B-Shepp tackling Eldora for the 'Best' Ohio team
By Alli CollisDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., has turned plenty of laps at Eldora Speedway. But this weekend’s Dream XXII at the famed half-mile oval will mark his first Big E event as pilot for the St. Marys, Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports team. And that, he says, raises the stakes for the weekend in Rossburg, Ohio. | Complete Dream coverage
Partnering with Best Performance at the end of the 2015 season after picking up a victory for the team in November’s World of Outlaws World Finals, Sheppard is a regular on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. But this weekend, he’ll return to Eldora, a racetrack local to the Best Performance Motorsports operation. Hoping for a good showing for the team, he said there’s a bit of added pressure to run well.
“For me, I feel like there’s a little bit more because everybody in shop and everybody that works for Best Performance will be there,” Sheppard said. “(Team owner Eric Brock) will be there and I think it will be only his second race of the year. The last one he went to, we didn’t fair so well, so we’re hoping to have good runs for sure. And it’s only like 20 miles from our race shop, so it’s a big deal for us.”
Sheppard and BPM’s 2016 campaign got off to a solid start at Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, but he struggled to find consistency in the first several weeks of the regular season. Scoring an MLRA victory at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa, on May 5, he backed it up with a Lucas Oil Series victory at La Salle (Ill.) Speedway just a couple of weeks later. With veteran crew chief Randall Edwards and an experienced crew behind him, Sheppard is confident heading into Eldora’s $100,000 weekend.
“We just found some stuff on these new cars that works a lot better for me,” Sheppard said. “At the beginning of the year we were doing pretty good and we were close to what (Rocket Chassis house car owner) Mark (Richards) and (driver) Josh (Richards) doing. It was pretty good for us and then we kind of got off track trying a little bit of our own stuff. It was our own fault, but we kind of got back a little bit, found a few things that work better for me. It’s working out for us so far. But Eldora’s a lot different. It’s going to be tricky for us for sure, but I’m pretty confident.”
Best Performance drivers have traditionally performed well at Eldora. Jeff Babcock of Wayne, Ohio, was the fast qualifier for the 2014 World 100, while Late Model rookie Matt Westfall of Ludlow Falls, Ohio, turned heads at last year’s Dream when he set fast time and made the main event. While Sheppard has had Eldora success in his family-owned equipment, sweeping World 100 preliminary features back in September, he’s hoping to keep the pattern going this weekend.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself going to Eldora anyway because it’s such a prestigious racetrack,” Sheppard said. “I always want to run good there. We ran pretty good at the World 100 last year, at least in the prelim nights. We won both of them and didn’t end up making the feature, but I still feel like we had a pretty good weekend. So we’re just hoping for big things. We just want to get in the race and then I think we’ll race pretty good from there.”
And after making his way to victory lane less than a year ago, Sheppard knows that there’s nothing else quite like the Eldora big stage.
“It was awesome for sure,” Sheppard said. “It’s unlike any place else. The crowd there is unbelievable. It’s just a really prestigious racetrack and that’s a big deal to us. If you’re a racer, that’s probably one of the biggest tracks as far as crowd and everything that there is, so it’s pretty cool.”
Eyeing the weekend’s $100,000 prize and his first Eldora crown jewel victory, Sheppard has two main goals for the Dream XXII weekend:
“I definitely want to win one of the prelim nights, at least,” he said. “I feel like we should be able to run top-five in the main event. That’s my goal anyway.”