BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Brandon Sheppard turned in a most workmanlike effort at the 47th annual DIRTcar Nationals. In fact, his drive to secure his season’s first World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory was every bit a mirror image of his weeklong performance at Volusia Speedway Park.
It wasn’t flashy. But it was pretty darn effective.
Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill., led the final 37 laps of Saturday’s DIRTcar Nationals finale. Along the way, the reigning series champion had to turn back charges from a trio of drivers. Mike Marlar, Rick Eckert and Chris Madden threw all they had at Sheppard, who managed to fend them off one at a time en route to his first series victory of 2018.
The victory capped a five-race week at VSP during which Sheppard also recorded finishes of 13th on Monday; 12th on Wednesday; second on Thursday; and fifth on Friday. The final four races were World of Outlaws-sanctioned events.
Though Sheppard was dogged throughout Saturday’s main event by a host of would-be challengers, it was Madden who emerged late. Looking for his second career Winternationals victory at Volusia, Madden, of Gray Court, S.C., continued his solid 2018 Speedweeks with a runner-up finish. He got to within a car length of Sheppard before finishing just .306 of a second back.
Malar, of Winfield, Tenn., finished third, while Eckert of York, Pa., finished fourth after starting 18th. Josh Richards, piloting his father Mark’s second Rocket Chassis house car entry, completed the top five.
“I usually struggle here. It’s just a tricky place for me it seems like,” said Sheppard after collecting his second ever win at Volusia. “We keep getting better every time we come back. I just want to think my team for never giving up on me. Hat’s off to Mark Richards and Steve Baker for giving me this ride and Dan, Austin and Joel and all the guys that help on this thing. It’s a real pleasure to drive.”
Sheppard took the lead on lap 14 after pulling even with Marlar as they raced down the backstretch. He completed the pass with a slider off of turn four. He then had to deal with a bevy of cautions that slowed the pace and seemingly a different challenger after each yellow flag.
“I’ll be honest, the last five or 10 laps there I didn’t know where the heck I needed to be,” said Sheppard. “I was kinda trying to keep my speed up. That’s probably one of my biggest flaws for here, is figuring out where I needed to be at to keep my speed up. Right as soon as I though I got turn one and two figured out, I’d start bouncing around through the holes and get almost messed up, like I did the last lap and almost gave it away.”
While Marlar never slowed in his chase, he did give up the second spot to Eckert on lap 26 as the 2011 series champion mounted a bid for the lead. Eckert never managed to lead a lap, however, as Marlar went back by and again began to look inside Sheppard.
Marlar finally nosed ahead in turn two on lap 38, but a caution for Michael Norris negated the pass and restored Sheppard’s lead.
“It was a tough was to lose one for sure,” said Marlar. “It just didn’t work out for me or Rick or Chris. Congratulations to Brandon. Things shook out and he got it. He was good. There mid-race, early in the race he was really good and then later I kinda came on. And Chris was getting real good toward the end. It was an awesome race. I hope the fans enjoyed it. It was the end of a fun week.
(We were) down here in (unfamiliar) territory. We figured it out and that says a lot about my team. We started off struggling pretty good. We were gettin’ it put to us early in the week but we got it got it figured out.”
Like Sheppard’s solid weeklong performance, Madden put together a great week as well, winning the DIRTcar Nationals championship during the stay at Volusia. He had three runner-up finishes. If not for some ill-timed cautions, Madden could’ve possibly won both Friday and Saturday. He said he would’ve had a better shot at Sheppard if he had longer caution-free runs.
“Them dad-gum cautions just killed us,” Madden said. “I was the only one out there on hard tires and we were looking for a longer green flag run than what we (got). But overall, we’re just super happy with what we’ve come down here and did this week. We had a lot of doubters out there. A lot of people said we couldn’t do it. But we’ve come down here and had an excellent week.”
Madden got one final shot, but when Sheppard bobbled slightly on the final circuit, he wasn’t quite close enough to capitalize.
“In (turns) three and four I found a pretty comfortable line then I slipped up there on the last lap in (turns) one and two and that kinda screwed up my three and four entry … kind of a bad lap there on the last lap,” said Sheppard. “Luckily we had a good enough lead that we hung on to it.”
