One of the most successful Super Late Model car owners on the West Coast is teaming up with one of the best young drivers in the West to participate in the $25,000-to-win Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway (WA). For car owner Byron Campbell, the Summer Showdown is an event that he truly looks forward to after coming close to winning several times with four-time SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series champion Derek Thorn. For Buddy Shepherd, the Summer Showdown is an event at which he hopes to take home a breakout marquee win after finishing runner-up to Kyle Busch in the 2018 Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway (CA).
When the 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule came out, the Campbell Motorsports Team knew the 2018 Summer Showdown was most likely off their schedule as their driver since 2012, Derek Thorn, would be unavailable. Last Friday, however, Campbell reached out to Buddy Shepherd, and by Saturday evening a deal was struck to put the 18-year-old Bakersfield, California driver behind the wheel of the number-43 Super Late Model. For Campbell, it is another opportunity to bring home a victory at an event that he has enjoyed in the past, finishing second, third and 13thdue to a flat tire and two laps lost.
“This is an event that we enjoy going to, and with Derek busy fighting for another West Series championship, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have Buddy drive for us,” Campbell told Speed51.com. “We believe he is a rising star in the Late Model Divisions, and hopefully beyond that.”
This is also an event that Buddy Shepherd has been looking forward to for several years.
“It’s pretty exciting to be able to do this race,” Shepherd commented. “It is a race I’ve wanted to do since I went Late Model racing. It has been an event that I have watched on Race Monitor every year, and I’ve wanted to go up there and try it out one day. Campbell Motorsports gave me the opportunity to do this, in one of the cars out of their shop, and that’s pretty cool. I’d really like to thank Byron and Carol Campbell, as well as Mike Keen and the Campbell Motorsports crew, for this opportunity and for the faith they have in me, to have me wheel this car.”
The Summer Showdown is only the second event in which Shepherd has driven for Campbell Motorsports. Shepherd drove his first Super Late Model race in one of Derek Thorn’s back-up cars in the “Ironman 125” at Kern County Raceway.
“My first Super Late Model race was actually in one of Byron’s cars,” Shepherd recalled. “We finished in the top-five in that race in 2015. We ran up front, but they inverted the first four cars to the back at the 50 lap break, and we kind of burned up our tires racing up there with (David) Mayhew and Thorn.
Although this will be Shepherd’s first visit to Evergreen Speedway, he does have experience with crew chief Mike Keen, even though it has been a long-distance relationship on race weekends.
“I’ve worked with Mike on the phone, but never on the racetrack. His advice has gone really well over the phone, so I expect it will be even better in person.”
Heading to Evergreen Speedway, Shepherd feels like the track fits his style, which gives him confidence of a good finish, and even a win. He also knows the car will be good, as the Campbell Motorsports team has developed a great set-up over the last three Summer Showdowns with Derek Thorn.
“It is going to be fun for me because I like the flat tracks, and they suit my driving style better,” Shepherd began. “I feel confident enough to go out there, and know that we are going to be good. I think we are going to have a good time. With a worn out track surface, you really have to be smart and take care of your stuff. You have to go in with a different mindset about how you want to drive, and take care of your equipment, to make it to the end.”
Shepherd continued, “We are going to go up there to try to win, and give it everything we’ve got. We have four hours of practice on Thursday, and that will be pretty awesome for me since I haven’t been up there. They (Campbell Motorsports) have a pretty good set-up for up there, after last year, and I think we have a pretty good chance of winning.”
The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series winner, and three-time Late Model Track Champion, at Madera Speedway (CA) (2) and Kern County Raceway (1), has a history of great performances in big races. He was the winner of the $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout at Madera Speedway, as well as multiple $5,000-to-win Pro Late Model events at the facility. He captured the Bobby Durrett Fast Time Award at the 2018 Winter Showdown before ultimately finishing second in the feature, outdueling Daniel Hemric for the position. He led the 2018 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series standings until being forced to sit out the last event in his family-owned car at Irwindale Speedway (CA) due to a lack of finances. If Shepherd could pull off a victory at this weekend’s Summer Showdown it could be a springboard for his racing career, with hopes that it could lead to additional opportunities to race with the Campbell Motorsports Team.
“I sure hope that it leads to future chances to race with them,” Shepherd said. “Their stuff is the best of any team around. Hopefully we do well in this race and maybe we can work with them some more. That would be pretty cool for me.”
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com