PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – Brandon Sheppard captured the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned 39th annual Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima Batteries Saturday night at Portsmouth Raceway Park.
Sheppard earned $100,000 for his third career DTWC victory and 25th overall win this year.
Sheppard was one of four different race leaders in the 100-lap event. Mike Marlar finished in second, with Eibach Rookie of the Year Tyler Erb coming home third.
Rounding out the top five were two-time DTWC winner Josh Richards and Dennis Erb Jr.
Richards was in position to become the first driver in the 39-year history of the race to win the crown jewel three years in a row, and kept himself in the hunt for the entire distance.
Shane Clanton took the lead at the start of the race and led the first five laps until former DTWC winner Jimmy Owens passed him for the top spot. Owens then held the point for several laps before yielding the point to Sheppard.
Sheppard briefly gave up the lead to Richards on lap 68, but the very next lap Sheppard regained the point for good.
He withstood a caution with 10 laps to go and then controlled the last 10 laps of the race by distancing himself from both Marlar and Tyler Erb for his third six-figure win of the year.
In LOLMDS victory lane for the fourth time this year, Sheppard thanked his team for a special season.
“The year we have had has been unbelievable. My guys are the best of group of guys I have ever worked for and they are the best at what they do,” noted Sheppard. “They give me the best equipment night in and night out. I just go do my job with it.
“Thanks to Mark Richards, Steve Baker, and all of my crew … Austin Hargrove, Joel Rogers, and Danny White. It’s been a dream year,” he added. “It looks like they had a heck of crowd and to do it in front of them is special.”
Sheppard’s other six-figure victories this season came in the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway ($125,000) and the Dirt Million at Mansfield Motor Speedway ($101,000).
“I want to thank everyone who helps me, especially my family back home, dad, and grandpa. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am at today. When I started my career, I never thought I would be a three-time Dirt Track World Champion.”
Marlar was seeking his first win in the famed event but came home in second.
“I got my car a little looser than I wanted to. I tightened it up more than I was last night, but I was a little loose,” said Marlar. “Honestly, I was on a softer left rear tire than Sheppy. Earlier in the race when I could tell that I was in a little disadvantage when it came to tires. My best chance was to take it easy on the tires to be there at the end.”
Erb claimed the Eibach Rookie of the Year Award by finishing on the podium. He ended the year with six series wins.
“I was a little behind where I wanted to be early in the race, because I started ninth. Those other guys put themselves in a better starting position,” explained Erb. “I am very happy with the finish tonight and this year. I broke Randall’s streak of three wins in a row tonight, but it has been an awesome year for us at Best Performance. To come out of this season with the Rookie-of-the-Year championship is fantastic, and I can’t wait for our team to build on that next year.”
Polesitter Chris Ferguson was never a factor in the race and came home 15th. Series champion Jonathan Davenport found early issues and finished last in the 26-car field.
In other action, Dale McDowell won the Jim Dunn Memorial Non-Qualifiers Race by holding off Jared Hawkins for the win.
Brandon Overton led early in the race, but he tangled with a car that he was trying to lap, and was knocked out of the race lead. McDowell then led the rest of the race.
Hawkins tried to make it close but just couldn’t overtake McDowell as the checkers waved. He finished in second, followed by R.J. Conley, Doug Drown, and Brandon Fouts.
DTWC Feature (100 laps): Brandon Sheppard, Mike Marlar, Tyler Erb, Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., Bobby Pierce, Scott James, Scott Bloomquist, Hudson O’Neal, Kyle Bronson, Devin Moran, Jason Covert, Billy Moyer Jr., Shanon Buckingham, Chris Ferguson, Jimmy Owens, Jacob Hawkins, Earl Pearson Jr., Don O’Neal, Steve Casebolt, Shannon Thornsberry, Tim McCreadie, Ricky Weiss, Shane Clanton, Stormy Scott, Jonathan Davenport.
Non-Qualifiers Race (25 laps): Dale McDowell, Jared Hawkins, R.J. Conley, Doug Drown, Brandon Fouts, Rod Conley, Chub Frank, Zack Dohm, Rick Eckert, Justin Rattliff, Colton Flinner, Jason Jameson, Jackie Boggs, Brandon Overton, Austin Rettig, Lee Logan, Allen Murray, J.T. Conley, Delmas Conley, Kirk Phillips, Kody Evans, Eric Wells, Boom Briggs, Drake Troutman.