Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., made his guest appearance driving for the Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports team a memorable one.
Taking advantage of the pole starting spot he drew after winning a heat race, Sheppard grabbed the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back en route to a rich $12,000 victory in Friday night’s 30-lap Bad Boy Buggies World Finals A-Main for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
The feature’s scheduled 50-lap distance was cut by track officials due to the length of the racing program, which was stretched well past midnight by a delayed start due to morning rain and two crashes in the accompanying WoO Sprint Car division that forced breaks in the action so track crews could repair damaged catch fencing in turns two and four.
Sheppard, 22, kept Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., at bay throughout the middle portion of the blockbuster doubleheader weekend’s first Dirt Late Model headliner to triumph by 0.634 of a second over the 40-year-old star, who officially clinched the 2015 WoO points championship by simply starting the evening’s feature.
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., finished solid third, nearly two seconds behind the victor at the checkered flag after he started sixth. Outside-polesitter Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., slipped to a fourth-place finish in his first start driving for NASCAR Sprint Car standout Clint Bowyer’s Georgia Boot-sponsored operation and Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.C., completed the top five after slipping from fourth to ninth on the race’s opening circuit because he bicycled between turns one and two and lost ground.
Clanton, whose $100,000 WoO title came in his 11th season as a circuit regular, improved one spot from his third-place starting position in the event. He drew within a couple car lengths of Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis machine on the final circuit but couldn’t quite pull his Capital Race Car close enough to offer a serious challenge.
In the process of registering his first-ever top-five finish in World Finals competition, Clanton did manage to make Sheppard sweat at least a little bit.
“My right-rear (tire) would get to working after we’d get five or 10 laps and I’d get really tight,” said Sheppard, who landed his sixth career WoO feature win. “The car would get to be a handful, especially in (slower) traffic, and I messed up one lap and jumped over the cushion down there in (turns) three and four and (Clanton) next to me (at the flagstand).
“Right then I knew I was either gonna run second in this race or I was gonna haul that thing off into one and give it all she had to stay ahead of him. So that’s what I did – just drove it in there as hard as I could. Luckily, it stuck, and we made it to the finish line.
“Everything just fell our way,” he added, “but everybody knows you gotta have a little luck in this game to be successful.”
Sheppard was thrilled with the final result, which represented his second WoO victory of the 2015 season. He previously was triumphant on the national tour in the April 18 Illini 100 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway.
“It means a lot to win this,” Sheppard said. “A win here at Charlotte – it’s not a crown-jewel, but it should be. It’s an amazing feeling to win here in front of this crowd and at a facility this nice.”
And Sheppard almost didn’t even enter the World Finals because his family-owned team ended its season after the Oct. 17 Dirt Track World Championship event. His friendship with Randall Edwards, the Best Performance Motorsports crew chief who has spent the 2015 tutoring the team’s up-and-coming driver Matt Westfall of Pleasant Hill, Ohio, led him to an unexpected ride for the huge season-ending event.
“It was kind of a last-minute deal,” Sheppard said of the details behind his teaming with Westfall and Best Performance team owner Eric Brock for the World Finals weekend. “I was originally gonna come crew for them, but Randall just said, ‘Well, why don’t you just come drive?’ I said, ‘Why not?’ I guess it was a good choice.
“We just put it all together,” he added. “I went up there Monday (to the team’s shop in St. Henry’s) and put my seat in and everything just worked out.”
Four caution flags and one red flag dotted the event.
Cautions flew on lap one for Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., who slowed on the backstretch; lap seven for Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., who was hampered by mechanical trouble; lap 17 when Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., spun on the inside of turn four; and Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., who slowed in turn four moments before Rick Eckert of York, Pa., Chad Hollenbeck of Kingsley, Pa., and Austin Smith of Cedartown, Ga., tangled in the second corner.
The race’s lone red flag was needed for a grinding multi-car crash that occurred on lap 18. A mid-pack scramble swept up Hollenbeck, Smith and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., but no injuries were reported.
