DAVENPORT, Iowa — Brandon Sheppard's groovy decision Saturday at Davenport Speedway led to his first full-field World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series victory of the season.
The 30-year-old New Berlin, Ill., driver used the low groove at a critical juncture to take command at the quarter-mile oval, leading the final 22 laps of the 80-lap My Place Hotels Quad Cities 150 finale to collect $30,000 and end flat-tire hampered Bobby Pierce's recent dominance on the national circuit.
"Fortunate for me, I was at the right place at the right time," Sheppard said after going past fellow Illinois driver Dennis Erb Jr. on a lap-59 restart and leading the rest of the way. "You know, I hate to see that for Bobby, but everything's been going his way and it's about time we got a little love ourselves."
The third-starting Sheppard, who dropped back to sixth early, took the checkers 1.374 seconds ahead of 10th-starting Tanner English of Benton, Ky., for his series-leading 82nd career WoO triumph. Sixth-row starter Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, gained three positions in the final 10 laps to finish third while lap 1-35 leader Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., rounded out the top five.
Erb, who didn't officially lead a lap but inherited the point upon Pierce's lap-58 flat tire, settled for sixth while Pierce saw his personal seven-race winning streak come to an end with a ninth-place finish. Pierce overtook Madden on the 26th lap and was battling Erb when a flat right-rear tire forced him to the infield pits for fresh rubber.
The pole-starting Madden took command early and turned back Pierce's first serious bid for the lead on lap 16 when the frontrunners traded slide jobs with Pierce briefly running out front but never crossing the start-finish line ahead of Madden. But Pierce persisted and took over on lap 36 in chasing his third victory in as many nights at Davenport after $10,000 preliminary feature triumphs Thursday and Friday.
But with Erb turning up the heat, Pierce's car slowed with flat, setting up the key restart with Erb on the point ahead of Sheppard. Erb's traditionally a hub-hugging driver, but Sheppard considered where his spotter Heather Lyne might direct him when the green flag flew again in a caution-plagued race.
"To be honest with you, that outside was looking good on that (lap-58) restart, and I thought to myself before I chose my line, I thought, 'You know what? My dad's probably gonna chew me out if I don't choose this top,' because Madden was getting by me there and English was getting by me there," Sheppard said. "But I had a gut feeling that that Heather (Lyne) was going to move Dennis up, and sure enough, getting into (turn) one, she moved him up and that opened up the door for me and I've had a really good race car all weekend. I could go top-middle-bottom, wherever I needed to. So that just allowed me to carve through that bottom. Them guys were racing hard out there (in the high groove) and I could really run through the bottom hard in (turns) three and four especially, right off them restarts, so I knew if I could not get passed coming out of (turn) two, that I could get ahead of 'em in (turns) three and four there."
Sheppard was never seriously threatened the rest of the way while English climbed up to the second spot and Gustin made a late high-side charge into third. The winner knew tire wear was a potential concern, but he was confident despite flats for Pierce and a few other competitors.
In the first half of the race, "I was gonna have to do whatever I had to do to drive straight" and preserve his tires, Sheppard said. "At the very beginning, I could just drive straight up against the top and lost a couple of spots, got a couple back on the restart, and maintained for a long time there. Then once the track finally started slowing down where I didn't think I was gonna hurt my tires anymore, then I started moving around and figuring out where the best groove was."
English, last season's Quad Cities 150 finale winner, made progress in the late stages but couldn't track down the winner.
"It's just there was one spot in turn two that I would kind of hang, and (Sheppard) would shoot right through it. Everywhere else, I felt like I could gain on him, kinda, especially down there in (turns) three and four," English said. "But you know, he was driving perfect. He wasn't making any bobbles and that's what you got to do in that situation. He did a heckuva job. Congratulations to Brandon. I hate it for Bobby, you know, but he's been winning a bunch. And congratulations to Ryan (Gustin). I can't say enough about this Viper Motorsports Longhorn. We've been working on it a bunch and trying some new stuff and I think we're getting there. We just gotta keep on working at it."
Gustin was running ninth on lap 57 and still outside the top five on lap 71, but he jumped to the high groove late to nab a spot on the podium
"On that last yellow where it was single-file, I seen everybody cut left, so I figured I didn't have nothing to lose," he said. "I was going to (finish) whoever I was behind, but we threw all caution to the wind there to see what we could do. I felt really good down there, but on this end, it was just so far around there. Those guys had all this (traction) to get back going again while we were kind of in the dead slick until we got halfway down the straightaway. Then we'd kinda get a launch.
"I thought there for a couple of laps we were going to get 'em, but it just wasn't meant to be. But all in all a good night. I think our tires probably look better than anybody's. We didn't really go until that last yellow, so I knew that the first 40 (laps) was really going to be eating the tires. When they farm a track like that, it's been really abrasive here the last couple nights, so I wanted to make sure to keep some edges on there and make sure we had something left at the end, and we did."