Notes: Sheppard now has 25 career WoO victories, ninth on the all-time win list. … There have been four different winners in the first four World of Outlaws series races. The series had six winners in a row to start 2017 season. … The race had three leaders: Dennis Erb Jr. led laps 1-3. Marlar led 4-13 and Sheppard led 14-50. … The race was slowed by seven cautions. Boom Briggs slowed to bring out a yellow on lap 18; Timothy Cup crashed on a lap-18 restart after contact from Josh Richards; Don O’Neal was off the pace on lap 20; another caution waved on lap 20 for debris; Colton Flinner slowed and pulled to the infield on lap 36; Michael Norris slowed on lap 38; Chase Junghans spun in turn three on lap 39. … A pair of multicar crashes impacted several drivers. Culp’s wreck collect Jonathan Davenport and Brandon Overton, while Junghans’s spin collected Jimmy Owens, Tyler Millwood, Rusty Schlenk, Kyle Bronson and Hudson O’Neal. Junghans was running seventh at the time. … A day after winning, polesitter Scott Bloomquist’s night soured quickly, apparently due to a broken stud that holds on the left rear, front shock, leaving Bloomquist with a handful of a car to drive. “I went front having a ball last night to feeling like the biggest chump on the planet tonight,” Bloomquist said. … As much as Marlar hated to see the caution come out after he took the lead, he said he wished it hadn’t come out while he was watching Eckert battle Sheppard as well. “I hated to see that caution when Rick was up there. It was really getting interesting then,” said Marlar. … Madden was especially pleased with his newly-formed partnership with Hall of Fame chassis builder and fellow South Carolina native Barry Wright. “This is a huge boost going forward,” said Madden. “Everybody doubted us. They doubted Barry. They doubted me for making the decision (to switch chassis brands to Barry Wright Race Cars). How could it not give us a huge boost to come down here and have a successful race car like we did.” … WoO rookie hopeful Brent Larson was scheduled to start 26th via a provisional, but scratched after mechanical trouble in his heat.
Preliminary results and notes:
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Mike Marlar
Row 2: Chris Madden, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Millwood
Row 4: Josh Richards, Timothy Culp
Row 5: Boom Briggs, Hudson O’Neal
Row 6: Dale McDowell, Kyle Bronson
Row 7: Jimmy Owens, Rusty Schlenk
Row 8: Jonathan Davenport, Chase Junghans
Row 9: David Breazeale, Rick Eckert
Row 10: Devin Moran, Michael Norris
Row 11: Don O’Neal, Joey Coulter
Row 12: Shane Clanton, Tim McCreadie
Row 13: Brandon Overton, Brent Larson
Row 14: Chub Frank, Morgan Bagley
Row 15: Chris Ferguson, Colton Flinner
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., will shoot for back-to-back WoO wins from the pole position, which he picked for the second straight night. He has 12 career DIRTcar Nationals victories — second on the event’s all-time win list behind Billy Moyer’s 19 — but has won twice in the same year on just two occasions, most recently in 2011. (His other two-win DCN came in 1994 when racing was contested on the complex’s now-closed third-mile dirt track while the current half-mile was paved.) … Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., starts from the outside pole for the second consecutive evening. … WoO rookie hopeful Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., smacked the turn-two wall during hot laps, forcing him to pull out a brand-new Arnie Ranta-owned Longhorn car for its first competitive laps. He limped to a stop in turn two on lap seven of the third heat, however, due to a broken rearend gear and plans to utilize an emergency provisional to start the A-main. … Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., pulled off the track in his heat because his car was simply too tight. … Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., dropped out of the second heat after mud knocked the fan belts off his car’s powerplant and poked a hole in its radiator. “We just can’t catch a break,” said Zeigler, who scratched from his B-main to load up early. … When Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., hit the sideways Joey Coulter of Troutman, N.C., during the third heat, the damage to Lanigan’s Clint Bowyer Racing machine was heavy. Team members fear there even might be frame damage to the front of the Club 29 mount. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., headed pitside with a broken left-rear brake rotor in his heat. … WoO rookie candidate Tyler Millwood of Kingston, Ga., was all smiles after finishing second in the first heat to earn his first berth in a WoO feature redraw. “I told Derek (Gahring, his crew chief) this morning, ‘We’ve gotta loosen this thing up,’” Millwood said. “We freed it up as much as we could and it turns now.”
Rolling by polesitter Joey Coulter from his outside front row starting spot, Rick Eckert of York, Pa., notched a victory in the second B-main. Michael Norris advanced from the third row to finish second. Coulter passes a slowing Chris Ferguson at the line to finish third.
Finish (top three transfer): Rick Eckert, Michael Norris, Joey Coulter, Chris Ferguson, Tim McCreadie, Donny Schatz, Earl Pearson Jr., Dean Carpenter, Reid Millard, Shane Clanton, Blake Spencer. Scratch: Darrell Lanigan, Chub Frank, Brent Larson.
