Barberville,FL —Feb. 11 – Matt Sheppard picked up where he left off on the 2009 Super DIRTcar Series, authoring a late race charge to score his first victory of the new decade in convincing fashion Thursday night in the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals By University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park.
The winningest DIRTcar Big-Block Modified driver in the Northeast last season added his first career feature win in the Sunshine State, establishing the second-generation standout from Waterloo, N.Y. as an early favorite to capture the overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship come autumn.
“It seems I’ve finished just about every position but first, so I finally accomplished that and now we can go for number two tomorrow,” remarked a confident Sheppard, 27, a winner of 20 Big-Block main events in ’09, and already in prime position to carry the momentum back up north. “I think we’ve got the car to get the job done.”
“Tonight I could really put the car anywhere on the race track. It was pretty good all, especially at the end of the feature when it counted most. I really felt comfortable tonight and that’s important at a place you only get to once a year,” added Sheppard, after parking the JB Motorsports no. 9s Extreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine in the winner’s circle to collect the $2,000 payoff.
Sheppard’s dramatic ride to the front foiled a stellar effort put forth by Delaware driver Jamie Mills, who was forced to settle for runner-up laurels after starting 12th on the 26-car grid. Sussex, N.J. speedster Brett Hearn rebounded from a crash the previous night to fall into third ahead of fourth-place finisher for a second straight show, Jimmy Phelps. Popular New Yorker Danny Johnson steered the spec motor-powered Bicknell entry to fifth-place in the 30-lap finale, which finished as light rain continued to fall.
The customary 4-wide parade lap that has become a trademark of the World Racing Group carried over to green flag racing, as the mighty Mod Squad covered every inch of the ultra-fast Barberville half-mile looking for the quickest way around. Front row partners Billy Decker and Bobby Varin had trouble making up their minds as the veteran racers swapped the lead twice during the first five circuits.
Billy Pauch slowed between turns one and two to incur the only caution of the race, a slowdown that was followed immediately by the second red flag in two days. With fifth-place starter Sheppard locked into a fierce battle up front, teammate Jeff Brownell Jr.
Four qualifying heats were used to break down the 43-car field that once again included a GM spec motor-powered Modified that was driven this time by versatile runner Danny Johnson. Friesen, Planck, Phelps and Varin copped heat race wins while Andy Bachetti and Billy Decker won last chance consolation round qualifiers to determine the feature grid.
Hearn leads the ground-pounding NE Modifieds back to Volusia for two more days of Big-Block action, closing out Friday with a traditional 30-lap feature before concluding with the fourth and final round on Saturday, February 13 as a $5,000-to-win 50-lap championship event will decide the 2010 DIRTcar Nationals points championship.
Super DIRTcar Series – Volusia Speedway Park, February 11, 2010
39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH Event #2
BIG-BLOCK MODIFIED FEATURE
FIN STR CAR# DRIVER/HOMETOWN
1 5 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY ($2,000)
2 12 30 Jamie Mills/Milford,DE
3 7 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
4 3 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
5 4 49er Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
6 1 10 Bobby Varin/Sharon Springs,NY
7 19 34 Andy Bachetti/Sheffield,MA
8 11 66w Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
9 23 1x Willy Decker/Vernon,NY
10 20 1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
11 10 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
12 9 8r Rob Bellinger/Dexter,NY
13 15 56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY
14 17 22 Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE
15 18 07 Tim Kerr/Picton,ONT
16 27 19h Chris Higgins/Syracuse,NY
17 16 1p Billy Pauch/Frenchtown,NJ
18 2 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
19 6 6 John Stangle/Neshanic Station,NJ
20 14 0 Richie Pratt Jr./Woodbury Heights,NJ
21 21 29 Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY
22 13 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
23 22 14 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ
24 25 65 Rex King/Bristolville,OH
25 24 7 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA
26 8 42p Pat Ward/Genoa,NY
DNS 26 33 Ray Swinehart/Bechtelsville,PA
DID NOT QUALIFY(15)
97-Michel Chicoine/Ste-Cecile de Milton,QUE
85-Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA
165-Rex King Jr./Bristolville,OH
70-Eric Acquaro/New Windsor,NY
85j-H.J. Bunting III/Milford,DE
79-Jeremy Markle/Port Jervis,NY
Lap Leaders: Decker (1), Varin (2-4), Decker (5-8), Mills (9-25), Sheppard (26-30).
1 Caution (lap 8); 1 Red Flag (lap 8).
Heat Races (8 laps, top 5 finishers transferred to feature, top 2 redrew)
#1: Stangle, Ward, Bellinger, Scagliotta, Clair, Brownell, Chicoine, W.Decker, R.King Jr., Ro.Chrysler, Stacey.
#2: Hearn, Sheppard, Planck, Pratt, Kerr, R.King Sr., Rauscher, Vauter, Ballard, Greene, Acquaro.
#3: Phelps, D.Johnson, A.Johnson, Vitale, Bachetti, Horton, Swinehart, VanInwegen, Markle, Ra.Chrysler.
#4: Varin, B.Decker, Mills, Pauch, Friesen, Laubach, Bunting, Wight, Higgins, Flach.
Consolation Round (10 laps, top 2 finishers transferred to feature)
#1: Brownell, W.Decker, Chicoine, R.King Sr., Vauter, Ro.Chrysler, Stacey, Acquaro, R.King Jr., Rauscher, Ballard, Greene.
#2: Horton, Laubach, Bunting, Wight, Flach, Higgins, VanInwegen, Markle, Swinehart, Ra.Chrysler (DNS).
Provisionals: King Sr., Swinehart.