BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Brandon Sheppard steamrolled through the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. With yet another dominating performance on Saturday, Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill., became the first driver to win four straight DIRTcar Nationals features at the D-shaped half-mile.
Sheppard, whose worst finish in five feature events was an 11th in Monday’s DIRTcar-sanctioned opener, easily captured Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals Championship, giving the soft-spoken driver of the Rocket Chassis house car a massive Gator trophy to go along with the four small Gators he won during his week of supremacy.
Sheppard passed Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., on lap seven and led the rest of the way to win Saturday’s 50-lap finale. Madden chased Sheppard the remainder of the way to finish second, while Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., finished third, giving Capital Race Cars two drivers on the podium.
Polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., finished fourth, his second top-five finish during Georgia-Florida Speedweeks and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., completed the top five.
Sheppard earned $10,000 for his fourth straight World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series triumph at VSP.
“Going out there tonight, I thought, you know what, there is just slim chances that circumstances are gonna play out again in my favor tonight,” said Sheppard. “We were a little bit different on tires than them other guys too and I thought we’d probably get the lead early, but I thought I’d fade more than I did there at the end.
“I’m speechless to be honest with you. I never thought in a million years that I’d win … I was just hoping to win one (World of Outlaws) race coming to Volusia.”
The second-starting Madden, looking for his first World of Outlaws win of the season after posting a runner-up finish in the Feb. 8 season-opener at Georgia’s Screven Motor Speedway, darted into the lead on the opening lap. Using the outside to bolt ahead of Erb Jr., Madden paced the field until Sheppard, who started fourth, drove underneath him on lap six, taking a lead he’d never give up.
“The track kinda cleaned up there in the bottom and it was hard to race out on it, so that worked in may favor,” said Sheppard. “I got the lead just in time.”
Madden was able to stay close, and Sheppard hardly raced away without a couple of tense moments. The leader jumped the cushion on lap 11 allowing Madden to pull back even momentarily. Three laps later, when the caution appeared for a spin by St. Augustine, Fla.’s Blake Spencer, Sheppard had to get on the brakes hard to avoid slowing cars in front of him.
On lap 19, Sheppard avoided disaster again when he had to take evasive action to keep from hitting Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who was pulling into the infield pit area in turn four.
“I thought I seen (O’Neal) slowing down there and the bottom was where I needed to be,” said Sheppard. “It was too dirty across the middle and on top there, so I was just kinda hoping maybe that he wasn’t (slowing down), but he was and I had to hang a right real quick and it slowed me up for sure. I figured they’d be right on me after that.”
Madden was there. But each time he seemed to pull within striking distance, a caution flag slowed the pace and gave Sheppard daylight.
“We obviously had on a little different tire combination than he did and them guys and he could really get out there a little bit on me and then I could maintain (pace),” said Madden. “But that one run, that long green flag run, we had really closed in on him and I felt like we was a little better maneuvering in traffic than he was right there. Hat’s off to them guys. They’ve had a phenomenal week. They have really dominated this week.”
Using Sheppard’s dominating performance as a measuring stick, Madden was able to take some solace in knowing that in Saturday’s finale, he never allowed the race winner to get out of his sight.
“Marshall (Green) and Capital Race Cars and Shane (Clanton) and all the guys involved with this program have really worked hard this week and I think we’ve made huge grounds,” said Madden. “We really got our race cars pretty close to where we’re comfortable with them.
“(Friday) night we should have got a top-five finish and then tonight we was able to run with the car that’s been dominating all week and it’s gotta feel good to be able to do that.”
Like his quasi-teammate, Clanton was pleased with his end result at Volusia: five top-10 finishes highlighted by third in the finale.
“It took us all week to get the car dialed in there,” said Clanton. “Me and Chris and Marshall (Green) put our heads together and (made) things happen. Two out of the top three ain’t too bad … just need to be a little bit better to beat that (No. 1) car.”
