PLYMOUTH, Wis. — Brandon Sheppard is a perfect three-for-three at the Plymouth Dirt Track.
Sheppard and his Rocket1 Racing machine led the final 39 laps to win at the track for the third consecutive year on Saturday.
It was his eighth victory of the year (third-straight) and 63rd of his World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late model Series career. Most significantly, the 27-year old Sheppard became the winningest World of Outlaws driver in the state of Wisconsin, as he nabbed his tenth triumph in the Badger State to surpass Billy Moyer’s nine wins.
“I’ve got a little theory: Wherever corn grows good, we’re gonna have a good race,” Sheppard joked. “But seriously, we all really look forward to coming up here. This trip north to Wisconsin and then our Western swing, that’s my favorite part of the whole year. We usually get around these tracks really good and they aren’t scared to work on them and give us a good racy place.”
Completing a clean sweep of the night, Sheppard’s conquest for the record books began with his 35th career Fast Time Award at 14.412 seconds, which marked his second-straight year as the fastest qualifier at Plymouth. He continued the onslaught with a dominant heat race win aboard the Valvoline sponsored No. 1 entry, then hit his biggest roadblock in the Morton Buildings Redraw when he pulled the No. 4 pill.
Lining up on the outside of row two, Sheppard quickly marched forward and slid into the second spot on the opening circuit, but it Cade Dillard led early.
Quickly attacking Dillard for control of the lead, Sheppard offered a series of challenges that “Thriller” was able to swat away. Heading into lap traffic with back markers hogging every lane imaginable, the frontrunners had their work cut out for them facing traffic, a situation that would ultimately decide the race.
Coming together with Brent Larson while trying to swoop around the outside, Dillard cut a left front tire on lap 11 and was forced to the work area during the feature’s first caution.
“I was pressuring him pretty hard there and he knew he had to go,” Sheppard said. “There was a lane for a minute, but then Larson went all the way out to the wall when Cade was trying to stick it in there and he got that flat left front. I hated to see that. Cade and I race so well together; he’s a clean racer and we had a good race going there. I was hanging right with him on the bottom over in turns one and two, I think we could’ve had a great race together.”
From there, it was smooth sailing over the remaining 39 laps for Sheppard, who went unchallenged en route to Plymouth victory lane for the third straight year.
“I’m kind of planning in my head before I get to lap traffic, like three laps before when I see them I’m thinking about what line they’re running, what I think they might do, what I need to do when I get to them,” Sheppard noted on his strategy with traffic. “When you have a decent lead it’s not that bad, but rolling into traffic with pressure on you is how you start making those bad decisions. It’s hard to make the right decisions every corner, especially while leading. It got a little sketchy tonight because the bottom in turns three and four wasn’t as good as I thought and it got really black slick, then the top came in. It got pretty treacherous at times, but our car was super manueverable and I could put it wherever I wanted.”
Over the final stages, fans saw Chase Junghans drive the wheels off his No. 18 machine with a pair of daring moves to first pass Scott Bloomquist around the outside and then Ricky Weiss with a monster slide job in turn three. While Junghans was attending to Jimmy Mars for second with five to go, he received new company in the form of Justin Ritchie.
Ultimately, Mars survived the challenges and held on for a season-best second-place effort in his MB Customs No. 28m.
Behind him in the third position was Ritchie, who sent the Plymouth crowd wild in his post-race interview. However, in post-race inspection, Ritchie’s No. 70 failed to meet the quarter panel height check requirements and was docked three positions to a sixth-place finish, still a career-best for him.
Junghans was credited with third.
Feature (50 laps): 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 28m-Jimmy Mars [$5,000]; 3. 18-Chase Junghans [$3,000]; 4. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,500]; 5. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$2,000]; 6. 70-Justin Ritchie [$1,700]; 7. 10s-Taylor Scheffler [$1,400]; 8. 12-Ashton Winger [$1,300]; 9. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$1,200]; 10. 20-Rodney Sanders [$1,100]; 11. 99b-Boom Briggs [$1,050]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,000]; 13. 97s-Justin Schmidt [$950]; 14. 11-Justin Reed [$900]; 15. B1-Brent Larson [$850]; 16. 28-Dennis Erb [$800]; 17. D1-Turk Letizia [$770]; 18. 49-Jake Timm [$750]; 19. 74-Mitch McGrath [$730]; 20. 98-Jason Rauen [$700]; 21. 79-Jim Schmidt [$700]; 22. 1m-Mike Mataragas [$700]; 23. 89-Brad Mueller [$700]; 24. 54-Kevin Baldry [$700]. Lap Leader(s): Dillard 1-11; Sheppard 12-50. Hard Charger Award: 12-Ashton Winger[+8]