East Bay Raceway Park
Notes: News tempers Brothers Moran success
GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 12) — In the midst of his joy after winning Saturday night’s Wrisco Winternationals finale at East Bay Raceway Park, Devin Moran broke a nugget of news that left him fighting back tears.
As Moran, 27, of Dresden, Ohio, stood in front of a video camera answering questions from DirtonDirt.com’s Michael Rigsby, he revealed that his younger brother Wylie’s stint as his crew chief would soon be coming to an end. | Complete Speedweeks coverage
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Wylie’s actually quitting after Speedweeks,” Moran said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet moment. It’s gonna be tough, but he does awesome so I can’t thank him enough.”
Then Rigsby followed up, asking Moran exactly what it’s going to be like to go racing without his sibling always by his side. The way Moran’s eyes welled up and his voice began to crack was the only evidence needed to demonstrate Wylie’s importance.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be tough,” Moran said, struggling to get the words out. “But he’s going to … yeah … the next part of his life, and I want him to do that, so it’s cool. He doesn’t know how much he means to me.”
Wylie, 24, told his brother on New Year’s Day about his intention to relinquish his role working full-time with Devin on team owner Tye Twarog’s equipment following Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. He has a car-detailing business that he wants to expand and he wants to put his focus into the endeavor.
“When Covid hit (in the spring of 2020) and I didn’t have anything to do I started it just to make some money because we weren’t racing,” Wylie related. “I enjoyed it, and I kept trying to do it on the side. I’ve just kind of got to where I want to try and grow it full-time. My goal is to have my own business to where I can potentially grow it and have someone else run it for me one day while I’m doing something else, whether it be racing or other stuff.”
Wylie currently works out of his father Donnie’s shop, but he has his own building that he’s preparing to house his efforts and he also plans to purchase a box truck so he can add a mobile element to the business. He noted, though, that he’s not simply walking away from racing and waving goodbye to the sport. It’s the long road trips — like his current Speedweeks stint that’s on its fourth of five weeks — and the daily grind in Twarog’s race shop that he wants to stop so he can put more time into his business.
“I’ll still come to Florida (for Speedweeks) next year,” Wylie said. “It might not be for the whole time, but I’ll come for at least part of it and I’ll be here and there (during the season). I still plan on going (with Devin) a good bit. It won’t be every race and I won’t be in the shop full-time, but I’ll help if I can get to a race or if it’s an emergency and they need help and I’m not too busy with my stuff.”
Wylie was especially struck by his brother’s emotional moment talking about him that was caught on video and quickly circulated on social media.
“That was very tough to watch,” Wylie said on Sunday morning while working on Devin’s machines at racer Ivedent Lloyd’s shop in Ocala, Fla., in advance of this week’s DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. “It keeps popping up on my Facebook feed and it’s tough to watch every time. It’s becoming more and more of a reality every day.”
Not surprisingly, Wylie, who said Devin is looking for a full-time mechanic to replace him, has had his cell phone light up since Devin’s interview.
“We’ve been in a group text with Bobby Pierce and Tyler Reddick and Connor and a couple other friends for years and years,” Wylie remarked, pointing out one particular exchange he’s had. “Bobby just texted us and said, ‘Man, Wylie, you made Devin cry.’ And then he put like dot, dot, dot, and he wrote, ’And me LOL.’” — Kevin Kovac
Cruel conclusion for B-Shepp
For more than half of Saturday’s 50-lap feature, through bursts of precipitation and tricky track conditions, Brandon Sheppard appeared headed directly toward an unprecedented fourth consecutive Wrisco Winternationals victory.
Sheppard, 29, grabbed the lead from Brandon Overton on lap three and simply set sail through the rain drops, building a solid advantage over a wild battle for second. He maintained command following caution flags on laps 28 (for rain) and 33 (for Boom Briggs’s backstretch spin). A $15,000 check for the Rocket Chassis house car team seemed inevitable.
But then came a second lap-33 restart. As Sheppard gassed up on the extreme outside rounding turn four to gain momentum, third-place Devin Moran — starting on the inside of Kyle Bronson in the second row of the Delaware double-file alignment — sucked far to the bottom of the corner and found traction for a superb launch down the straightaway. He surged ahead of Sheppard through turns one and two and never looked back en route to the checkered flag.
Moments later Sheppard’s race disintegrated. He almost came to a stop in the turn-four cushion as he fell out of the top 10, and following a lap-34 restart his hopes for a rally were abruptly snuffed out when he was swept up in a tangle with Garrett Alberson and Stormy Scott between turns three and four.
Reviewing his sudden demise was difficult for Sheppard, who related that he “never would have thought we’d go green” with rain falling. He conceded, though, that the track surface was not lost and his biggest issue was the restart that cost him the lead.
