ASHLAND, Wis. — Brandon Sheppard has been so good this year, not even a mid-race rain shower on Tuesday night at ABC Raceway could slow him down.
In fact, the rain that halted the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature after 18 laps might have actually helped him out, altering the track surface enough that when action resumed, he was even better.
Sheppard charged to his fourth consecutive victory and 12th win of the year, holding off Shane Clanton and Ricky Weiss in the series’ debut at ABC Raceway.
Pulling onto the race track at 7:45 p.m. central for the inaugural Red’s Auto Badgerland 50, in an incredible effort by World of Outlaws and ABC officials to beat the weather, Sheppard took the lead from the pole and smoothly led the first 18 laps with Weiss and Clanton following behind him.
At no point in the contest did lapped traffic give Sheppard any major fits, but Weiss was closing the gap in traffic and even took a peek to the inside by the time the first caution was thrown for rain on lap 19.
The field paced under yellow for a handful of laps before the rain paused and went back to green, briefly. A three-car tangle in turn three broke out on the second attempt at a restart, signaling a track too wet to continue as the rain fell once again.
Once the then-soaked race track was evacuated, drivers and crews used their time in the pit area to make adjustments for a freshly packed and tacky racing surface until the rain stopped. Quite an improvement came out from underneath most of the leaders, as Sheppard turned the fastest lap of the race on the next restart, and Clanton shot out of a cannon to get by Weiss and challenge Sheppard for the lead.
It took less than four circuits for Clanton to get a run going to the inside of Weiss for the runner-up spot, as they drag raced down the frontstretch for position, completing lap 22.
At that point, Clanton was on a mission to catch the Rocket1 Racing car out front, who was just over two seconds ahead and heading into lapped traffic.
“The Georgia Bulldog” reeled in the leader by lap 35 and assaulted the topside in an effort to gain an advantage. He and Sheppard switched lines in the final ten laps as Clanton began diving deep into turns three and four to try and get by on the bottom.
But it was of no use; Sheppard was too strong on the top side. “The Rocket Shepp” led every lap on en route to his first victory at ABC and 49th of his World of Outlaws career.
The added moisture to the racing surface seemed to play right into the hands of the leaders, as Sheppard was able to move around to move his line around equally before and after the rain delay.
“The track changed a little bit after the rain, but they did a good job of keeping it sealed up,” Sheppard said. “The track guys did a really great job, and I thought it was pretty nice all night long. It’s just another one on the list of places I’d like to come back to, definitely a lot of fun out there.”
Clanton also benefitted from the rainfall and used the downtime to make the necessary adjustments to make the pass on Weiss.
“The rain actually helped me, because we got to adjust on the car a little bit,” Clanton said. “We were probably going to be a third or fourth-place car before the rain. But we got to adjusting on the car and made it as it was in the heat race.”
Mark yet another solid podium finish on the board for Rookie contender Ricky Weiss, who now stands second in top-three finishes only to Sheppard. Despite a result that put him back into a tie with Chase Junghans for third in Series points, Weiss seemed to be one of the few drivers that didn’t benefit from the rainfall.
“The track was just getting to our liking, it was starting to blow off when the rain fell,” Weiss said. “That made it a lot faster. We’re good, but not quite as good when it’s fast like that.”
Feature (50 Laps) 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 25-Shane Clanton [$5,000]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss [$3,000]; 4. 28m-Jimmy Mars [$2,500]; 5. 97-Cade Dillard [$2,000]; 6. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,700]; 7. B1-Brent Larson [$1,400]; 8. 15-Nick Anvelink [$1,300]; 9. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,200]; 10. 27-Jake Redetzke [$1,100]; 11. 6-Blake Spencer [$1,050]; 12. 71-Rick Hanestad [$1,000]; 13. 29-Darrell Lanigan [$1,000]; 14. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 15. 15s-Donny Schatz [$1,000]; 16. 11-Pat Doar [$1,000]; 17. O-Mark Rose [$1,000]; 18. 6m-Jeff Massingill [$1,000]; 19. 79-Kevin Carlson [$1,000]; 20. 19-Steve Larsen [$1,000]; 21. 85-John Kaanta [$1,000]; 22. 1e-Kevin Eder [$1,000]; 23. 31-Travis Budisalovich [$1,000]; 24. 71jr-Buddy Hanestad [$1,000]; 25. 11d-Tim McMann [$1,000] Hard Charger: 18-Chase Junghans[+10]