Notes: The race was slowed by six cautions, the last on lap 41, giving Chris Madden nine laps to find a way back around Brandon Sheppard. But the series points leader pulled away on the restart and ran unchallenged to a 1-second victory, his 41st career WoO triumph and his sixth win at Volusia Speedway Park. … As usual, Sheppard was more than complimentary of his Rocket Chassis house car team in victory lane. He heaped credit toward Rocket co-founder Mark Richards afterwards. “Mark Richards, I can’t say enough about him. He made the right tire call again tonight,” Sheppard said. … Nineteen of the 29 starters completed all 50 laps. … Both Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., forfeited their original starting positions when they made changes before the start of the feature. O’Neal pulled out of the staging lane, while McCreadie’s crew changed a tire before the cars rolled to the track. … Sheppard’s victory didn’t come without a sacrifice. “I told my girlfriend (Makayla) before the night started if we won tonight we were gonna take the kids to Disney World, so I don’t know, I guess I’ll have to live up to my word on that one,” he said in victory lane. ... Scott Bloomquist failed to win a Georgia-Florida Speedweeks race for the first time since going winless in the 2006 season.
Preliminary notes and results:
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Chris Madden
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Shane Clanton, Tim McCreadie
Row 4: Brian Shirley, Ricky Weiss
Row 5: Kyle Bronson, Mike Marlar
Row 6: Kyle Hardy, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 7: Boom Briggs, Chase Junghans
Row 8: Dale McDowell, Kent Robinson
Row 9: Tyler Erb, Darrell Lanigan
Row 10: Michael Norris, Josh Richards
Row 11: Frank Heckenast Jr., Don O’Neal
Row 12: Morgan Bagley, Jimmy Owens
Row 13: Brandon Overton, Mike Hammerle
Row 14: Brent Larson, Chub Frank
Row 15: Blake Spencer
The 50-lap feature's field rolled onto the track at 10:15 p.m. as victory lane ceremonies for the big-block modifieds were underway. ... Polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. is hoping his heat win — his first of Speedweeks — will help send him home to Illinois on an uplifting note. A winner of a WoO A-main at Volusia in 2012, the veteran has just a single top-five finish in his 11 previous Speedweeks starts to date. … Third-starter Scott Bloomquist’s 12-year streak of winning at least one Speedweeks feature is on the line in the 50-lapper. … Brandon Sheppard starts fourth as he attempts to sweep the week’s four WoO A-mains and become the first driver to win four straight Dirt Late Model features in a single DIRTcar Nationals. … Feature provisional starters are Brandon Overton, Brent Larson, Blake Spencer, Chub Frank and Mike Hammerle. … The heavy smoke that poured out of Chris Ferguson’s car as he ran third in the second heat and resulted in flames developing under its hood was caused by a busted oil line leading to the pressure gauge. He said the fire did melt the engine’s air-filter cover, but otherwise he didn’t think his powerplant was damaged; however, he scratched from the B-main and will take motor to Clements on Monday to be checked out.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., held off Josh Richards to won the second consolation. Richards’s Clint Bowyer Racing teammate Don O’Neal finished third, while Jimmy Owens grabbed the final transfer spot. On a lap-five restart Colton Flinner got turned around, collecting O’Neal, Gregg Satterlee, Blair Nothdurft and Mike Hammerle. Jason Jameson bobbled in turn four and got into the wall backwards to bring out a caution on lap five. The hard impact destroyed the rear deck on Jameson’s No. 12.
Finish (top four transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Josh Richards, Don O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, Tyler Bruening, Donny Schatz, Gregg Satterlee, Colton Flinner, Chub Frank, Blair Nothdurft, Brandon Overton, Brent Larson, Jason Jameson, Mike Hammerle.
Outside front row starter Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, quickly dispatched polesitter and fellow Texan Morgan Bagley and went on to win the first consolation race. Third-starting Michael Norris finished second, while Frank Heckenast Jr., finished third. Bagley faded to fourth, the final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Tyler Erb, Michael Norris, Frank Heckenast Jr., Morgan Bagley, Tyler Clem, Joey Moriarty, Cade Dillard, Blake Spencer, Stacy Boles, Dan Stone, Jason Fitzgerald, Jeff Mathews, Chuck Hummer. Scratched: Earl Pearson Jr., Chris Ferguson.
