Matt Sheppard knew he had to remain glued to the bottom of the race track during the closing laps of Saturday’s Great Outdoors RV 150 at Oswego Speedway (NY). With Mat Williamson breathing down his neck during the final laps, Sheppard hugged the inside of the race track and fended off a fierce charge from Williamson to win the 358 Modified portion of Super DIRT Week.
Over the final 10 laps, Williamson peeked high and low trying to find a way by Sheppard as they battled through lapped traffic. The two drivers only made slight contact on one or two occasions, but at the end of the day it was Sheppard basking in the glory at the “Clay Palace.”
“He was doing whatever he could do to try to win the race,” Sheppard said. “I was just going to try and stay nailed to that bottom. I joked with him and told him he owed me a back bumper tomorrow. It was fun racing with him. I’m glad he was behind me, there’s a lot worse guys I could think of that could be following you.”
Williamson admitted after the race that he could have pressed Sheppard a little harder but didn’t want to risk wrecking both race cars.
“You’re running second and you don’t want to wreck both of us,” Williamson said. “When you get that close to twenty grand like that, you want to go for it. I gave him a little shot going into one and his rear bumper was a little stronger than my front bumper was.”
Sheppard first took over the lead from polesitter Tim Fuller on lap 29 of Saturday night’s main event. He paced the field until lap 57 when Williamson closed in as Sheppard struggled with slower traffic. Williamson took advantage of the opportunity and pulled under Sheppard to take the lead on lap 58.
Just a few laps later, Sheppard regrouped and found his way back to the inside of Williamson for the top spot. He took the lead back on lap 64 and never relinquished it again.
“I think I gave the race away and got it all back there in four laps,” Sheppard said of the mid-race lead swapping. “I got underneath the lapped car there getting into three and just got a bad angle, slipped up off the bottom and Matty (Williamson) rolled by me and I thought that was the race right there. Dug deep and luckily that nine had just enough in it.
“We were able to turn up the wick a little bit, get underneath Matt down the backstretch, get the lead back and you can bet I didn’t get back off the bottom the rest of the race.”
For Sheppard, the win is not one that he was exactly expecting a few months ago. His team made the late decision to put together a 358 Modified for Saturday’s race and it was a decision that paid off.
“Just super excited. We didn’t really have a whole lot of plans to put this car together and bring it here for Oswego,” Sheppard said. “Probably within the last month we did. Had a lot of help from my sponsors, all the crew and everybody. Just glad it all worked out.”
Billy Dunn rounded out the podium, while Brett Hearn charged from his 10th starting spot to finish fourth. After leading the opening 28 laps of the race, defending winner Tim Fuller completed the top five.
All of the drivers in the top five will have another chance to visit victory lane Sunday afternoon in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 for the Big-Block Modifieds. However, only one driver will have the opportunity to become the second driver to sweep the Small-Block and Big-Block races during Super DIRT Week. That driver is Matt Sheppard.
For on-demand coverage of Saturday’s Great Outdoors RV 150 at Oswego, visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos