Sheppard Is A Wild West Gunslinger

Brandon Sheppard celebrates after winning Sunday's Wild West Shootout feature. (MIke Ruefer Photo)
Brandon Sheppard celebrates after winning Sunday's Wild West Shootout feature. (MIke Ruefer Photo)

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. – Brandon Sheppard broke through for his first victory of the season during night two of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout on Sunday at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway.

Sheppard started the evening off well, earning the second quickest time amongst the second qualifying group in Dirt Track Bank Super Late Model action presented by Black Diamond Race Cars, coming just one tenth of a second short of Ricky Weiss’ 14.878 second lap around the three-eighths-mile FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway track surface.

Sheppard made easy work of his heat race, winning over Weiss by nearly two and a half seconds.  Along with the other three heat race winners, this placed Sheppard in the redraw.  Ironically, each heat race winner drew the starting position that matched the order of their heat races. This meant Sheppard would start on the outside pole, sharing the front row with Don Shaw.

Shaw jumped out to the early lead in the 40-lap feature, with Sheppard in hot pursuit, followed by the night’s quickest qualifier, Brian Birkhofer.  Birkhofer’s 14.790-second lap was the quickest time of the night and quickest of the event, to this point, earning him the $100 Fast Qualifier award, courtesy of SportTruck RV and Screven Motor Speedway.  Unfortunately for Birkhofer, this would be the closest that he would be to the leaders, for the rest of the evening. Meanwhile, Sheppard wasted little time in disposing of Shaw for the lead, claiming the top spot at the completion of lap eight.

The first caution flag waved just a few laps later, when Johnny Scott lost his entire left rear wheel and tire.  The second and final caution occurred just before halfway, when Cade Dillard slowed to a stop at pit entrance.  Sheppard executed flawless restarts and continued to maintain his lead, while positions were being swapped behind him.

Sunday night’s race began taking its final mold with 15 laps to go, as Bobby Pierce charged to second place and started closing in on Sheppard.  Weiss followed, keeping pace with both of them, as they began to encounter lapped traffic.  However, nothing was going to rattle Sheppard on this night, as he sliced his way through the slower traffic with perfection.  Weiss was able to catch and pass Pierce with five laps to go, focusing his sights on Sheppard and began cutting into his lead.  However, Weiss could only pull within a couple car lengths of Sheppard and settled for the runner-up position.

Sheppard’s Sunday night triumph netted him a $5,000 payday and marked his second career Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout victory.  Pierce faded in the closing laps and finished a distant third, with Chase Junghans and Birkhofer completing the top five.

Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas claimed this third victory of the year in Mesilla Valley Transportation/Border Tire Arizona Differential Modified competition. Unlike the Late Model feature, the pole-sitter did not get the early jump in this one, as outside front row starter Travis Saurer, led the first few laps.

However, it didn’t take Sanders long before he passed Saurer and began to stretch his lead.  Fellow MB Customs Chassis competitors, Lucas Schott and Tyler Wolff remained within striking distance of Sanders, but they didn’t have enough to make a move.  Sanders won the 25-lap, $2,000 feature by nearly two seconds over Schott and Wolff, while Dustin Strand and Matt Gilbertson rounded-out the top five finishers.

The Barnett Harley-Davidson X-Mods also raced for 25 laps on Sunday night, one of two times that division will compete for a $1,000 prize during the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout.

Kris Jackson controlled the first half of the race and seemed on his way to his first event victory.  However, Josh Cain had other plans, as he tracked down Jackson and made the pass easily near the halfway mark. Jackson slipped into the grips of Saturday night’s feature winner, Brock Gronwold and the two made contact at the exit of turn four, ending both of their chances of winning.  This eliminated Cain’s biggest challengers and he cruised to the win over Clint Johnson, while Lance Schill earned his second podium finish in as many nights, finishing third on Sunday.

The finish:

1. B5-Brandon Sheppard[2]; 2. 7-Ricky Weiss[6]; 3. 32-Bobby Pierce[4]; 4. 18-Chase Junghans[9]; 5. 15B-Brian Birkhofer[3]; 6. 32S-Chris Simpson[17]; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley[10]; 8. 89-Mike Spatola[5]; 9. 75T-Terry Phillips[11]; 10. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr[14]; 11. 19R-Ryan Gustin[13]; 12. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[21]; 13. 2-Garrett Alberson[12]; 14. 91T-Tony Toste[24]; 15. 74-Mitch McGrath[20]; 16. 37-Rob Mayea[16]; 17. 91P-Jason Papich; 18. 1-Earl Pearson Jr[8]; 19. 2S-Stormy Scott[18]; 20. 42S-Don Shaw[1]; 21. 28M-Jimmy Mars[15]; 22. 97-Cade Dillard[23]; 23. 1ST-Johnny Scott[7]; 24. 77M-Jay Morris[22]; 25. 15-Justin Duty[19]