Brandon Sheppard made it look easy on Thursday on the way to scoring his second win of the 44th Annual East Bay Winternationals and fifth overall of 2020. The defending World of Outlaws Late Model champion started 12th and was leading by lap 15, remaining mostly unchallenged through the rest of the 40-lap affair for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Sheppard made the move for the lead on lap 15 by passing both Tim McCreadie and Boom Briggs in one fell swoop in turns three and four. After another dominating run in Thursday’s feature, he was quick to give credit to his crew for their efforts after a subpar qualifying run set the team back at the beginning of the night.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s all thanks to my guys for not giving up on me. Our qualifying efforts weren’t where they needed to be tonight for sure,” Sheppard said on the Lucas Oil Racing TV broadcast. “Mark Richards, Steve Baker, my great crew, them guys stuck behind me the whole time and they were confident I could get up through there.”
The track surface at East Bay Raceway Park once again provided multiple grooves of racing during the night. Sheppard admitted to not completely knowing when to move during the race, stating that the same dilemma may age him a few years by the time the Winternationals concludes.
“I’ll probably have grey hair by the time I leave here because you just don’t know where to go,” he stated. “I knew at some point the cushion was going to be the place to be but the bottom was working for me there at the beginning of the race. You don’t really know when to move so I stuck with it, stuck with it and then I saw No.14 (Josh Richards) on the board there and I knew I had to get my elbows up.”
While Sheppard’s 12th-to-first run was impressive, Josh Richards stole the show in the Clint Bowyer-owned No.14. After starting 30th due to a pre-race tech issue, he drove through the field for a hard-earned second-place finish. While coming up one spot short of the win, he left confident in his car and team for the remainder of the week.
“We’ll certainly take it, Brandon’s been really good and I just can’t thank those guys enough for the help. We’ve had a great car in the feature, we’ve just not been able to show it,” Richards said. “I feel like they’ve made a bit of a bogus call putting us to the tail there but we’ll have to discuss that a little bit later. We can’t take away from the night we had, we just have to get a little bit better and try to start better and I think we’ll be there.”
Billy Moyer Jr, Jimmy Owens, and Monday night winner Devin Moran rounded out the top five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 / Daryl Canfield