TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — It just doesn’t seem to matter what track or who the competition is, Brandon Sheppard and the Rocket1 Racing team are dominant.
Even when pitted up against the most seasoned drivers of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals on Friday night at the Terre Haute Action Track, Sheppard didn’t flinch.
For the ninth time this season on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series tour, Sheppard earned the win and extended his lead in the overall championship.
Sheppard blasted to the lead in the series’ second visit to historic half-mile and methodically paced the field over a hard-charging Bobby Pierce and Darrell Lanigan, who garnered his 10th top-10 finish of the season.
Setting fast time in his qualifying group, winning his Drydene Heat race and redrawing the pole, Sheppard took off like a rocket and, at one point, opened up a near-four-second advantage over his competition.
Leading all 30 caution-free laps for $10,000, Sheppard made it look easy. He entered several waves of lapped traffic but disposed of each one with ease, giving him the separation he needed to build a cushion around his large lead.
This victory also gave Sheppard his second Summer Nationals win of the year — the other coming just 10 days ago at Jacksonville Speedway in his family-owned No. B5 machine.
“It’s a dream season,” Sheppard said. “I hope we can keep it rolling.”
Pierce put on quite the show once he cracked the top-five with 13 laps remaining.
Riding the cushion, right where he’s so often found, the three-time Summer Nationals champion turned some of his fastest laps of the race in the final 10 circuits while in hot pursuit of the leader.
“The motor was running hot, and if it wasn’t, I really would have pushed the issue even harder than I was to catch Brandon,” Pierce said. “The oil temperature and the water temperature gauges were blinking at me for about the last 15 laps, so I didn’t want to I didn’t want to push it too hard.”
Coming from the eighth starting spot, “The Smooth Operator” chipped away at the cars in front of him and made steady progress towards the front, eventually reaching the rear bumper of Lanigan on lap 24.
Pierce drove it hard into turn three underneath Lanigan and appeared to have the spot secured coming out of turn four, but Lanigan made an excellent crossover maneuver to take the spot back at the start/finish line.
Once again, Pierce threw it in hard on the top groove heading into turn one and, this time, made it stick as he swiped third away and cracked the whip to reach his next target, Billy Moyer. It didn’t take nearly as long for Pierce to get around Moyer, disposing of him in just two corners.
With just five circuits remaining, Pierce ran out of time in his pursuit of Sheppard.
“By the time I got past Lanigan, I was looking for Brandon,” Pierce said. “Finally, I spotted him, he was so far gone without having a caution during the race. One side of me was wanting to go for it and dig hard to catch him, but the other side of me was thinking, ‘Well, this is a good points night, second’s not too bad.’”
Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard ; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce ; 3. 29-Darrell Lanigan ; 4. 21-Billy Moyer ; 5. 18-Shannon Babb ; 6. 3S-Brian Shirley ; 7. 157-Mike Marlar ; 8. 7W-Ricky Weiss ; 9. 99JR-Frank Heckenast, Jr. ; 10. 25-Shane Clanton ; 11. B1-Brent Larson ; 12. 97-Cade Dillard ; 13. 28-Dennis Erb, Jr. ; 14. 99B-Boom Briggs ; 15. CJ1-Rusty Schlenk ; 16. 25F-Jason Feger ; 17. 18J-Chase Junghans ; 18. 6-Blake Spencer ; 19. 14S-Steve Godsey ; 20. 31AUS-Paul Stubber ; 21. 25H-Chuck Hummer ; 22. 10-Paul Parker .
KSE Hard Charger Award: 18-Shannon Babb [+10]