Sheppard Strikes Again During Summer Nationals

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Brandon Sheppard earned his fourth DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory in six days Sunday at Lincoln Speedway. (Brendon Bauman Photo)
Brandon Sheppard earned his fourth DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory in six days Sunday at Lincoln Speedway. (Brendon Bauman Photo)

LINCOLN, Ill. – Brandon Sheppard collected his fourth DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory in six days on Sunday night at Lincoln Speedway.

Sheppard topped Frank Heckenast Jr. in a late-race battle for the lead to capture the $5,000 prize and an extra $2,000 as the champion of the fourth week of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals tour.

“It was a lot of fun,” Sheppard said of the big six-day stretch he completed with the Summer Nationals. “I hope they do a streak like this again next year that I can do. These places that are all within two hours of my house – all some of my favorite racetracks, and they all produce really great racing.”

While the 2013 Summer Nationals champ enjoyed the facilities he visited this week, he also faced a ton of competition, and the regulars came out to play again Sunday night.

Sheppard started on the pole for the 40-lap contest and jumped out to a comfortable lead in the opening stages, but soon encountered the wrath of lapped traffic as he neared the halfway point.

As he crossed the line to complete lap 14, Sheppard closed in on another sizable group of slower cars, occupying multiple lanes on the track. As he got into turn three, Sheppard tagged the rear of Tim Lance and got up over the cushion, slowing his momentum enough for Heckenast to scoot by underneath.

The incident was actually enough to damage the nose of his car, which he had no choice but to deal with for the remainder of the race.

“I had the nose rubbing pretty good but I just kinda fought through it. I was really tight, and I couldn’t steer through the center with the nose dragging the left-front. I just got up on the wheel, up on the cushion and made it happen,” Sheppard said.

Heckenast raced into the lead and led the field around for several laps before a caution flag was thrown on lap 27, erasing the lead he was maintaining in traffic and putting a hungry Sheppard right on his rear bumper.

It didn’t take long for the No. B5 to reclaim what was once his, throwing a big slide job on the #99jr in turns three and four on lap 32 to regain the top spot. Once it was his again, there was no catching Sheppard.

Sheppard led the field back around to the checkers untouched for the 24th time in his Hell Tour career, much to the delight of his ever-present home-state fans in attendance.

Heckenast hung on for second while Shannon Babb crossed the line with the final podium spot. Jason Feger was fourth and Steven Roberts earned best race of his Summer Nationals campaign in fifth.

Brian Shirley, Sheppard’s dueling partner throughout the week, was in rare form Sunday night after hitting the wall in his heat race, sending him to the pits with significant right-side damage to his Rocket Chassis No. 3s.

His crew made repairs to start the feature from 19th on the starting grid, but bad luck struck the Bob Cullen Racing team again as Shirley got a piece of the big wreck in the opening laps, sending him to the infield with too much damage to continue.

The finish:

1. B5-Brandon Sheppard [1][]; 2. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr [2][]; 3. 18-Shannon Babb [8][]; 4. 25-Jason Feger [5][]; 5. 111-Steven Roberts [3][]; 6. 91-Rusty Schlenk [4][]; 7. 4G-Bob Gardner [9][]; 8. 21B-Rich Bell [15][]; 9. 15-Kolby Vandenbergh [11][]; 10. 32M-Cody Maguire [13][]; 11. 30V-Mark Voigt [12][]; 12. 48-Tim Lance [16][]; 13. 11J-Drew Armstrong [6][]; 14. F15-Jeremy Conaway [14][]; 15. 27-Greg Kimmons [21][]; 16. 16-Rusty Griffaw [17][]; 17. 1W-Donny Walden [18][]; 18. 33-Ricky Frankel [7][]; 19. 48L-Tim Lance Jr [22][]; 20. 30-Mike Glasscock [20][]; 21. 26M-Brent McKinnon [10][]; 22. 3S-Brian Shirley [19][]; 23. 10J-Jordan Bauer [23]