David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., jumped ahead of Don O’Neal on the opening lap and led all 10 laps to win the first B-main. Devin Moran worked his way to second, while O’Neal settled for the final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): David Breazealle, Devin Moran, Don O’Neal, Tyler Bruening, Brandon Overton, Nick Hoffman, Zach McMillan, Colton Flinner, Mike Maresca, Jeff Mathews, Morgan Bagley. Scratch: Austin Smith, Billy Moyer Jr., Mason Zeigler.
(10 laps, two 3 transfer)
Row 1: David Breazeale, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Tyler Bruening, Devin Moran
Row 3: Brandon Overton, Nick Hoffman’
Row 4: Austin Smith, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Zach McMillan, Jeff Mathews
Row 6: Billy Moyer Jr., Mason Zeigler
Row 7: Morgan Bagley, Mike Maresca
Row 1: Joey Coulter, Rick Eckert
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Blake Spencer
Row 3: Michael Norris, Tim McCreadie
Row 4: Donny Schatz, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Dean Carpenter, Reid Millard
Row 6: Darrell Lanigan, Chub Frank
Row 7: Brent Larson, Shane Clanton
Dominating the fourth heat, Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., rolled to a 2.922-second win over Timothy Culp. Culp advanced to from third to second follwing a lap-seven restart. Kyle Bronson rallied on the last restart as well, as he grabbed the third position from Chase Jugnhans who settled back in and held on to take the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Chris Madden, Timothy Culp, Kyle Bronson, Chase Junghans, Rick Eckert, Blake Spencer, Earl Pearson Jr., Reid Millard, Chub Frank, Shane Clanton.
Overall fast qualifier Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., out-dueled Jonathan Davenport on the first lap to take a lead he’d never relinquish. Brandon Sheppard took second from Davenport on lap three and finished 3.826-seconds behind Bloomquist. Dale McDowell finished third, with Davenport fourth. Davenport was running third until he had to come in and change a right rear tire during the lap-three caution. A caution flew for a crash on lap two when Joey Coulter spun and collected Darrell Lanigan. Lanigan did not continue. Brent Larson slowed to bring out the second yellow on lap three.
Finish (top four transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell, Jonathan Davenport, Joey Coulter, Chris Ferguson, Michael Norris, Donny Schatz, Dean Carpenter, Darrell Lanigan, Brent Larson.
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., held off Josh Richards in a one-lap shootout after a caution for Mason Zeigler, who slowed on lap nine. Erb Jr. had dominated the second heat until that point, continuing his trend of solid heat race finishes at Volusia. Erb Jr., bolted into the lead ahead of Josh Richards at the start and held a 2.306-lead when the caution waved. Richards finished second, while Schlenk took advantage of the caution to go from fifth to third to race his way into the main event. Don O’Neal finished fourth, with Hudson O’Neal slipping out of the transfer spot on the final circuit.
Finish (top four transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Josh Richards, Hudson O’Neal, Rusty Schlenk, Don O’Neal, Devin Moran, Nick Hoffman, Colton Flinner, Jeff Mathews, Mason Zeigler, Mike Maresca.
Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., led the first heat race from start to finish. Marlar grabbed the lead at the start and won the heat ahead of Tyler Millwood. Boom Briggs finished third, with Jimmy Owens fourth. David Breazeale spun on the opening lap, requiring a complete restart. Billy Moyer Jr.’s rough Speedweeks continued as he pulled into the pits on lap three with his machine billowing smoke.
Finish (top four transfer): Mike Marlar, Tyler Millwood, Boom Briggs, Jimmy Owens, David Breazeale, Tyler Bruening, Brandon Overton, Austin Smith, Zach McMillan, Billy Moyer Jr., Morgan Bagley.
(10 laps, top 4 advance)
Row 1: Tyler Millwood, Tyler Bruening
Row 2: Boom Briggs, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Billy Moyer Jr., Austin Smith
Row 4: Jimmy Owens, Morgan Bagley
Row 5: David Breazeale, Zach McMillan
Row 6: Brandon Overton
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Josh Richards
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Hudson O’Neal
Row 3: Nick Hoffman, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Rusty Schlenk, Devin Moran
Row 5: Mike Maresca, Colton Flinner
Row 6: Jeff Mathews
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Michael Norris
Row 3: Joey Coulter, Dale McDowell
Row 4: Brent Larson, Darrell Lanigan
Row 5: Chris Ferguson, Donny Schatz
Row 6: Dean Carpenter
Row 1: Chris Madden, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Timothy Culp, Shane Clanton
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Rick Eckert
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Chub Frank
Row 5: Earl Pearson Jr., Blake Spencer
Row 6: Reid Millard
For the third straight night, Scott Bloomguist was the fastest overall qualifier. The Hall of Famer from Mooresburg, Tenn., turned a quick lap of 16.029 seconds, barely nipping Tyler Millood of Kingston, Ga., who set the fast time in the first group at 16.035 seconds. Both Bloomquist and Millwood were joined by Dennis Erb Jr., and Chris Madden as heat race polesitters.
