SEYMOUR, Wis. — Brandon Sheppard led the final 18 laps to win Friday night’s World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series race at Outagamie Speedway.
The 62nd triumph of Sheppard’s young career didn’t come without some wild and wacky run-ins over the course of Friday’s 50-lapper. Assuming the lead on the 33rd circuit after battling Jason Rauen, Sheppard was the fourth different leader with the fifth and final lead change of the race.
A late-race restart with eight laps left made it interesting for a standing-room only crowd, but challengers Darrell Lanigan and hometown hero Nick Anvelink couldn’t match the overwhelming prowess of the Rocket1 Racing, Valvoline No. 1 machine.
“We’ve got a great crowd here and had a great track to race on, it doesn’t get much better than this,” Sheppard said. “I was little worried in the heats when it was bottom dominant, but the track crew stayed right with it and gave us a really racey track for the feature. That was a lot of fun!”
Starting fifth, Sheppard bided his time from the third row while an all-out war waged in the opening stint. Going three-wide for the lead at one point were Dennis Erb Jr., Ashton Winger and Rauen. Erb controlled the opening lap aboard his Rocket Chassis No. 28, but then 20-year old Winger wheeled to the front on laps 2-4, before Rauen rocketed around the outside and got the top spot on lap five.
The battle at the front really heated up when Rauen and Winger found their way into dense lap traffic with seemingly no moves on the table. As lap cars ran low and high, a boxed in Rauen forfeited all his ground and allowed Winger to close right in. Taking the lead back on lap 13, it looked as if the Rookie of the Year leader might make a run for it and sneak through the back markers, but disaster struck the next time by in turn four.
Just as quickly as he snatched the lead back, the lead was ripped away from Winger when contact from Rauen sent the No. 12 spinning to a stop bringing out the second caution.
Capitalizing on the incident, Sheppard positioned his No. 1 in row two on the restart and immediately pointed it to the second spot as the green dropped. Hounding Rauen like a dog chasing a bone over the next 20 laps, Sheppard methodically followed the No. 98 machine around the third-mile and through lapped traffic, but struggled time and time again to actually make his move.
The duo went side-by-side on a handful of occasions, but it wasn’t until lap 33 that B-Shepp was finally able to wrestle the lead away from Rauen with a perfectly executed dive to the bottom of turns one and two.
“I was trying to give him plenty of room, but man he wanted to run into me real bad there,” Sheppard noted. “I don’t really know what was going on there. We could roll the middle real well through turns and one two though, and that’s when we were able to get underneath him. I’m not sure what happened with him and Ashton, but I would’ve really like to race with him for another win.”
After Sheppard took the lead with 17 to go and set sail, all eyes turned to the battle for second which was brewing between Rauen and Darrell Lanigan, who established the Outagamie Speedway late model track record at 14.322 seconds in qualifying. Their intense boxing match hit its own boiling point on lap 42 when a turn three slider from Lanigan found Rauen’s front end and sent the No. 98 spinning in the same location of Winger’s lap-14 heartbreak.
Lanigan made it interesting on the final restart as he chopped away at Sheppard’s lead, but ultimately ran out of time and real estate to track down the No. 1.
“We just needed to get through all that lap traffic to be able to do anything more, it was just so hard to pass in all that traffic,” Lanigan said. “All in all, we had a great car. We’ve all been working so hard lately and this turnaround we’ve been on has been awesome.”
Anvelink finished third.
“Anytime you can go forward against the World of Outlaws, it’s a good night,” Anvelink noted. “I thought we’d be able to get up there and race with those guys for a win, but we just didn’t take off on that last restart like we had been. This has me real excited for tomorrow. Plymouth has never been all that kind to me, but hopefully this setup will give us a good starting spot. Qualifying is everything with these guys, so if we can turn a good lap maybe we’ll have a chance to go for another win tomorrow night.”
Feature (50 laps): 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [$5,000]; 3. 15-Nick Anvelink [$3,000]; 4. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,500]; 5. 20-Rodney Sanders [$2,000]; 6. 3-Brett Swedberg [$1,700]; 7. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,400]; 8. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,300]; 9. 0-Scott Bloomquist [$1,200]; 10. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,100]; 11. 70-Justin Ritchie [$1,050]; 12. 19-Dustin Sorenson [$1,000]; 13. 33e-Chris Engels [$950]; 14. 11-Justin Reed [$900]; 15. 12-Ashton Winger [$850]; 16. 10s-Taylor Scheffler [$800]; 17. 99b-Boom Briggs [$770]; 18. B1-Brent Larson [$750]; 19. 25-Jared Siefert [$730]; 20. 98-Jason Rauen [$700]; 21. 10-Paul Parker [$700]; 22. 28m-Jimmy Mars [$700]; 23. 81-Troy Springborn [$700]; 24. 49-Jake Timm [$700]. Lap Leader(s): Erb Jr. 1; Winger 2-4, 14; Rauen 5-13, 15-32; Sheppard 33-50. Hard Charger Award: 70-Justin Ritchie[+9]