (top two transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, Hudson O’Neal, Bobby Pierce, Austin Hubbard, Doug Drown, Greg Oakes, Travis Stemler, Freddie Carpenter, Rance Garlock, Matt Cosner, Coleby Frye, Tim Dohm, Mason Zeigler, Earl Pearson Jr., Shanon Buckingham.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Hudson O’Neal, Greg Oakes
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Austin Hubbard
Row 3: Rance Garlock, Freddie Carpenter
Row 4: Jonathan Davenport, Travis Stemler
Row 5: Doug Drown, Mason Zeigler
Row 6: Brandon Sheppard, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 7: Shanon Buckingham, Tim Dohm
Row 8: Coleby Frye, Matt Cosner
Row 9: Blake Spencer, Tim McCreadie
Row 1: Craig Wolford, Shane Tankersley
Row 2: Jeff Mathews, Mike Benedum
Row 3: Michael Maresca, Chub Frank
Row 4: Jonathan Rowan, Corey Conley
Row 5: Nick Davis, Brent Larson
Row 6: Joey Moriarty, Bob Gardner
Row 7: Rusty Schlenk, Ryan King
Row 8: Bob Geiger, Byron Meeks
Row 9: Chase Junghans
Front-row starters Josh Richards and Dennis Erb Jr. distanced themselves from the field in the early running, as Jeff Mathews and Dustin Mitchell raced side-by-side for third. With Richards stretching his lead at the halfway mark, Mitchell pulled away from Mathews to run a solid third. Richards won the heat, with Erb and Mitchell rounding out the podium.
Finish (top three transfer): Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., Dustin Mitchell, Jeff Mathews, Chub Frank, Nick Davis, Bob Gardner.
Polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. shot to an early lead, as Jason Jameson, Corey Conley and Shane Tankersley battled three-wide for second. With Moyer pulling away by lap four, Wolford fell back to run in seventh. A yellow flag waved on lap nine when Ryan King spun in turn four while challenging Tankersley for third. Dominating the entire 10-lap distance, Moyer won the heat, with Jameson running second. Morgan Bagley overtook Tankersley on the restart to finish third and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Jameson, Morgan Bagley, Shane Tankersley, Michael Maresca, Corey Conley, Joey Moriarty, Ryan King.
Polesitter Kyle Bronson charged to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, as Brian Shirley zipped past Jonathan Rowan to take second. With Bronson setting a torrid pace out front, the top-two cars began distancing themselves from the field in the early running. Bronson won the heat, with Shirley and Darrell Lanigan transferring to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Kyle Bronson, Brian Shirley, Darrell Lanigan, Craig Wolford, Mike Benedum, Jonathan Rowan, Brent Larson, Rusty Schlenk, Bob Geiger.
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap for a tangle in turns one and two involving Coleby Frye and Devin Moran. The race was brought to a complete restart. Slipping under polesitter Bobby Pierce, Gregg Satterlee pulled ahead to take an early lead as the green flag flew. With Satterlee extending his lead at the halfway mark, Moran advanced from the fifth starting spot to battle Pierce for second. The pair racing side-by-side, Moran overtookk Pierce for the position on lap six. Satterlee won the heat, with Moran finishing second. Timothy Culp edged out Pierce at the line to finish third and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Gregg Satterlee, Devin Moran, Timothy Culp, Bobby Pierce, Freddie Carpenter, Doug Drown, Earl Pearson Jr., Coleby Frye.
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap when polesitter Jimmy Owens spun in turns three and four, collecting Brandon Sheppard and Greg Oakes. With no laps counted, the race was brought to a complete restart. Owens shot to the lead as the race went green, as Brandon Sheppard slipped back to fifth after nearly getting sideways in turns three and four. A second yellow flag flew on lap two when Tim Dohm slowed in turn four with a flat right-rear tire. With Owens maintaining his lead, Sheppard, Don O’Neal and Tyler Erb when three-wide for second on the restart, with Sheppard taking the advantage. Running in second, Sheppard drew a caution on lap six when he slowed on the frontstretch with front-end issues. Owens pulled away late-race to win the heat, with Erb finishing runner-up. O’Neal took the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Jimmy Owens, Tyler Erb, Don O’Neal, Greg Oakes, Rance Garlock, Travis Stemler, Brandon Sheppard, Tim Dohm.
Pulling ahead of fellow front-row starter Scott Bloomquist down the back stretch, polesitter Boom Briggs took an early lead, as a four-car battle ensued for the fourth-place spot. Closing the gap at the halfway mark, Bloomquist slid ahead of Briggs in turn four to lead lap six, as Brandon Overton advanced from the seventh starting spot to run in third. With the pair racing side-by-side, Overton took second from Briggs on lap nine. Bloomquist won the heat, with Overton edging Briggs at the line to finish runner-up.