The weather for Saturday’s final night of 2018 Georgia-Florida Speedweeks is absolutely gorgeous — sunny skies and an afternoon high of about 80 degrees — but the atmosphere in the pit area is notably subdued. It’s the typical end-of-Speedweeks feel — with the finish line finally here after the long two-week grind, everyone is ready for a break. … Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and his G.R. Smith-owned team made an early departure from Volusia, loading up and leaving after a 15th-place finish in Friday’s feature. Shirley and Smith entered Speedweeks with plans to chase the entire World of Outlaws schedule. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., is dealing with an irritated, red left eye after something scratched it during his winning big-block modified feature run on Thursday night. He wore glasses while racing on Friday night to provide his eye some extra protection. … Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., was unable to take advantage of his outside pole starting spot in Friday night’s A-main, fading to an 11th-place finish after leading laps 1-12 and 14. He said he underestimated how the track would change for the feature and didn’t tighten his car up enough. “It’s mostly inexperience here,” said Marlar, who has entered the DIRTcar Nationals only a handful of times. “But we’ve had four nights here now this week so there’s no excuses.” … Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., could have used an emergency provisional to start the A-main because he’s a prospective WoO regular, but he and his Dream Racing team opted to scratch from the event and regroup for Saturday’s finale. … Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., will be in his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car for the second consecutive night, racing as a teammate to Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. Josh’s return cameo to his dad’s operation resulted in a quiet 14th-place finish. “I felt a little tight in qualifying and that put us behind,” Josh said. “I felt good in the B-main (which he won), but we didn’t go far enough with our adjustments for the feature and we were just sort of there the whole race, stuck back there in all the dirty air.”
Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga., 16.035
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.073
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.308
Josh Richards (1R), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.360
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.406
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.424
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 16.491
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 16.496
Billy Moyer Jr. (21JR), Batesville, Ark., 16.530
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 16.588
Austin Smith (84), Rome, Ga., 16.623
Mason Ziegler (25Z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.658
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.663
Rusty Schlenk (cj1), McClure, Ohio, 16.703
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.718
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 16.726
David Breazealle (54), Four Corners, Miss., 16.818
Mike Maresca (7mm), Potsdam, N.Y., 16.857
Zach McMillan (14Z), Gladewater, Texas, 16.898
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 16.901
Brandon Overton (116), Evans, Ga., 17.083
Jeff Mathews (33), Apollo Beach, Fla., 17.734
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.029
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.075
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 16.257
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 16.279
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 16.321
Timothy Culp (C8), Prattsville, Ark., 16.323
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 16.354
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.362
Joey Coulter (2C), Miami Beach, Fla., 16.391
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.488
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.500
Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., 16.531
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 16.620
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.679
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 16.739
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.822
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holley, N.C., 16.928
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.946
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 17.121
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 17.152
Dean Carpenter (51), Coldwater, Miss., 17.194
Reid Millard (14R), Jefferson City, Mo., 19.344
The last of four consecutive World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series programs will close the 47th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday night. Comprising the other half of the evening’s doubleheader are the DIRTcar big-block modifieds, which will compete in a 50-lap feature.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., was victorious in Friday night’s WoO feature after turning back a late challenge from Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C.
Saturday night’s WoO card includes split-group qualifying, four heat races, two B-mains and a 50-lap headliner paying $10,000 to win. The heat winners will redraw for positions 1-4 and the runners-up will pick for spots 5-8.
10 a.m.: Pit gate opens for team entry
1 p.m.: Pit pass sales begin
3 p.m.: Pit area secured; pit passes required after 3 p.m.
5 p.m.: Grandstands open
5:30 p.m.: Fan pit pass gate opens
6 p.m.: Hot laps
- SDS Big Block Modifieds
- WoO Late Models
6:30 p.m.: Time trials
- SDS Big Block Modifieds
- WoO Late Models
7:20 p.m.: Opening ceremonies