“You’re not supposed to pass before the (white) line (in turn four),” Sheppard said, musing that Moran might have gassed up early. “Maybe he wasn’t past me before the line? I don’t know. I mean, he was ahead of me long before we got to the flagstand, that’s for sure.”
Moran remarked that he simply was able to rocket off turn four on the inside of the track — replays appear to show he wasn’t ahead of Sheppard at the white restart line — and then jumped at the opportunity to slide Sheppard through turns one and two. “I don’t think I checked (the throttle) it until I got to the Wrisco banner over out of two,” Moran said.
The even-keel Sheppard ultimately accepted his fate.
“There right before (Moran) took the lead, I was going about hard as I could go,” Sheppard said. “Before that, I was kind of — not riding, but I was trying to save my tire a little bit. That one long run that we had, I got the left-rear (tire) hot and it was vibrating a little bit.
“But we had a good week. I can’t complain. I just hate it for my guys that I tore everything up. I just hated it that it ended this way. It is what it is, man. I’m just going to go on to the next one.” — Kevin Kovac
The first four nights of the Winternationals were tough for Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., and Tanner English of Benton, Ky. Saturday’s finale, thought, provided both drivers a reason to leave East Bay with smiles on their faces.
Whitener and English finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 50-lap feature, giving both by far their best performances of the week. Whitener’s top finish in his two previous feature starts was 14th on Wednesday while English made the A-main field every night but also never placed better than 14th (Friday).
The pair experienced remarkably similar races, sliding backward early (English started sixth in the Riggs Motorsports Rocket, Whitener ninth in the Big Frog Motorsports Rocket) before coming on during the second half to secure top-five finishes.
“They put a 40 (compound tire) on my right-rear and I wanted to stay in the black, and the rain kept coming and I kept getting aggravated because I felt like if it had not rained I would’ve been better earlier,” Whitener said. “But the rain kept coming and I felt like the softer tires were probably better. It took those green flag laps to get going. I stayed patient, kept my cool and stayed on the bottom, and here we are.
English said he felt so “terrible at one point” during the feature’s first half that he thought he “was gonna finish 30th.” The lap-28 caution flag saved him, though.
“I had my tires too hot running the top or something and I was terrible, and once that caution come out my tires cooled back down and I could go wherever I wanted to,” English said. “I was pretty good after that, and I feel like I was the first one to find the rubber. When it rubbered I passed like six cars on a restart, and then it seemed like everybody found it so I just kind of stalled out.”
Both drivers identified the reason for their positive Winternationals-ending runs.
“(Crew chief) Mike Rey has changed and changed (stuff all week),” Whitener said. “I’m telling you, if we have 50 shocks in there, he’s changed 60 shocks. He’s tried to get this thing to get fast for me and it worked tonight. When you run bad it seems there’s tension in the pits, but it ain’t really been that bad. We’re just looking forward to next week. These are my tracks. These are where I race, so hopefully we do good and get us a victory (at Volusia Speedway Park) before we leave Speedweeks.”
English noted during the post-race ceremonies on the homestretch that he felt like “we should’ve been here all week, but after that first night when we got spun out running fifth or whatever I started throwing stuff at it and that was the wrong thing to do. I went exactly the same as how I started (for Saturday’s action) and the car came right back to life and I was good again. I need to learn a lesson there and just stay in my window and be patient.” — Kevin Kovac
Recovering Bloomquist spectates
Hall of Fame racer Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., is an eight-time winner in Wrisco Winternationals competition, including his first victory in 1990, but the 58-year-old driver was merely a spectator at this year’s East Bay action.
The three-time Lucas Oil Series champion is recovering from recent surgery on an elbow and wrist for carpal tunnel issues and hopes to be back in action by late March.
“It seems to be pretty quick recovery for that,” Bloomquist told MavTV announcers James Essex and Bob Dillner from the press box during Saturday’s consolation race action. “We’re just gonna keep on going. I was going to do the other arm right after (the first surgery), and I think we’re gonna put that off until next fall.”
Bloomquist also reported his troublesome rotator cuff is doing well after a recent steroid shot and his right hip, which was originally injured in a motorcycle accident two years ago and was eventually removed in hip replacement surgery, is improving.
“Actually, the hip’s great, the hip’s doing well,” Bloomquist said. “That helped us a lot at the end of last year, the way we padded the seat up to where I kept the weight off of my replacement hip and kept it on the other one, and it made a big difference in the leg not getting numb while I race.”
With East Bay’s impending sale expected to force the track’s closure in a few years, Bloomquist likely has just a few more seasons to rejoin the action at the track where he last won in the 2017 finale.
“It’s such a piece of history,” Bloomquist said. “I mean, it goes so far back and it’s always been just a tough place to win, but they always get so many cars and the racing is so intense. It’s going to be missed, so you know, I hope maybe something changes.” — Todd Turner