Sheppard Does It Again In Arizona

Brandon Sheppard en route to victory Wednesday night at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)
Brandon Sheppard en route to victory Wednesday night at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — On a night that also featured two first-time winners, Brandon Sheppard became the first repeat winner of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts with a triumph in the Dirt Track Bank Super Late Models presented by Black Diamond Race Cars.

After earning the $100 SportTruck RV and Screven Motor Speedway fast qualifier award earlier in the evening, sprinting around FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in 14.896 seconds, Sheppard also cruised to claim his heat race, winning by over two and a half seconds.

As customary for the event, all four heat race winners entered the redraw, to identify their starting spots in Wednesday night’s 30-lap main event.

Jimmy Mars pocketed the $100 Gorsuch Performance pole award and would be joined on the front row by Sheppard. Fellow heat race winners Ricky Weiss and Cade Dillard made up the second row.

Sheppard wasted no time on the start, easily firing out to the early lead over Dillard, Mars, Weiss and Brian Shirley. Sheppard enjoyed a lead nearly the size of a straightaway by the 12th lap, when Garrett Alberson slowed out of turn four, to bring out the race’s first caution flag.

Sheppard again launched to a sizable lead on the ensuing restart, with Dillard, Mars and Weiss still in-tow.  Dillard began cutting into Sheppard’s lead with 10 laps to go, as the leaders encountered lapped traffic.

The second caution flag occurred one lap later, as Jason Papich slowed to a stop at the entrance of turn one. Dillard was determined to drive deep into the corner on the following restart, but he hopped the cushion and caught the wall with his right front, putting an end to his solid run and his night.

With nine laps remaining, Sheppard executed his fourth perfect start of the race and again launched to a large lead over the rest of the field. While Sheppard was cruising to his second victory in as many races, chaos ensued behind him, as Mars and Weiss raced side by side for nearly the entire final nine laps, putting on an epic show for the runner-up spot.

Mars prevailed to finish second, while Weiss claimed the third position, his second consecutive podium finish.

Shirley recovered from an early-race bobble and fought through the final restarts to claim the fourth position on Wednesday, while Chase Junghans benefited from the late-race chaos and finished fifth.

Sheppard’s second $5,000 feature victory of the brief year keeps him eligible for the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge during the 2020 Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Sheppard can become the second driver to ever stake claim to a piece of Keyser’s bonus money, if he can win at least one more feature during the final three events. He can earn as much as $100,000, if he were somehow able to win all three of those remaining races.

The Mesilla Valley Transportation/Border Tire and Arizona Differential Modified main event featured a first-time winner in the desert, with Tanner Mullens leading all 25 laps and collecting the $1,000 prize.

It was another first-time winner in the Barnett Harley-Davidson X-Mod division, with Zach Benson leading all 20 laps and earning his first $500 payday of the 2020 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout.

The finish:

Feature (40 Laps): 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard[2]; 2. 28M-Jimmy Mars[1]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss[3]; 4. 3S-Brian Shirley[9]; 5. 18-Chase Junghans[23]; 6. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr[17]; 7. 32-Bobby Pierce[8]; 8. 0-Rick Eckert[15]; 9. 89-Mike Spatola[10]; 10. 42S-Don Shaw[13]; 11. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[21]; 12. 1ST-Johnny Scott[19]; 13. 2S-Stormy Scott[11]; 14. 32B-Cody Laney[12]; 15. 32S-Chris Simpson[6]; 16. 6T-Terry Carter[24]; 17. 78S-Steve Stultz[22]; 18. 97-Cade Dillard[4]; 19. 91P-Jason Papich[18]; 20. 99-Clay Fisher[16]; 21. 19R-Ryan Gustin[14]; 22. 74-Mitch McGrath[5]; 23. 2-Garrett Alberson[7]; 24. 37-Rob Mayea[20]