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Tyler Clem, Michael Norris
Row 3: Cade Dillard, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Earl Pearson Jr., Dan Stone
Row 5: Blake Spencer, Jason Fitzgerald
Row 6: Stacy Boles, Jeff Mathews
Row 7: Joey Moriarty, Chris Ferguson
Row 8: Chuck Hummer
Row 1: Colton Flinner, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Tyler Bruening, Josh Richards
Row 3: Jason Jameson, Don O’Neal
Row 4: Gregg Satterlee, Jimmy Owens
R0w 5: Chub Frank, Brent Larson
Row 6: Donny Schatz, Brandon Overton
Row 7: Blair Nothdurft, Mike Hammerle
Winning his first heat of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., picked up a win in the fourth heat. Erb led the caution-free, 10-lapper from start to finish from the pole, topping runner-up Shane Clanton by 1.520 seconds. Ivedent Lloyd Jr., and Kent Robinson completed the top four to transfer to the 50-lap feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Kent Robinson, Darrell Lanigan, Josh Richards, Don O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, Brent Larson, Brandon Overton, Mike Hammerle.
Taking the lead from the pole position on the first lap, overall fast qualifier Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., dominated the third heat, beating Tim McCreadie by 4.749 seconds. Monday feature winner, Mike Marlar finished third. Chase Junghans had to go to the outside with two laps remaining to get around Colton Flinner for the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie, Mike Marlar, Chase Junghans, Colton Flinner, Tyler Bruening, Jason Jameson, Gregg Satterlee, Chub Frank, Donny Schatz, Blair Nothdurft.
Working the low line around Volusia’s D-shaped half-mile, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., continued his week-long dominance with a convincing win in the second heat. Sheppard kept runner-up Ricky Weiss at bay over the final two laps following a caution for Chris Ferguson. Ferguson brought out the caution on lap eight when his heavily smoking machine caught fire as he attempted to pull off the track at the backstretch entrance. He was OK. Kyle Hardy grabbed third from Dale McDowell on the restart, while McDowell settled for fourth.
Finish (top four transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Ricky Weiss, Kyle Hardy, Dale McDowell, Tyler Erb, Michael Norris, Frank Heckenast Jr., Dan Stone, Jason Fitzgerald, Jeff Mathews, Chris Ferguson.
Polesitter Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., pulled ahead of Brian Shirley as they raced into turn one on the opening lap and drove away to an easy victory in the first heat race. Madden finished 3.615 seconds ahead of Shirley. Kyle Bronson finished third, while Boom Briggs took the fourth and final transfer position in front of Tyler Clem. Cade Dillard spun on the first lap to draw a caution.
Finish (top four transfer): Chris Madden, Brian Shirley, Kyle Bronson, Boom Briggs, Morgan Bagley, Tyler Clem, Cade Dillard, Earl Pearson Jr., Blake Spencer, Stacy Boles Joey Moriarty, Chuck Hummer.
