It’s Sheppard’s Battle On The Midway

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Matt Sheppard in victory lane at Orange County Fair Speedway. (DIRTcar photo)
Matt Sheppard in victory lane at Orange County Fair Speedway. (DIRTcar photo)

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Matt Sheppard raced from third starting position to snatch the $10,000-to-win Battle on the Midway 100 at Orange County Fair Speedway Thursday night.

In his tracks, Ryan Godown fought off red hot runner Erick Rudolph to secure his best Series finish and a guaranteed starting spot in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVIII.

Sheppard parked his big-block modified in victory lane among hundreds of his swarming fans. Once out of the car, he hoisted the VP Race Fuels checkered flag high above his head and pumped his fist in a blizzard of confetti celebrating the $10,000 payday.

Sheppard’s car was on rails.

“This thing was really good tonight,” he said. “We went to our Central New York setup,” which due to the new slick and smooth surface at Orange County, proved to be part of the winning formula.

“Our car was so good on the bottom I was afraid to go around the outside of guys [lapped cars]. That’s how Ryan [Godown] lost the lead,” said Sheppard who passed Godown for the lead at the quarter mark of the race.

The win marks his seventh series victory in 2019 but he knows the competition is close behind.

“The series points are getting down the end of the season. Erick [Rudolph] has been close all year,” noted Sheppard.

Ryan Godown, driver of the yellow No. 26 machine, is now the clear favorite for rookie of the year. He started on the front row and never gave an inch. Only Sheppard managed to pass him but Godown held off championship contender Erick Rudolph to claim second.

“It feels unbelievable. We’ve been running 10th to 15th all year and we couldn’t seem to get on track. We’ve changed it up here and there the last couple weeks and it’s starting to get a little better. For me it’s just unbelievable right now,” Godown said.

Rudolph and his team are putting up a tremendous mid-season push for his first series championship.

“We didn’t start the season out how we needed to, a bunch of DNFs, a bunch of poor performances, but starting late June and all through July and into August we’ve been really putting in excellent efforts,” Rudolph explained.

Late in the race, Rudolph had a few chances to overtake Godown.

He said, “I think I was a little bit better than Godown, especially at the end of the race. Sheppard was out a little ways. We might have had something in lapped traffic for him.”

Sheppard was fast off the trailer. He was the quickest in hot laps, picked up the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast-Time Award, won his heat race, and of course, took the feature win.

The finish:

Feature (100 laps): 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard [3][$10,000]; 2. 26-Ryan Godown [2][$5,000]; 3. 25-Erick Rudolph [7][$3,000]; 4. 91-Billy Decker [6][$2,750]; 5. 20-Brett Hearn [8][$2,500]; 6. 1P-Billy Pauch [10][$2,250]; 7. 21A-Peter Britten [1][$2,000]; 8. 27j-Danny Johnson [17][$1,750]; 9. 3w-Mat Williamson [9][$1,500]; 10. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [12][$1,400]; 11. 5H-Chris Hile [14][$1,300]; 12. 18D-Billy Dunn [16][$1,200]; 13. 35-Mike Mahaney [28][$1,150]; 14. 99L-Larry Wight [34][$1,100]; 15. 18s-Tim Sears [23][$1,050]; 16. 42p-Pat Ward [19][$1,000]; 17. 66-Tom Meier [22][$975]; 18. 111-Demetrios Drellos [25][$950]; 19. R2-Rusty Smith [36][$425]; 20. 37-Paul StSauveur [35][$900]; 21. 17-Marcus Dinkins [37][$375]; 22. 44-Anthony Perrego [21][$850]; 23. 43H-Jimmy Horton [4][$825]; 24. 17Z-Brian Krummel [11][$800]; 25. 4v-Billy VanInwegen [20][$775]; 26. 35L-LJ Lombardo [5][$750]; 27. 4-Andy Bachetti [15][$725]; 28. 6D-Dillon Steuer [13][$700]; 29. 16x-Daniel Creeden [29][$675]; 30. 7-Rick Laubach [32][$650]; 31. 93X-Craig Mitchell [31][$625]; 32. 69-Tyler Boniface [30][$500]; 33. 19-Tim Fuller [18][$500]; 34. 126-Jeffery Strunk [27][$500]; 35. 3p-Billy Pauch [33][$500]; 36. 244-Chris Whitehead [24][]; 37. 2L-Jack Lehner [26][]