With the nickname ‘Super Matt’, there is very little that stands in the way of Matt Sheppard when he hits the race track. Between his championship skills as a driver and his ability to surround himself with people capable of giving him a race-winning car, the Waterloo, NY racer is always a contender and most of the time a favorite when he shows up to a Dirt Modified race.
But even the best of the best have their Kryptonite, and Sheppard’s might just be the ‘Hard Clay’ at Orange County Fair Speedway, the site of Tuesday night’s Hard Clay Open, the opening round for the Short Track Super Series North Region championship. It is a track where Sheppard does not have a win to his name, even when he has had the best car.
“I got a bunch of seconds. I’ve just never won there,” Sheppard told Speed51.com. “I have had some good cars there. It’s a place we don’t go a whole lot and it’s very hard to pass there; it’s got a really difficult surface.”
Sheppard admits that a win Tuesday night would have a little extra meaning, although he’s not going to let the difficult task of taming the Middletown, NY track weigh down on his mind throughout the night.
“It would be very satisfying. I’d love to go there and win, but I guess I’m not going to lose any sleep over it if I don’t.”
While not being too pleased about facing off against the old 5/8-mile track once again, he is very pleased with the team he will be doing it with. Since joining up with Shawn Ward’s Hurlock Auto & Speed Motorsports at the start of the 2018 Short Track Super Series season, the new driver/team combination has strung together two runner-ups in the first two races of the STSS South schedule.
“It’s been great, two second-place finishes, we had a good shot down at Georgetown. We weren’t as good as we would have liked at Bridgeport. But these are all tracks that we don’t race at a bunch. To come out of the box like that with a new team, we’ll take it.”
On the home track front, Sheppard’s biggest opponent, as well as everyone else’s in the Empire State has been the weather. His three home tracks of Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, Land of Legends Speedway in Canandaigua, and Utica-Rome Speedway have had their share of cold and rain. But in his limited appearances in April, Sheppard has made the most of it.
“I think we’ve only run maybe four races in all of New York State. It’s been a late start up here,” he stated. “It seems like if I want to race I’ve had to travel far to do it. But it was nice to get going at Canandaigua on Saturday night. We got another show in at Outlaw on Friday. Up here we’ve been good, we got three wins and a second in just four races, can’t really complain about that.”
Despite bringing in some personal momentum to Tuesday night, Sheppard feels that he will need some good luck to go along with a great setup if he wants to finally conquer the tricky Hard Clay in Middletown.
“Tuesday night is going to be a crapshoot,” he said. “It’s a North Series race, it’s a draw, you go to Middletown and draw last for your heat you’re in for a long night usually. You need luck as much as a good car.”
Race fans who can’t make it to Orange County Fair Speedway tonight can watch all Short Track Super Series racing for free on the Speed51 Network as a premium subscriber. Click here to sign up today.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos