ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Nov. 30) — Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., added his name to the VP Gateway Dirt Nationals record books on Friday night, winning the third annual event’s first 20-lap preliminary feature to earn a $5,000 payday in The Dome at America’s Center.
Staring on the pole, Sheppard shot to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, leading wire-to-wire as he fought back a mid-race charge from Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. With his victory, Sheppard is one of eight drivers locked in to Saturday’s $3,000-to-win Gateway finale.
“It’s definitely awesome to be locked in and not have to worry about running a B-main,” Sheppard said. “We’ve started on the front row of a B-main the past two years. You’ve got to get a good starting spot up front in the feature. Even though it’s 40 laps, it’s a short 40 laps, as small as the track is. Especially if we go green the whole time. There’s not a lot of room for passing and you’ve got to pass guys when they mess up and there’s a whole lot of tough competition out here. They don’t mess up very often. It’s definitely cool to get the win here.”
As Sheppard entered lapped traffic on lap eight, fourth-starting McCreadie was able to close the gap between himself and the race leader, even pulling alongside Sheppard down the backstretch when a lap-11 yellow flag waved for Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., who brought his heavily damaged car to a stop in turn three. With the caution slowing McCreadie’s momentum, Sheppard went unchallenged the remainder of the distance.
“Lapped traffic was definitely getting treacherous,” Sheppard said. “I didn’t want to push the issue too much. I felt like I could move around wherever I needed to go, so that was the big thing. I think I could have held him off, even if we would have went green. But I don’t know where he’s going or where he’s running, so I think it definitely helped to have that caution.”
McCreadie finished runner-up, with Jason Welshan of Maryville, Tenn., running third. Advancing from the sixth starting spot, Hall of Famer Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., finished fourth, with Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., rounding out the top five.
While the mid-race caution certainly didn’t help his cause, McCreadie said track conditions — the preliminary was the 31st of the day’s 32 contested races — also factored into his demise.
“It’s pretty rough,” McCreadie said. “Hopefully they can square that away. It just makes it hard to get any type of racing really with side-by-side with guys because you’re trying not to get into people. But with the straightaways being that rough, it’s just hard not to. They knocked the tire in in (turns) one and two and it actually made the racing way better for the 10 laps it was knocked in. It made it way wider to race on. But they pushed it back out and that kind of ended our shot maybe because I couldn’t get through the holes as good as Brandon. But hats off to him.”
Welshan, who’s “Scott Who?” driver introduction sign made for one of the most memorable moments of the 2017 Gateway Dirt Nationals, finds himself locked in to the weekend finale for the second straight year. His success in The Dome isn’t just by chance, he said. His team works hard and he’s feeling more confident now that he has a year of indoor racing behind him.
“It’s just awesome,” Welshan said. “For everybody that thought that last year was a fluke, I hope they know now that our team is capable of running on something like this with the bigger teams. You’re aerodynamic package and all that was just thrown out the window. I think my car was off the ground a whole lot more than it was on the ground out there. It’s nerve-racking. It’s a big stage. I was a lot nervous last year. This year I’m a little bit more calmer and our race car’s good too.”
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Jason Welshan
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Tanner English, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Billy Moyer Jr., Gordy Gundaker
Row 5: Rusty Schlenk, Austin Rettig
Row 6: Manny Falcon, Scott Ward
Row 7: Joey Coulter, Oakley Johns
Row 8: Rusty Griffaw, Ryan Unzicker
Row 9: Rich Bell, Chris Fetter
Row 10: Freddie Carpenter, Bryce Davis
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap when Robbie Stuart spun in turns one and two, collecting Greg Johnson and others. Scott Bloomquist also suffered heavy damage to his car in the chaos, retiring early to the pit area. Polesitter Freddie Carpenter shot to the front of the field as the race went green, with Clay Fisher and Bryce Davis in a tight battle for the runner-up spot. A yellow flag flew on the fifth lap when Don Hammer spun in the bottom of turn two; fourth-running Johnson was black flagged under the caution for a flat tire. Davis challenged Carpenter as the race went back green, with the frontrunners racing nearly side-by-side for a couple of circuits. Another caution fell on lap eight for a frontstretch pileup involving R.C. Whitwell, Adam Schrag and Blake Martin. A yellow flag waved on lap nine when Martin, Trevor Gundaker and Brian Woodard tangled in turns three and four. Carpenter led the final circuit, with Davis finishing second. Fisher edged ahead of Ruben Mayfield at the line to run third.
Finish (top two transfer): Freddie Carpenter, Bryce Davis, Clay Fisher, Ruben Mayfield, Don Hammer, Donald Johns, Blake Martin, Trevor Gundaker, Brian Woodard, Mike Hammerlee, Jake Miller, Randy Manos, Adam Schrag, R.C. Whitwell, Greg Johnson, Robbie Stuart, Mark Shipman, Hunter Rasdon, Dan Patnoe, Scott Bloomquist. Scratched: Levi Ashby, Richard Shepler.
(10 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Freddie Carpenter, Clay Fisher
Row 2: Bryce Davis, Robbie Stuart
Row 3: R.C. Whitwell, Greg Johnson
Row 4: Don Hammer, Jake Miller
Row 5: Randy Manos, Dan Patnoe
Row 6: Ruben Mayfield, Mark Shipman
Row 7: Hunter Rasdon, Levi Ashby
Row 8: Scott Bloomquist, Blake Martin
Row 9: Trevor Gundaker, Adam Schrag
Row 10: Donald Johns, Brian Woodard
Row 11: Mike Hammerlee, Richard Shepler
Finish (top four transfer to B-main): Jeremiah Hurst, Brandon Pralle, Brian Woodward, Mike Hammerlee, Luke Goedert, Amber Couch, Kip Hughes, Paul Roider, Brad Simpson. Scratched: Brandon Tibaldi, Cole Long.
(10 laps; top four transfer to B-main)
Row 1: Amber Crouch, Luke Goedert
Row 2: Mike Hammerlee, Kip Hughes
Row 3: Brandon Tibaldi, Paul Roider
Row 4: Brad Simpson, Brian Woodard
Row 5: Cole Long, Brandon Pralle
Row 6: Jeremiah Hurst
Polesitter Jason Welshan shot to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, as Adam Schrag and Chris Fetter tangled in turns one and two to draw a caution on the first lap. Another yellow flag waved on the ensuing restart when Richard Shepler spun in turn four. Welshan held his lead when the race went back green, with another yellow flag waved on lap two when Mark Shipman and Greg Johnson made contact in turns three and four, sending Shipman spinning. Johnson and Shipman’s battle continued at the rear of the field, with Welshan stretching his lead over Scott Ward. Welshan won the head, with Ward and Chris Fetter grabbing feature transfer spots.
Finish (top three transfer): Jason Welshan, Scott Ward, Chris Fetter, Greg Johnson, Mark Shipman, Adam Schrag, Richard Shepler.
Polesitter Brandon Sheppard shot out to an early lead, with he and second-starting Manny Falcon pulling away from the rest of the field at the halfway point. Fourth-starting Trevor Gundaker attempted to run the top side but was unable to make it stick, eventually falling back to sixth. Never challenged up front, Sheppard led all eight laps, with Falcon finishing runner-up. Rich Bell ran third to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Manny Falcon, Rich Bell, R.C. Whitwell, Ruben Mayfield, Trevor Gundaker, Mike Hammerlee. Scratched: Cole Long.
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap when Ryan Unzicker nearly got sideways in turns one and two, resulting in a chain reaction that sent Blake Martin spinning. As the race went green, front-row starters Billy Moyer and Austin Rettig raced side-by-side down the backstretch, with the advantage going to Rettig on the first lap. Losing a nose, Donald Johns slowed to draw a caution on lap two. Overtaking Retting on the second circuit, Moyer led the field back to green, as Unzicker challenged Rettig for second. Unchallenged the remainder of the distance, Moyer won the heat, with Rettig finishing runner-up. Unzicker grabbed the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Billy Moyer, Austin Rettig, Ryan Unzicker, Robbie Stuart, Dan Patnoe, Blake Martin, Donald Johns. Scratched: Randy Timms.
Polesitter Tim McCreadie took an early lead, as Bryce Davis and Rusty Griffaw battled for third. With McCreadie stretching his lead at the halfway mark, Scott Bloomquist began to advance from his final starting spot to run sixth. Pulling away at the checkered flag, McCreadie won the heat, with Rusty Schlenk and Griffaw rounding out the podium to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top three transfer): Tim McCreadie, Rusty Schlenk, Rusty Griffaw, Bryce Davis, Randy Manos, Scott Bloomquist, Luke Goedert, Brian Woodard.
Polesitter Jonathan Davenport shot to the front of the field at the drop of the green flag, with a yellow flag waving on the first lap when Dewayne Kiefer came to a stop in turns one and two, collecting Brandon Hood, who was towed off the track. Davenport began pulling away on the restart, as Gordy Gundaker and Levi Ashby raced side-by-side for second. Kiefer slowed in turns one and two to draw another caution on the second circuit, retiring to the infield. In a tight battle for second, Ashby spun to draw a caution on the ensuing restart, eventually retiring early. Unchallenged up front, Davenport led the remaining circuits to win the heat, with Gundaker finishing second. Oakley Johns grabbed the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Gordy Gundaker, Oakley Johns, Clay Fisher, Jake Miller, Levi Ashby, Dewayne Kiefer, Brandon Hood.
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap when Brad Simpson spun into the infield. Edging ahead of fellow front-row starter Billy Moyer Jr. when the race went green, polesitter Tanner English took an early lead. Third-starting Freddie Carpenter nearly got sideways in turns one and two on the green flag lap, with Simpson slowing to draw another caution with just one lap complete. Amber Crouch and Don Hammer tangled in turn three on the ensuing restart, collecting Hunter Rasdon; all cars were able to continue. Another yellow flag waved on lap two when Crouch and Rasdon tangled in the bottom of turns one and two. English maintained his lead as the race went to a single-file restart, with second-running Moyer Jr. attempting to real in the race leader at the halfway mark. English won the heat, with Moyer Jr. and Joey Coulter rounding out the podium.
Finish (top three transfer): Tanner English, Billy Moyer Jr., Joey Coulter, Freddie Carpenter, Don Hammer, Hunter Rasdon, Amber Crouch, Brad Simpson.
Twelve Dirt Late Model heats — six for each qualifying group — kick off Friday’s jam-packed VP Racing Fuels Gateway Dirt Nationals program at 3 p.m. A total of 32 races are scheduled between the Late Models, midgets and open-wheel modifieds; the action is set to climax this evening with the twin 20-lap Late Model preliminary features paying $5,000 to win. … Hot laps are not being held for any of the three divisions, though the midgets did hit the track shortly after 2 p.m. for slow circuits to get heat in motors. … Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., is hopeful that he’s solved the fuel-system problems that prevented him from logging a qualifying lap and forced him out of the 20-lap Race of Champions. … Tyler Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., who finished second in last year’s Gateway finale, secured a pole position starting spot for his heat in Thursday’s time trials but nevertheless had some work to do on his car after the qualifying session. He clipped an inside tire with the left front of his car on his second lap, bending his nosepiece and causing him to slide into the outside wall with his machine’s right-rear corner. “We tore it all up,” Carpenter said of his bodywork, “but luckily it was all cosmetic.” … Logan Roberson of Waynesboro, Va., wore a big smile as he rode a scooter around the pit area on Friday afternoon after landing a heat-race pole start in what is his Super Late Model debut. The 21-year-old Crate Late Model standout is driving his father Greg’s Mike and Michelle Smiley-owned No. 19 after his own machine, which he planned to bring to St. Louis, was sidelined after engine problems in practice curtailed his expected first Super Late Model appearance the previous weekend at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., was featured on a segment of St. Louis’s Fox2 News morning show on Friday. Standing in front of the midget he’s driving this weekend, he spoke to a reporter about the Gateway Dirt Nationals and his own racing career, providing some superb local publicity for the event.