Notes: Sheppard's previous full-field WoO victory came Oct. 22, 2022, at 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan. ... Nine cautions slowed the action, including on the 58th lap for Pierce's right-rear flat. ... The first caution appeared on the second lap when Trevor Gundaker and Chris Simpson tangled. ... Simpson slowed again on lap eight for the second yellow. ... Nick Hoffman slowed on lap 13. … Gordy Gundaker spun on lap 15. … Matt Lux went over the turn-four banking on lap 23. … Shane Clanton drew a lap-55 caution. … Dustin Walker got into an infield tire for a lap-58 yellow. … Jason Feger stopped for a lap-71 slowdown. ... Californian Cody Laney ran as high as ninth before retiring on lap 55.
Row 1: Chris Madden, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Nick Hoffman, Cade Dillard
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Shane Clanton
Row 5: Brian Shirley, Tanner English
Row 6: Ryan Gustin, Jason Feger
Row 7: Chad Simpson, Shannon Babb
Row 8: Trevor Gundaker, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 9: Tyler Bruening, Cody Laney
Row 10: Chris Simpson, Matt Lux
Row 11: Brent Larson, Gordy Gundaker
Row 12: Todd Cooney, Dustin Walker
Consolation race results
(10 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Tyler Bruening, Chris Simpson, Brent Larson, Dustin Walker, Kye Blight, Matt Furman, Tim Lance, Todd Cooney. Scratched: Jake Timm, Justin Kay, Johnny Scott
Second consolation: Cody Laney, Matt Lux, Gordy Gundaker, Jeff Larson, Johnathan Huston. Scratched: Daniel Hilsabeck, Jason Rauen, Matt Ryan, Jay Johnson, Spencer Diercks
Heat race recap
Pole-starting Bobby Pierce led all eight laps and cruised to win the first heat race by 0.978 of a second over Cade Dillard. … Brandon Sheppard led green-to-checkered and won heat two by 1.055 seconds over Shane Clanton. Seventh-starting Trevor Gundaker grabbed the last transfer spot, narrowly repelling Kye Blight and Chris Simpson in the closing laps. Jake Timm drew the race’s only caution when he left the racing surface on the backstretch and opted not to continue. … Two quick cautions slowed the racing action in heat three when Shannon Babb left the racing surface in turn one and was forced to tag the field, followed by a bad restart charged to Nick Hoffman, moving him back a starting row. Fourth-running Daniel Hilsabeck slowed to draw the third caution on lap seven and called it a night. Chris Madden dominated the third heat, overcoming a late restart and winning by 0.957 of a second over Hoffman; Babb recovered to grab the fourth and final transfer position. … Dennis Erb Jr. led the entire distance to win the fourth and final heat race by 2.060 seconds over Kyle Bronson.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Bobby Pierce, Cade Dillard, Brian Shirley, Chad Simpson, Tyler Bruening, Todd Cooney, Matt Furman, Dustin Walker, Tim Lance. Scratched: Johnny Scott
Second heat: Brandon Sheppard, Shane Clanton, Ryan Gustin, Trevor Gundaker, Kye Blight, Chris Simpson, Brent Larson, Jake Timm. Scratched: Justin Kay
Third heat: Chris Madden, Nick Hoffman, Tanner English, Shannon Babb, Gordy Gundaker, Daniel Hilsabeck. Scratched: Jason Rauen, Matt Ryan, Jay Johnson
Fourth heat: Dennis Erb Jr., Kyle Bronson, Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr., Cody Laney, Jeff Larson, Matt Lux, Johnathan Huston. Scratched: Spencer Diercks
Heat race lineups
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Cade Dillard
Row 2: Brian Shirley, Chad Simpson
Row 3: Tyler Bruening, Todd Cooney
Row 4: Johnny Scott, Matt Furman
Row 5: Dustin Walker, Tim Lance
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Ryan Gustin, Brent Larson
Row 3: Kye Blight, Jake Timm
Row 4: Trevor Gundaker, Chris Simpson
Row 5: Justin Kay
Row 1: Chris Madden, Nick Hoffman
Row 2: Tanner English, Shannon Babb
Row 3: Gordy Gundaker, Daniel Hilsabeck
Row 4: Jason Rauen, Matt Ryan
Row 5: Jay Johnson
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Kyle Bronson
Row 2: Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Spencer Diercks, Matt Lux
Row 4: Jeff Larson, Cody Laney
Row 5: Johnathan Huston
(All times local)
9-11 a.m. - Radio live remote
9 a.m.-3 p.m. - Car show
10 a.m.-6 p.m. - Hoker’s Haul toy drive
11 a.m. - Food fest, The Shed opens
12:30 p.m. - Cornhole/bags tournament
2 p.m. - Pits open
4 p.m. - Ticket booth opens
4-5 p.m. - Drivers’ autograph session in The Shed
5 p.m. - Grandstands open, Sage Fruit stage show
6:30 p.m. - On-track activity
- Late Model hot laps
- Midget group qualifying (3 laps)
- Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Midget heat races (8 laps)
Midget invert draw
Late Model redraw
- Late Model consolations (10 laps)
- Midget feature (30 laps)
- Late Model feature (80 laps)