Brandon Sheppard passed pole-sitter Don Shaw early and kept up with an ever-changing FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway to score the Late Model win in the second round of the Wild West Shootout.
The Illinois driver claimed the top spot from Shaw on lap eight of the 40-lap feature and led the rest of the way to score the Sunday night victory. However, it was anything but a walk in the park, with the racing surface changing dramatically during the course of the race.
At first, Sheppard found success running the low line around the 1/3-mile oval, but he moved to the cushion when Bobby Pierce started to close in utilizing the top line. Sheppard was more than willing to adjust to hold on to the number-one spot.
“Just like last night, I was a little bit too tight in the rubber there once the track got rubbered up,” said Sheppard on the DirtonDirt.com broadcast. “My crew guy was telling me the gap was closing up. I was getting up on the wheel there. I didn’t want to sacrifice and get another second. Those were getting old, and it feels good to be up here in victory lane.
“We were really good on the bottom. We were able to get the lead there and stretch it out a little bit. I knew at some point the top would come back in. The bottom was definitely starting to slow up for me after that last restart. Luckily, my crew guy, Joe, he told me to get to the top. As soon as I got up there, I knew it was starting to clean up.”
Ricky Weiss ultimately finished second, passing Pierce in a hard-fought battle for the runner-up position. Weiss closed in on Sheppard after taking second, but could not erase the gap in time to challenge for the top spot.
“I knew I was quicker than [Pierce],” explained Weiss. “I got up beside him but he was crowding me off the rubber a little bit. Once I was able to clear him, I was on hunt to go get Brandon. I didn’t know if the rubber was wide enough to get by him, but we were trying to make it interesting.”
Pierce settled for a third-place run to complete the podium, believing that he had used up his tires too much in the early going to compete with Sheppard and Weiss in the closing laps.
“The car was really good tonight until that rubber came in. It was a heck of a race. I thought I might have something for Brandon. I knew it was a matter of time before he moved up to the top where I was running and I’d have to change my line.
“I think Brandon could pace himself and be easier on his tires than I was, and Ricky’s car has been really good. He was able to roll right through the middle and go, so he was probably easier on his tires, too. We’re making good progress.”
Chase Junghans finished fourth, while Brian Birkhofer rounded out the top five after setting quick time in qualifying to start the evening.
After an off day on Monday and practice on Tuesday, racing action will return in the Wild West Shootout on Wednesday, January 15.
Wild West Shootout Round Two Unofficial Results
- #B5 Brandon Sheppard
- #7 Ricky Weiss
- #32 Bobby Pierce
- #18 Chase Junghans
- #15B Brian Birkhofer
- #32S Chris Simpson
- #3S Brian Shirley
- #89 Mike Spatola
- #75T Terry Phillips
- #99JR Frank Heckenast
- #19R Ryan Gustin
- #20RT Ricky Thornton
- #2 Garrett Alberson
- #91T Tony Toste
- #74 Mitch McGrath
- #37 Rob Mayea
- #91P Jason Papich
- #1 Earl Pearson
- #2S Stormy Scott
- #42S Don Shaw
- #28M Jimmy Mars
- #97 Cade Dillard
- #1ST Johnny Scott
- #77M Jay Morris
- #15 Justin Duty
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Wild West Shootout Twitter