INDEPENDENCE, Iowa – With point leader Brandon Sheppard picking up his ninth win in 17 races last week at Terre Haute Action Track, Rocket1 Racing boasts a win percentage of nearly 53 percent on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series this year.
Prior to Friday night, Sheppard had never won at the famed half-mile oval in Outlaws competition.
This weekend, he and the Rocket Chassis house car will lead the Outlaws northward into one track not seen by the tour in some time, and one staple of the Northern and Midwest swing – Independence Motor Speedway on July 5 and Deer Creek Speedway on July 6.
Sheppard has yet to win at either of these two tracks. However, his predecessor in the Rocket1 ride, four-time series champion Josh Richards, has won at both in past seasons. \
In fact, Richards’ last win in World of Outlaws action at Deer Creek came during his 2016 championship-winning and record-setting season.
The record Richards set that year was the single-season wins tally of 18 – a feat that Sheppard duplicated just one season later, after replacing Richards in the blue No. 1.
This brings up an interesting question – how do those two dominant seasons compare to the one Sheppard is having in 2019, and is he on pace to break the record he shares with Richards this season?
Looking in the win column going into the always-busy month of July, 2016 Richards had eight wins in 20 races, garnering a win percentage of 40. Before the first race of July in 2017, Sheppard was seven for 20, or a win percentage of 35.
However, in both 2016 and 2017, Richards and Sheppard outdid themselves in the second half of their respective seasons.
Richards went on win 10 races in his next 19 starts (excluding preliminary and special features) with a win percentage of 52.6, while Sheppard went 11 for 23 for a win percentage of 47.8.
In both of those seasons, both drivers needed to win at least 10 features in the last five months of the year to get to 18 wins.
Going into this weekend with an outlook to November, Sheppard only needs nine wins over the next 26 races, barring any rainouts or cancellations.
That’s a win percentage of 34.6 – a whole 18.3 percent worse than what he has right now.
Judging by win percentage, it appears Sheppard is on pace to break the 18 mark. In support of that statement, he has won at nine of the next 23 tracks the series is scheduled to visit over the next five months – exactly the number of wins he needs to reach 18.
All previous stats considered, the potential is there. But which driver looks best to stop him?
This weekend, look no further than the current runner-up in points, Darrell Lanigan.
Of the four World of Outlaws races held at Independence, Lanigan has won the last three of them, the most recent coming in 2014.
As for Deer Creek, no other driver has won more World of Outlaws races there than Lanigan (six of 16). Richards is the next closest with two (2011 and 2016).
However, “The Bluegrass Bandit” has not won yet with the Outlaws this season, so all eyes will be on him to see if he can break through this weekend at two tracks he’s certainly no stranger to.
Otherwise, the weekend may just be one more step on Sheppard’s march toward history.