ORRVILLE, Ohio — If the standard length of a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature was only 45 laps, Saturday night’s 50-lap race at Wayne County Speedway would have ended on a different note.
Series champions Brandon Sheppard and Darrell Lanigan put on what could potentially be remembered as one of the most exciting features of the season in an incredible display of lap-after-lap, no-holds-barred battling for over 25 laps.
Lanigan pounded the cushion on the top, with Sheppard showing a wheel down low almost every lap until he made the winning move on lap 46 by going underneath Lanigan, who was forced out of his high groove by lapped traffic.
Amidst all the fireworks in the last 10 laps with the leaders, rookie sensation Ricky Weiss burst onto the scene with seven laps to go after a late-race charge, getting around Doug Drown with 11 circuits remaining and closing within five car lengths of the battle between Sheppard and Lanigan by lap 43.
With three laps to go, Weiss had completely closed the gap and made the pass out of turn four underneath Lanigan to take second. With time running out and a slew of lapped traffic ahead of him, Weiss took aim at the Rocket1 Racing machine.
But his last-lap dive into turn three was unsuccessful and Sheppard hung on for the win – his seventh of the year with the Outlaws and third in-a-row at Wayne County Speedway.
“I knew my car was fast on the top, so if I could just get in open track, I could roll pretty good,” Sheppard said. “Everybody was just all over the place and we were racing hard. A fun, clean race, for sure.”
Sheppard spent a lot of effort digging on Lanigan down low until he saw daylight on the high side. When Lanigan saw the signal sticks telling him to move back up to the top, Sheppard went back to the bottom. But after several unsuccessful pass attempts down low and the laps winding down, Sheppard began feeling the heat from Weiss’ No. 7 behind him. And that’s when he knew it was now or never.
“I moved to the top in [turns] three and four and caught [Lanigan], and then his crew guys moved him up to the top, which was what they should have done,” Sheppard said. “Finally, we were getting into lapped traffic and I saw Ricky show me a nose on the bottom and I knew it was either time to go or get passed.”
Sheppard got a great run coming out of turn two on lap 46 and drag-raced Lanigan down the backstretch. It looked as though Lanigan’s momentum on the high side would carry him through once more, as it had on every other pass attempt. But Larry Bellman Jr. was already riding the line and impeded Lanigan’s path just enough to allow Sheppard to get the momentum advantage and squeak by underneath.
“The lapped cars were just right where I needed to be and I wasn’t good enough around the bottom to go down there and get up beside them,” Lanigan said. “Brandon’s car was better on the bottom.”
After the lead changed hands, Weiss said he eventually saw an opportunity to grab the lead on the low side, but lapped traffic made him think better of it as well. Blake Spencer was already down on the bottom as the leaders were moving through, and Weiss chose to be conservative over making a bonzai move.
“I just didn’t want to stick my nose in there and maybe hit a tire or slam into his [Spencer’s] door,” Weiss said. “I thought maybe we could get in the right place at the right time and pick off the lead, but I played it safe and went around him on the outside.”
Morton Buildings Feature (50 Laps) – 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 7-Ricky Weiss [$5,000]; 3. 29-Darrell Lanigan [$3,000]; 4. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,500]; 5. 12-Doug Drown [$2,000]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,700]; 7. 25-Shane Clanton [$1,400]; 8. 44-Chris Madden [$1,300]; 9. 1x-Chub Frank [$1,200]; 10. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,100]; 11. B1-Brent Larson [$1,050]; 12. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 13. 6-Blake Spencer [$950]; 14. 59-Larry Bellman [$900]; 15. 9-Devin Moran [$850]; 16. 59m-Shane McLoughlin [$800]; 17. 5m-Ryan Markham [$770]; 18. C9-Steve Casebolt [$750]; 19. 18c-Mitchell Caskey [$730]; 20. 79-Brad Malcuit [$700]; 21. 44h-Dave Hess [$700]; 22. 14g-J.R. Gentry [$700]; 23. 36-Matt Irey [$700]; 24. 17-Charlie Duncan [$700]; Hard Charger: B1-Brent Larson[+12]