Correction: Fixes finish to third heat.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Chris Madden, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Tyler Clem, Blake Spencer
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Boom Briggs
Row 4: Morgan Bagley, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Cade Dillard, Joey Moriarty
Row 6: Stacy Boles, Chuck Hummer
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Kyle Hardy, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Michael Norris
Row 5: Jeff Mathews, Dan Stone
Row 6: Jason Fitzgerald
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Colton Flinner, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Blair Nothdurft, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Tyler Bruening, Jason Jameson
Row 5: Gregg Satterlee, Donny Schatz
Row 6: Chub Frank
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton
Row 2: Kent Robinson, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 3: Darrell Lanigan, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Josh Richards, Don O’Neal
Row 5: Brant Larson, Brandon Overton
Row 6: Mike Hammerle
The DIRTcar Nationals closes with more gorgeous conditions: partly sunny skies and a high temperature reaching to the upper 70s. … The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series finale at Volusia boast a field of 45 cars, setting up a program with four heats and two B-mains. … Drivers who ended their Volusia weeks early after involvement in Friday-night feature accidents were Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, and Tanner English of Benton, Ky. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., is back in action with the same car that sustained heavy bodywork damage and other problems after he hit the wall and was clipped by two passing cars while running fourth in the feature. A completely new body is on Bronson’s XR1 Rocket. “People are coming up saying, ‘Is that a new car?’” a Bronson crewman said. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., is debuting a new XR1 Rocket in Saturday’s competition. The machine he’s run throughout Speedweeks sustained significant damage in a Friday A-main wreck and will need to be taken to Rocket Chassis in Shinnston, W.Va., so its frame can be checked. … WoO rookie contender Kyle Hardy of Stephens City, Va., is back in the Barry Wright-built car he ran in Friday’s hot laps. Electrical trouble sidelined the machine and forced him into his backup vehicle for the remainder of the night; an ignition change has his primary mount ready for more action. … After running over something — perhaps a clod of mud? — in turn four during Friday’s 50-lapper and immediately heading pitside, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., has the same Sweeteners Plus-backed Longhorn house car repaired for Saturday’s show. A new nosepiece, radiator and water pump were among the repairs the car needed; the frame and suspension, however, appeared to be unharmed. … McCreadie’s team owners, Carl and Ann Myers, have been in attendance at Volusia for several days to watch McCreadie race his Dirt Late Model and Ann’s grandson, Kyle Coffey, compete in the big-block modified division. It’s a rare opportunity for the Myers, who live in upstate New York but have a residence in Daytona Beach, Fla., see T-Mac in person. … Jason Fitzgerald of Middleburg, Fla., has returned to the entry list after sitting out Friday night’s program. The reason for his absence? He attended a Daddy-Daughter Dance at his 10-year-old girl’s school.
The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series wraps up its four-race stint at Volusia Speedway Park as the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals come to a close Saturday. Saturday’s 50-lap main event at the D-shaped half-mile pays $10,000 to win. Of the four WoO races, only a driver’s best two finishers count toward the tour points chase.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., completed a hat trick Friday night, winning his third straight DIRTcar Nationals feature. Sheppard has been outstanding over the last three events, leading 130 or 150 feature laps. The driver of the Rocket Chassis house car became the first driver since Shane Clanton in 2015 and only the fifth driver in Volusia’s Winternationals history to win three consecutive races in the same season.
Friday’s event drew 49 entries. With more than 40 expected on Friday, the schedule includes hot laps, group time trials, four heat races (top four advance), two consolations (top four advance) and the 50-lap main event. Series provisionals will set the final rows of the feature lineup.
Time trial results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.609
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 16.655
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 16.682
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.691
Tyler Clem (C02), St. Petersburg, Fla., 16.710
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 16.725
Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., 16.735
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.751
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.772
Kyle Hardy (36v), Stephens City, Va., 16.870
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.878
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.930
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 16.942
Tyler Erb (111), New Waverly, Texas, 16.949
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.044
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 17.090
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 17.211
Jeff Mathews (33), Brandon, Fla., 17.213
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 17.255
Dan Stone (2), Thompson, Pa., 17.342
Stacy Boles (11B), Clinton, Tenn., 17.399
Jason Fitzgerald (7), Middleburg, Fla., 18.121
Chuck Hummer (25), Lyons, Ohio, 18.189
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.140
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.468
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.528
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.592
Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., 16.646
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 16.647
Mike Marlar (6), Winfield, Tenn., 16.682
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., 16.718
Blair Nothdurft (76), Sioux Falls, S.D., 16.782
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.808
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 16.819
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.832
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.846
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.873
Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 16.886
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.920
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.970
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 17.015
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 17.034
Brandon Overton (2), Evans, Ga., 17.147
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.158
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 19.245
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; Fan pit pass gate opens
5:15 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting (WoO Late Models)
5:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting (SDS modifieds)
6 p.m.: WoO Late Model hot laps
6:30 p.m.: Big-block modified hot laps/group qualifying
6:55 p.m.: WoO Late Model group qualifying
7:20 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
- Big-block modified heats (8 laps)
- WoO Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Big-block modified consolations (8 laps)
- WoO Late Model consolations (10 laps)
- Big-block modified feature (50 laps)
- WoO Late Model feature (50 laps)