|Date: 8/8/2015 10:11:33 AM|
Johnson dominates, but Sheppard rises to Hall of Fame 100 victory
WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – Aug. 6, 2015 – The doctor was in the house for much of the night at Weedsport Speedway Thursday night, but in the end, the Hall of Fame 100 came down to a battle between teammates.
“The Doctor” Danny Johnson dominated the 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series event, but series points leader Matt Sheppard took the lead in the second half of the race and held off Heinke Baldwin Racing teammate Jimmy Phelps to pick up the win.
Starting on the pole, Johnson jumped out to an early lead that he extended as he picked off lapped cars through the first half of the race. Sheppard tracked him down and closed in, however, and took over the lead on lap 55.
Sheppard never relinquished the lead as he picked up his series-leading fourth win of the year on the circuit and 18th overall victory of the season.
“It was really spectacular,” Sheppard said on victory hill of his No. 9H F.X. Caprara big-block modified. “Everybody worked hard trying to get this thing dialed in.”
He noted that he led most of last year’s Hall of Fame 100 only to get passed late in the going, and “we didn’t want that to happen again this year,” he said. This year’s Hall of Fame 100 turned out the opposite way for the Waterloo racer.
Starting from the eighth position at the initial green flag, Sheppard turned a two-way battle for second between Peter Britten and Tim Fuller into a three-way battle when the leaders entered traffic a quarter of the way into the race.
Sheppard went by Fuller for third on lap 35, and three laps later, he found a way around Britten to take over the runner-up spot. By the race’s midway point, he caught Johnson’s bumper as the top two navigated around slower cars.
Going into turn two on lap 54, Sheppard got a run under the leader and assumed the top spot when the cars crossed the line to complete lap 55. One lap later, Johnson broke down and slowed on the track to bring out the caution.
Sheppard saw Brett Hearn beside him on the lap 59 restart, but going into the first turn, the rear of Billy Decker’s came around and he collected Hearn and Britten in the melee. That put Fuller beside Sheppard and Phelps behind him for the restart, along with Pat Ward and Larry Wight.
Phelps drove into second on lap 64 and attempted to track down his teammate as the leaders hit traffic in the final quarter of the race. Fuller and Ward battled for third as Phelps caught Sheppard but could never get close enough to try to take the lead.
Sheppard took the checkered flag 2.715 seconds ahead of Phelps, while Fuller, Ward and Erick Rudolph rounded out the top five, followed by Justin Haers, Wight, Stewart Friesen, Billy Dunn and Britten in the top 10.
“This is truly one of the most stellar places in all motorsports,” Sheppard said of Weedsport Speedway. “Coming here and defending our home turf and winning for him (car owner Allan Heinke), it really does mean a lot.”
The key to the victory, Sheppard said, was staying patient and letting the race come to him.
“It seems like everybody was slowing down and I wasn’t,” he said. “We were just biding our time. The next thing you know, I was leading.”
Parked on victory hill behind his teammate, Phelps said he drove a strong car but not one strong enough to contend with Sheppard.
“We had a really good car,” Phelps said. “We didn’t have anything for the 9. It’s a great night for HBR, and a great night for Weedsport Speedway.”
The Baldwinsville racer doubles as the speedway’s general manager and noted that the caliber of the speedway's staff allows to focus on driving the racecar.
“There are so many great people working here,” he said. “They do a great job, and they don’t need me.”
Despite coming in third, Fuller said he was disappointed with how his car handled, noting that he was “too good too early” and could not keep up at the end.
“We were just OK,” the Watertown racer said. “I could run with Jimmy, but I didn’t really see Sheppard. Any time you get a podium, it’s pretty good. I’m not really happy with the car we had.”
As he gets back into racing big-block modifieds, Fuller said he faces a learning curve adjusting to how the cars run now compared to how they used to run.
“You can’t apply what you did seven, eight years ago,” he said. “Times have changed, and cars have changed. We’ll try to write down the notes and not do it again.”
In the 25-lap crate sportsman feature, Dave Marcuccilli picked up his third win of the season at Weedsport and eighth overall victory of the year after passing polesitter Nick Krause for the lead with nine laps to go.
Krause started alongside Matt Guererri, and the two posed a spirited battle for the top spot in the opening laps before Marcuccilli picked his way past both and drove on to the victory Jim Spano grabbed second, finishing 1.716 seconds behind the winner as Krause faded to third.
Todd Root finished fourth followed by Guererri, James Carlson, Earl Rudy, Kevin Root, Rocky Warner and Ricky Newton.
“We struggle at the weekly tracks. We come here, and we do really well,” Marcuccilli said from victory hill. “We run the same setups at the weekly tracks that we do here. I just don’t get it. The track was beautiful tonight. They got rid of the bumps. The track was phenomenal.”
HALL OF FAME 100 (100 laps): 1) Matt Sheppard, 2) Jimmy Phelps, 3) Tim Fuller, 4) Pat Ward, 5) Erick Rudolph, 6) Justin Haers, 7) Larry Wight, 8) Stewart Friesen, 9) Billy Dunn, 10) Peter Britten, 11) Chad Phelps, 12) Brett Hearn, 13) Alan Johnson, 14) Mike Mahaney, 15) Rob Bellinger, 16) Tyler Dippel, 17) Eldon Payne, 18) Dave Rauscher, 19) Roy Bresnahan, 20) Keith Flach, 21) Rich Scagliotta, 22) Billy Decker, 23) Danny Johnson, 24) Vic Coffey, 25) Justin Wright, 26) Ryan Phelps, 27) Ryan Bartlett, 28) Mike Bowman, 29) Chad Brachmann, 30) Gary Tomkins.
CRATE SPORTSMAN (25 laps): 1) Dave Marcuccilli, 2) Jim Spano, 3) Nick Krause, 4) Todd Root, 5) Matt Guererri, 6) James Carlson, 7) Earl Rudy, 8) Kevin Root, 9) Rocky Warner, 10) Ricky Newton, 11) Joe Kline, 12) Ronnie Davis III, 13) Jeff Stevenson, 14) Brandon Ford, 15) Mike Taylor, 16) Jim Morton, 17) Tyler Trump, 18) Alan Fink, 19) Billy Clark Jr., 20) Robert Humphreys, 21) Will Shields, 22) James Sweeting, 23) Phil Vigneri III, 24) Steve Gray.
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