Sheppard’s victory came in front of a packed grandstand at Charlotte’s 4/10-mile oval as the track hosted the first of back-to-back tripleheaders featuring the WoO LMS, the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds. The World Finals conclude on Saturday with another tripleheader featuring the season finales for all three divisions. Gates open at 3 p.m., hot laps are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and racing is set to begin at 5 p.m.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series Bad Boy Buggies World Finals Night No. 1 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (1) Brandon Sheppard/30 $12,050
2. (3) Shane Clanton/30 $5,550
3. (6) Chris Madden/30 $3,000
4. (2) Darrell Lanigan/30 $2,650
5. (4) Josh Richards/30 $2,650
6. (15) Mike Marlar/30 $1,700
7. (12) Jonathan Davenport/30 $1,500
8. (5) Chub Frank/30 $2,050
9. (18) Morgan Bagley/30 $1,900
10. (9) Steve Francis/30 $1,400
11. (16) Jimmy Owens/30 $1,250
12. (23) Chris Simpson/30 $1,800
13. (25) Tim McCreadie/30 $1,800
14. (8) Mason Zeigler/30 $1,150
15. (26) Chase Junghans/30 $1,600
16. (29) Jordan Yaggy/30 $300
17. (27) Boom Briggs/26 $1,550
18. (13) Frank Heckenast Jr./23 $1,550
19. (19) Brandon Overton/22 $1,550
20. (17) Rick Eckert/18 $1,650
21. (24) Scott Bloomquist/18 $1,100
22. (14) Austin Smith/18 $1,000
23. (20) Chad Hollenbeck/18 $1,000
24. (28) Eric Wells/18 $550
25. (7) Justin Labonte/17 $1,000
26. (11) Randy Weaver/17 $1,000
27. (21) Jason Feger/6 $1,000
28. (10) Chris Ferguson/1 $1,050
29. (22) Casey Roberts/0 $1,000
* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 40 Mins., 22.311 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.634 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 4 (lap 1, 7, 17, 23)
Red Flags: 1 (lap 18)
Lap Leaders: Sheppard (1-30)
Provisional Starters: McCreadie, Junghans (WoO); Briggs (CMS); Wells, Yaggy (WoO emergency)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Simpson ($500)
WoO LMS Rookie of the Race: Yaggy ($250)
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners (awards presented to noted finisher/qualifier or next highest displaying decal):
Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash to fast qualifier): Ferguson
Comp Cams ($50 certificate to A-Main winner): Sheppard
MSD Ignition ($50 cash to A-Main winner): Sheppard
Quartermaster ($100 certificate to A-Main winner): Sheppard
Wrisco (three sheets of aluminum/certificate to A-Main winner): Sheppard
Mobil 1 ($50 cash to 4th-place finisher in A-Main): Lanigan
JE Pistons ($50 cash to 5th-place finisher in A-Main): Frank
Lincoln Welders ($50 cash to 6th-place finisher in A-Main): Frank
VP Racing Fuels ($50 cash to 8th-place finisher in A-Main): Frank
Edelbrock ($50 cash to 9th-place finisher in A-Main): Bagley
Comp Cams ($50 cash to 10th-place finisher in A-Main): Simpson
Cometic ($50 cash to 12th-place finisher in A-Main): Simpson
JRI Shocks ($50 cash to 13th-place finisher in A-Main): Zeigler
Superflow Dynos ($50 cash to 14th-place finisher in A-Main): Junghans
Quartermaster ($25 certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main): Junghans
JE Pistons (one set of rings certificate to 16th-place finisher in A-Main): Yaggy
Quartermaster ($50 certificate to 19th-place finisher in A-Main): Overton
Mobil 1 (20 percent certificate to 20th-place finisher in A-Main): Eckert
JE Pistons (one set of rings certificate to 21st-place finisher in A-Main): Hollenbeck
MSD Ignition ($25 cash to 24th-place finisher in A-Main): Wells
QA1 ($50 to driver with fastest lap of the night): Bloomquist
Arizona Sports Shirts ($100 certificate to highest-finishing non-WoO driver): Sheppard
2015 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Nov. 6 – 40 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Shane Clanton 5,736
2. Josh Richards 5,558 (-178)
3. Chub Frank 5,362 (-374)
4. Rick Eckert 5,262 (-474)
5. Morgan Bagley 5,190 (-546)
6. Tim McCreadie 5,166 (-570)
7. Chase Junghans 5,118 (-618)
8. Frank Heckenast Jr. 5,086 (-650)
9. Eric Wells 5,030 (-706)
10. Brandon Overton 4,738 (-998)
11. Boom Briggs 4,670 (-1,066)
12. Darrell Lanigan 4,576 (-1,160)
Story By: DIRTcar PR
Photo Credit: Daryl Canfield / Speed51.com