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Daily Dirt 08/09/2022 12:22:19

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May 11
Spoon River Speedway,
Banner, IL
Sanction: Castrol FloRacing Night in America (Illinois Speedweek) - $22,022
Information provided by: Robert Holman and series reports (last updated May 13, 3:15 pm)
Sheppard spoons up $22,022 Castrol victory
Illinois Speedweek
  1. Brandon Sheppard
  2. Mike Marlar
  3. Tanner English
  4. Stormy Scott
  5. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  6. Dennis Erb Jr.
  7. Devin Moran
  8. Frank Heckenast Jr.
  9. Hudson O'Neal
  10. Gordy Gundaker
  11. Ryan Unzicker
  12. Ashton Winger
  13. Cade Dillard
  14. Tyler Erb
  15. Bobby Pierce
  16. Brian Shirley
  17. Rich Bell
  18. Kolby Vandenbergh
  19. Jeff Herzog
  20. Mike Spatola
  21. Spencer Hughes
  22. Logan Nickerson
  23. Bob Gardner
  24. Tony Jackson Jr.
presented by
Mike Ruefer/mikerueferphotos.photoreflect.com
Brandon Sheppard takes the checkers at Spoon River Speedway.
What won the race: Assuring a home-state winner in the the Illinois Speedweek opener, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., went past polesitter and race-long leader Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., on the 22nd lap and led the rest of Wednesday's 50-lap Castrol FloRacing Night in America event at Spoon River Speedway. The third-starting Sheppard pocketed $22,022.
Key notes: Runner-up Mike Marlar finished 2.609 seconds behind at the finish. ... A high-running Bobby Pierce spun out of second on the 44th lap. ... Ashton Winger led the first 21 laps and slipped back to finish fourth before the lap-36 restart; Winger spun in turn one on the restart after frontstretch contact with Pierce. ... Spoon River hosted its first Castrol FloRacing Night in America event and the richest race in track history. ... Spoon River's event kicked off the four-race Illinois Speedweek that continues with a Castrol race Thursday at Lincoln Speedway ($22,022-to-win); the MARS Racing Series sanctions the second half of the week Friday at Farmer City Raceway ($15,000-to-win) and Saturday at Fairbury Speedway ($30,000-to-win).
On the move: Tanner English of Benton, Ky., started 13th and finished third.
Winner's sponsors: Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis has a Durham Racing Engine and sponsorship from Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Rocket Chassis, Ace Metal Works, Gunter’s Honey, Hoosier Racing Tire, Integra Racing Shocks, Keyser Manufacturing Co., Petroff Towing, Slavic Shirts & Decals, Sunoco Race Fuels and Rocket Preowned Motors.
Points chase: After Spoon River: 1. Brandon Sheppard (228); 2. Ricky Thornton Jr. (201); 3. Mike Marlar (180); 4. Bobby Pierce (177); 5. Jonathan Davenport (168); T6. Stormy Scott (165); T6. Hudson O’Neal (165); 8. Brandon Overton (153); 10. Tyler Erb (138).
Current weather: Clear, 86°F
Car count: 56
Fast qualifier: Ashton Winger
Time: 13.270 seconds
Polesitter: Ashton Winger
Heat race winners: Ashton Winger, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Marlar, Stormy Scott, Frank Heckenast Jr., Hudson O'Neal
Consolation race winners: Mike Spatola, Brian Shirley
Next series race: May 18, Marshalltown Speedway (Marshalltown, IA) $22,022
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff and series reports

BANNER, Ill. — If Spoon River Speedway is Brandon Sheppard’s worst track among four Illinois Speedweek ovals, the New Berlin, Ill., driver put his competitors on alert Wednesday night.

Sheppard grabbed the lead from polesitter and race-long leader Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., on the 22nd lap and led the rest of the 50-lap Castrol FloRacing Night in America feature at the 3/8-mile oval for a $22,022 victory.

“It's awesome. And we're having a lot of fun,” said the Rocket Chassis house car driver, who will head to Lincoln Speedway, Farmer City Raceway and Fairbury Speedway for three more lucrative nights of action on the Castrol and MARS tours. “I felt like this was my worst track personally of this four-race swing, so I guess we're all just looking up from here.”

The third-starting Sheppard took the checkers 2.609 seconds head of fifth-starting Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., while Tanner English of Benton, Ky., rallied from his 13th starting spot to finish third. Outside front-row starter Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., was fourth and 14th-starting Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., rounded out the top five on a night when 56 drivers representing more than 20 states packed the pits for Spoon River’s opener.

Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., appeared to be Sheppard’s worthiest challenger, but he had a scrape with Winger on a lap-36 restart, then slipped over the narrow high groove eight laps later while running second to spin out of contention. He finished 15th.

Winger led the first 21 laps before slipping back to fourth and then running into trouble on the lap-36 restart when Pierce swung too high exiting turn four heading for the green and made contact with Winger on the frontstretch. Winger’s turn-one spin ended his hopes for a top-five run.

Sheppard’s eighth victory of the season marked his lone victory of more than $15,000 since he won $100,000 at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park’s Dirt Track World Championship in October 2020.

The 29-year-old Sheppard struggled to keep up with Winger and Scott early in the race, but finally found his groove before the halfway point.

“For whatever reason — I think it's just me — I'm not very good at running around the top here,” Sheppard said. “But the past few times we've been here, we've been able to momentum really well. And that's what I was able to find out there. When I was in third, (I found a) good momentum line that I could really come off of turn four real nice and straight and just excelled me to get up there to the lead.”

Sheppard never felt pressure from Pierce, but his fellow twentysomething was tracking him down before a lap-36 caution appeared when Brian Shirley slipped over the turn-four banking.

“(Pierce) does a really great job, and when he's in second you know he's up there ripping the lip,” Sheppard said. “So definitely, you know, when the first caution come out, (crew members) told me I need to go the top (in turns one and two) and I just I didn't feel like I was carrying enough speed up there and I could really cut across this bottom in (turn) one better.

“And once I got a few laps under my belt, then I moved back down and I felt really good. So I don't know if it was just the tires coming back to me or what it was, but it was just a great night, man. Another great night and our car has been really good lately.”

After Pierce’s lap-44 spin, Marlar grabbed second from Scott on the restart but couldn’t keep up with Sheppard.

“Bobby, I (barely) missed him when he went off the edge there. That was really close,” Marlar said. “So yeah, just zigged when I should’ve zagged a couple times, and got second. But no, Sheppy had me covered, that’s for sure.”

English drove his Riggs Motorsports entry from sixth to third on the lap-44 restart to complete a solid rally.

"I hit that bottom right one time and I knew it was fast. I didn't really pass anybody, but I just I knew that it was there,” English said. “So I tried to do it when I got on restarts and I could pass a few cars here and there. This car kept getting better and better.

“I thought, you know, we had a softer tire on there than a few people, and I thought it might have been going away, but it just kept on going and really had a lot more left. It's a great run for us for right now and I can't thank Rocket Chassis enough.”

Many of the same drivers will return to Illinois Speedweek action on Thursday for Lincoln’s Castrol tour event paying $22,022-to-win. The MARS Racing Series sanctions Friday’s $15,000-to-win show at Farmer City and the $30,000-to-win Speedweek finale at Fairbury.

Notes: Sheppard notched his eighth overall victory of the season and sixth in the West Virginia-based Rocket Chassis house car. … Sheppard’s previous Spoon River victories came in 2013 on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals and last season in MARS action. … Sheppard revealed in victory lane that his wife is expecting another child. … Fifth-running Hudson O’Neal went for a spin in turns three and four on the sixth lap, slipping back to 10th. He ended up ninth. … Spencer Hughes of Meridian, Miss., pulled his smoking car to the infield on the 20th lap. … Corey Conley’s car rolled in the second consolation in turn four; he wasn’t injured. …  Among other drivers failing to make the feature lineup: Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer Jr. (who had his hall-of-fame dad in the pit area with him), Tyler Bruening, Chris Simpson, Josh Putnam, Ryan Gustin, Mike Chasteen Jr., Morgan Bagley, Trevor Gundaker, Jake Timm, Kevin Weaver, McKay Wenger and Logan Martin. … Martin broke a J-bar in a consolation race and Wenger was eliminated in a turn-two consy tangle.

Feature lineup

Row 1: Winger, S. Scott
Row 2: Sheppard, Heckenast
Row 3: Marlar, O'Neal
Row 4: Pierce, D. Erb
Row 5: Vandenbergh, Unzicker
Row 6: G. Gundaker, Bell
Row 7: English, Thornton,
Row 8: Gardner, Hughes
Row 9: Herzog, Dillard
Row 10: Spatola, Shirley
Row 11: Nickerson, T. Erb
Row 12: Moran, Jackson
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