ABOTTSTOWN, Pa. — After a torrid stretch of four wins in six nights with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, Brandon Sheppard kept his reign of dominance alive on Thursday night when the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series kicked off a three-race Pennsylvania swing at Lincoln Speedway.
Winning his heat and controlling all 50 laps of the feature, Sheppard delivered another untouchable performance aboard the Rocket1 Racing No. 1 Valvoline machine. The 27-year old sensation grabbed his 12th victory of the season and continues to etch closer to the most wins in World of Outlaws Late Model series history (Josh Richards, 77) with his 67th career win in the $12,000 Billy Vacek / Huey Wilcoxon Memorial presented by Viper Motorsports.
“This was a really fun track. Lincoln Speedway puts one heck of a race,” Sheppard said after his first appearance at the track. “I could race every day of the week right now if they’d let me. This thing is so much fun to drive. We’ve just been so good, it’s hard to miss any of these races. I’m glad to be back out here on tour, especially at new places like this. I had never been here before, so I like checking new tracks off my list.”
While Sheppard commanded the top spot from the green flag, it was an all-out war for position behind him. Four different drivers occupied the runner-up spot over the course of the 50-lapper.
After polesitter Dan Stone gave chase in the opening laps, Darrell Lanigan entered his Barry Wright ICON No. 29V into the mix and looked to be a real challenge with lapped traffic in play. The three-time series champion cut Sheppard’s lead down until the first caution on lap 23 opened the door for a handful of stoppages that halted Lanigan’s pursuit.
A slew of mid-race cautions offered intense restarts left and right while Lanigan faltered and a pair of Drydene Performance Products entries rose to the occasion. Trading the second spot multiple times, Ricky Weiss and Rick Eckert went back-and-forth until a lap-37 red flag for an upside down Jason Covert gave Eckert the best shot anyone had at taking down the Rocket No. 1.
“I knew he would be good here,” Sheppard said of racing Eckert to the finish. “When he got to second, I was just concentrating on hitting my marks and doing my job. I knew the top was slowing down in turns one and two, but I think I kept charging the entry too much until I figured out how to handle it there at the end. I was just waiting to move down off the cushion. I knew I would have to at some point, but you just don’t know when to make the move when you’re out front leading by yourself.”
Pulling alongside the door of the No. 1 and showing his nose several times, Eckert was right there within striking distance, but struggled to find the momentum to pass the series points leader and Sheppard claimed victory.
“We dug ourselves in a hole, but boy we rebounded there at the end,” said ninth-starting Eckert. “Hats off to this track crew, they did an amazing job. You could race all over this place, it’s little, but somehow feels almost five lanes wide. Those restarts were real exciting. He took my line down there in three and four, so I thought I’d try to take his away on the other end, but I should’ve just followed him and set him up somehow. I was trying to get close enough on the last lap to slide him, but just couldn’t pull it off.”
Chasing Sheppard and Eckert to the stripe for his first World of Outlaws podium in over a month was Weiss.
“I really felt like our car was good enough to make it all the way to the front,” noted Weiss afterwards. “If Brandon made one little, that’s all it would’ve taken and we were right there with him. The race track turned out really nice though. Rick and I had a great battle there before that red flag. I figured out how to diamond down the exit and I thought that was gonna be the ticket, but the track changes so much. I’m proud of this team and proud to be back on the podium.”
Cade Dillard and Chase Junghans completed the top five.
Feature (50 laps): 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$12,000]; 2. 0e-Rick Eckert [$6,000]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss [$4,000]; 4. 97-Cade Dillard [$3,500]; 5. 18-Chase Junghans [$3,000]; 6. 12-Ashton Winger [$2,500]; 7. 20F-Trever Feathers [$2,250]; 8. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$2,000]; 9. 7r-Ross Robinson [$1,800]; 10. 2-Dan Stone [$1,700]; 11. 111-Max Blair [$1,600]; 12. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,500]; 13. B1-Brent Larson [$1,400]; 14. 4s-Danny Snyder [$1,300]; 15. 119-Bryan Bernheisel [$1,200]; 16. 1J-Boom Briggs [$1,150]; 17. 43a-Tyler Bare [$1,100]; 18. 22-Gregg Satterlee [$1,050]; 19. 72c-Jason Covert [$1,000]; 20. F1-Coleby Frye [$1,000]; 21. 11v-Bobby Pierce [$1,000]; 22. 25z-Mason Zeigler [$1,000]; 23. 59-Chad Julius [$1,000]; 24. O6-Mike Lupfer [$1,000]; 25. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$1,000]; 26. 20-Doug Eck [$1,000]. Lap Leader(s):Sheppard 1-50. Hard Charger: 7r-Ross Robinson[+17].