DAVENPORT, Iowa — For the second time in as many races, Davenport Speedway delivered an absolute thriller with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series.
Brandon Sheppard earned his 11th series victory of the season in Tuesday’s 50-lapper, earning $10,000.
Six official lead changes highlighted the action-packed show which brought fans to their feet as they witnessed Sheppard swap the lead multiple times with Cade Dillard.
A side-by-side battle for the lead not good enough? Well Jimmy Owens made it a three-way war throughout the closing half as three of the nation’s best fought wheel-to-wheel and raced under a blanket for the win.
In the end, lady luck and lapped traffic played a factor in the finish as Sheppard snuck by Dillard with four laps remaining and survived one final frantic sprint to the checkered flag to score his 66th career World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory.
“It was crazy; I just don’t even know how to describe it,” said Sheppard. “Cade and Jimmy are two of the best guys in the whole country to race with. You know they’ll run you clean and they know I’m gonna race them clean. That was just a blast to be a part of. I’m gonna have to go back and watch that whole thing on DIRTVision.”
With Dillard and Chad Simpson lining the front row and Owens and Sheppard behind them, the stage was set for a clash of titans from the beginning.
After Simpson controlled the opening five circuits, Dillard worked his way to the lead on lap six as he mastered the low line around the quarter-mile. While Dillard held the point, the action boiled behind him as Owens attacked Sheppard for second, and momentarily took it, before Sheppard found a new level in the No. 1.
Acing the bottom as Dillard blasted the top, Sheppard methodically picked at the inside groove and capitalized on lap 19 by driving by Dillard down the backstretch to take command. A pair of lap 24 cautions halted the pace before a lap 28 stoppage proved to be the final restart with Sheppard in control over a stout row two of Dillard and Owens.
“The line just changes so much here,” Sheppard noted. “I thought for sure we were gonna run around the top almost all race long, but I went down to the bottom just because I was alone down there and it ended up taking us to the lead. I mean what do you do, take the lead on the bottom and move to the top? It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. So we bided our time down there on the bottom, even though I didn’t really want to. But the last time I was here and I was leading when a caution came out Ricky Thornton Jr. drove right by me on the restart, so I decided to go up top after those cautions.”
Sheppard’s switch to the high side opened the door for Dillard to occupy his lane on the bottom, which gave fans an intense side-by-side battle for the lead.
Running neck-and-neck down the stretch, Dillard and Sheppard ensued to trade the lead it seemed almost every lap. In reality, Sheppard controlled laps 19-35, then Dillard took command off laps 36-37, Sheppard stole it back on lap 38, and then Dillard again snatched it away on lap 39.
“Cade was right there lap after lap after lap after lap after lap after lap,” Sheppard joked on the heated side-by-side affair.
Closing back in with traffic in play, Sheppard and Owens – who was right in the thick of things with both drivers all race long – caught Dillard as the five-to-go signal was given. While Dillard dealt with traffic on the bottom, Sheppard ripped around the top and was able to squeeze by both the lapper and Dillard on lap 46 to reassume control of the lead.
From there, it was a mad dash to the finish with Dillard and Owens frantically pursuing the Rocket1 Racing No. 1. In the end, neither Dillard nor Owens could muster up one final challenge for Sheppard, who banked his 11th World of Outlaws win of the year.
“I think we were on a little different tire than Cade was and we were just able to hold our momentum up top which is what really allowed us to win that race,” Sheppard noted. “I don’t know that we had the best car. We were in the right place at the right time. I think a few more laps and he probably would’ve passed me. It was getting ready to get hairy. But hey, sometimes you’ve got to have luck on your side and it was on ours this time.”
Coming home in second, Dillard only fell behind of Sheppard by .521 seconds at the checkered flag.
“I couldn’t run around the top like Brandon and Jimmy could, so I just tried to stay down in the mud and keep our softer tire going around the end of the race,” Dillard said. “I’ll say it once again, it’s really just an honor to be up here consistently with people like Brandon Sheppard and Jimmy Owens, they’re definitely the best in the business. We’ll keep working on this MB Customs ride and hopefully can outrun them eventually.”
Owens, Jimmy Mars and Chris Simpson filled the top five.
Feature (50 laps): 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 97-Cade Dillard [$5,000]; 3. 20-Jimmy Owens [$3,000]; 4. 28m-Jimmy Mars [$2,500]; 5. 32s-Chris Simpson [$2,000]; 6. 58-Jeremiah Hurst [$1,700]; 7. 32-Bobby Pierce [$1,400]; 8. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$1,300]; 9. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,200]; 10. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,100]; 11. 7-Ricky Weiss [$1,050]; 12. 15k-Justin Kay [$1,000]; 13. 99b-Boom Briggs [$950]; 14. 12-Ashton Winger [$900]; 15. 21b-Rich Bell [$850]; 16. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$800]; 17. 58e-Dave Eckrich [$770]; 18. 51-Matthew Furman [$750]; 19. 29-Spencer Diercks [$730]; 20. B1-Brent Larson [$700]; 21. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck [$700]; 22. 25s-Chad Simpson [$700]; 23. 98-Jason Rauen [$700]; 24. 59-Garrett Alberson [$700]. Lap Leader(s): Chad Simpson 1-5; Cade Dillard 6-18; Brandon Sheppard 19-35; Dillard 36-37; Sheppard 38; Dillard 39-45; Sheppard 46-50. Hard Charger Award: 58-Jeremiah Hurst[+17]