Heat race lineups
(eight laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Tanner English, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 2: Freddie Carpenter, Joey Coulter
Row 3: Don Hammer, Amber Crouch
Row 4: Brad Simpson, Hunter Rasdon
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Gordy Gundaker
Row 2: Levin Ashby, Clay Fisher
Row 3: Oakley Johns, Dewayne Kiefer
Row 4: Jake Miller, Brandon Hood
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Rusty Schlenk
Row 2: Bryce Davis, Luke Goedert
Row 3: Rusty Griffaw, Randy Manos Jr.
Row 4: Brian Woodard, Scott Bloomquist
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Austin Rettig
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Robbie Stuart
Row 3: Donald Johns, Dan Patnoe
Row 4: Blake Martin, Randy Timms
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Manny Falcon
Row 2: Rich Bell, Trevor Gundaker
Row 3: R.C. Whitwell, Ruben Mayfield
Row 4: Mike Hammerlee, Cole Long
Row 1: Jason Welshan, Mark Shipman
Row 2: Greg Johnson, Scott Ward
Row 3: Adam Schrag, Chris Fetter
Row 4: Richard Shepler
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Tanner English (96), Benton, Ky., 11.119
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 11.210
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 11.266
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 11.319
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 11.319
Jason Welshan (29w), Maryville, Tenn., 11.404
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 11.405
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 11.414
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), Weston, Ohio, 11.476
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 11.509
Manny Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La., 11.521
Mark Shipman (57), Grandview, Texas, 11.567
Freddie Carpenter (K0), Parkersburg, W.Va., 11.588
Levi Ashby (1A), Cumberland Furnance, Tenn., 11.606
Bryce Davis (94D), Canisteo, N.Y., 11.615
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 11.648
Rich Bell (21), Sheffield, Ill., 11.654
Greg Johnson (17), Bedford, Ind., 11.664
Joey Coulter (2), Concord, N.C., 11.681
Clay Fisher (99F), DeWitt, Ark., 11.689
Luke Goedert (44G), Guttenberg, Iowa, 11.697
Robbie Stuart (6R), DeRidder, La., 11.718
Trevor Gundaker (11T), St. Charles, Mo., 11.727
Scott Ward (37), Watertown, S.D., 11.761
Don Hammer (45H), Clinton, Ill., 11.777
Oakley Johns (C6), Hohenwald, Tenn., 11.790
Rusty Griffaw (16), Festus, Mo., 11.819
Donald Johns (C66), Summertown, Tenn., 11.830
R.C. Whitwell (96), Tucson, Ariz., 11.860
Adam Schrag (10-4), Hutchison, Kan., 11.886
Amber Crouch (91), Cullom, Ill., 11.899
Dewayne Kiefer (0K), St. Genevieve, Mo., 11.917
Randy Manos Jr. (R1), Rockford, Ill., 11.945
Dan Patnoe (D1), Wyanet, Ill., 11.946
Ruben Mayfield (00), Lenoir City, Tenn., 11.948
Chris Fetter (15F), Troy, Mo., 11.957
Brad Simpson (53), Rodney, Ontario, 12.033
Jake Miller (28m), Mendota, Ill., 12.142
Brian Woodard (23w), Ripley, Tenn., 12.172
Blake Martin (63), Milton, Fla., 12.312
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 12.389
Richard Shepler (88s), Mounds, Okla., 12.518
Hunter Rasdon (R5), Jonesboro, Ark., 12.880
Brandon Hood (1B), Burleson, Texas, 13.199
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 13.279
Randy Timms (5T), Wheatland, Okla., no time
Cole Long (M1), Jackson, Tenn., no time
11 a.m. - Pit doors open
1 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
2 p.m. - Spectator doors open
2 p.m. - Midget engine heat and qualifying
3 p.m. - Racing begins
- Late Model heat races
- Midget heat races
- Late Model C-mains
- Modified B-mains
- Midget B-mains
- Late Model B-Mains
- Modified features (20 laps)
- Midget features (20 laps)
- Late Model features (20 laps)
(Pits close one hour after final checkered flag)