Finish (top three transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Overton, Boom Briggs, Hudson O’Neal, Austin Hubbard, Jonathan Davenport, Mason Zeigler, Shanon Buckingham, Matt Cosner.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Boom Briggs, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Austin Hubbard, Mason Zeigler
Row 3: Jonathan Davenport, Hudson O’Neal
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Shanon Buckinghma
Row 5: Matt Cosner
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Tim Dohm, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Greg Oakes
Row 4: Rance Garlock, Travis Stemler
Row 5: Blake Spencer
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Gregg Satterlee
Row 2: Freddie Carpenter, Timothy Culp
Row 3: Devin Moran, Coleby Frye
Row 4: Doug Drown, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Tim McCreadie
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Jonathan Rowan
Row 2: Brian Shirley, Craig Wolford
Row 3: Mike Benedum, Darrell Lanigan
Row 4: Rusty Schlenk, Brent Larson
Row 5: Bob Geiger
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Jameson
Row 2: Michael Maresca, Corey Conley
Row 3: Shane Tankersley, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Ryan King, Joey Moriarty
Row 5: Byron Meeks
Row 1: Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Jeff Mathews, Dustin Mitchell
Row 3: Chub Frank, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Nick Davis, Bob Gardner
The superb Winternationals weather continues on Night 4 with overcast skies and high temperatures reaching 80 (though there is a slight chance of rain through early evening for the first time this week). … With the early cancelation of this weekend’s season-opening World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series doubleheader at Georgia’s Screven Motor Speedway, East Bay’s end-of-the-week participation has swelled beyond expectations (it’s a week-high 53 tonight). The eight prospective WoO regulars who planned to leave East Bay have stayed in the pit area and several additional Screven entrants have towed in for Thursday’s action, including Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., Dustin Mitchell of Pine Level, N.C., Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va., and Mike Maresca of Potsdam, N.Y. … Frank’s appearance marks his first at East Bay in over a decade (he owns one career Winternationals win, in 2003) while Schlenk’s visit is his first since 2009 when his visit was punctuated by a blown engine. … Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., retired midway through Wednesday night’s feature because a vibration in his car caused him to fear a serious engine problem, but he found the condition was only due to chattering tires. … Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, barely saw the track Wednesday in his first start of the week in Ernie Norton’s Ocala, Fla.-based Longhorn car, twice suffering a broken fuel pump before deciphering the source of the machine’s problems. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., had to repair much of the rear deck and left-shied bodywork of his 2018 Club 29 Race Car after he was overrun by Mike Benedum of Salem, W.Va., as he slowed early in Wednesday’s feature. He said the right-rear tire of Benedum’s car rode up so high on his mount that it bent Briggs’s window bar. … Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is now working out of his usual stacker trailer after his father, Donnie, and younger brother, Wylie, arrived overnight with the big rig. The hauler was in Tennessee for servicing until earlier this week, forcing Moran to tow to East Bay with Donnie’s smaller conventional enclosed trailer. … Randy Weaver, the manager of Brandon Overton’s Dream racing team, is back at East Bay after making a 12-hour roundtrip Wednesday to pick up the operation’s two fresh Andy Durham-built engines. He rendezvoused near Brunswick, Ga., to get the powerplants, saving him extra hours of travel to Durham’s shop in North Carolina. … Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., pulled out of the East Bay area after breaking his Buick engine in a Wednesday heat, ending his Speedweeks — and his Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year bid — early. … Walker Arthur of Forest, Va., also brought an early end to his East Bay — not due to mechanical trouble, but because he decided to save his open motor for regular-season Super Late Model competition. … Carder Miller of Salem, Va., the 13-year-old Winternationals rookie who made Tuesday night’s feature field, is sitting out Thursday’s action.
The fourth round of East Bay Raceway Park’s Wrisco Industries Winternationals will get under way on Thursday night with the second of two $7,000-to-win events. The program is the final non-points race of the week, with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship chase resuming on Friday night.
In its first three events, East Bay has seen as many winners, with Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., picking up his first career Winternationals victory on Wednesday night. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., and Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., each made trips to victory lane earlier this week.
Thursday’s program will include time trials, six heat races, two consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and the 40-lap main event. The top three finishers from each heat race and top two finishers from each consolation will transfer to the feature. Provisionals (two series, one fast time and the dash winner) will set the final two rows of the feature lineup.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.574
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.586
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.616
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.623
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.641
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 14.663
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 14.668
Tim Dohm (6), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.673
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 14.691
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.699
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 14.712
Timothy Culp (C8), Prattsville, Ark., 14.765
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.818
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 14.832
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 14.885
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.898
Greg Oakes (22), Franklinville, N.Y., 14.965
Coleby Frye (0), Dover, Pa., 14.973
Brandon Overton (116), Evans, Ga., 14.99
Rance Garlock (72), Three Springs, Pa., 15.043
Doug Drown (C02), Wooster, Ohio, 15.213
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.342
Travis Stemler (2), Ionia, Mich., 15.376
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.388
Matt Cosner (66), Ridgeley, W.Va., 15.471
Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., no time
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., no time
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 14.501
Billy Moyer Jr. (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.582
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.617
Jonathan Rowan (56), Jackson, Tenn., 14.628
Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 14.644
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.703
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 14.759
Michael Maresca (7MM), Potsdam, N.Y., 14.807
Jeff Mathews (33), Apollo Beach, Fla., 14.831
Craig Wolford (36), Saint Louisville, Ohio, 14.857
Corey Conley (14), Wellsburg, W.Va., 14.899
Dustin Michell (89), Pine Level, N.C., 14.922
Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 14.947
Shane Tankersley (21), Blue Ridge, Ga., 14.956
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.964
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 14.978
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 15.006
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.008
Rusty Schlenk (91), Weston, Ohio, 15.108
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 15.138
Nick Davis (92), Millsboro, Del., 15.167
Joey Moriarty (51), Peoria, Ariz., 15.326
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 15.472
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 15.472
Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 16.258
Byron Meeks (01), Parkersburg, W.Va., no time