The last month has been chock-full of triumphs for Matt Sheppard, who made the long tow east from Central New York to Albany-Saratoga Speedway Tuesday night for the inaugural Short Track Super Series North Region Stampede at ‘Toga. Taking on the field in the Sweeteners Plus No. 92S, Sheppard took advantage of a pair of good draws to score his first Short Track Super Series win of the 2017 season.
Though Sheppard is not the biggest fan of starting at the very front of the field, he put it to good use, taking the lead very early and holding off challenges; first from local star Matt DeLorenzo, and later from Billy Decker, who edged DeLorenzo for the runner-up spot.
“I don’t always like starting on the front row; it’s tough to tell what’s going on out there,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “Thought we had a pretty good car as we got going, then ‘Matty D’ showed me a nose on the outside and I thought maybe the top was coming in. I stuck to the bottom in three and four, moved around a little bit in one and two. Just thankful to this Sweeteners team for giving me such a good car tonight.”
Appearances for Sheppard in the STSS are sporadic, as are appearances at Albany-Saratoga. Even more sporadic, his personal win column at “The Great Race Place” coming into Tuesday night, with just one win in a 2007 weekly race. Now “Super Matt” has doubled his win total in Malta, New York, and he was not shy to say that it was about time.
“It kind of feels like the monkey is off our back. The last three or four times we’ve been here we’ve been strong, just had poor starting spots,” he explained. “Luckily tonight we had a good starting spot and we were able to take advantage of it finally.”
On the other hand, his visits to victory lane elsewhere in 2017 have been anything but sporadic, with Tuesday’s success brining him his 27th overall win of the season. For a driver that has enjoyed a great level of success throughout his career, it is a number that even Sheppard can’t understate.
“Crazy. I don’t think we had 27 wins until we got to Charlotte last year, to think it’s the middle of August and we’re already at 27, especially with the amount of rainouts we’ve had this year; it’s just crazy.”
Of those 27 wins, his win on Tuesday was the 10th win this season since Sheppard joined forces with the Vic Coffey-owned Sweeteners team. It’s the team’s first win with Sheppard outside of Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, NY where the combination has dominated the year. The victory also meant a team sweep of major events at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, following Sweeteners Plus’ win with Tim McCreadie at the Big Show 9 back in June. Though it is just their first season together, Sheppard explains that there was a level of familiarity in terms of equipment, which has required very little time to adapt to.
“Part of the reason for doing this deal, Vic basically had the same equipment I did; same engine builder, same cars and same shocks. Other than the red and yellow instead of the blue and orange, it’s the same car here.”
While Sheppard kept Decker and DeLorenzo at bay, Brett Hearn and Ryan Godown wrestled the remaining top five positions away from Kenny Tremont, Jr who finished sixth. Frank Cozze, Jeremy Smith, Andy Bachetti, and Tommy Meier rounded the top ten.
The Short Track Super Series-North Region is right back at it Tuesday, August 23 at Woodhull Raceway for the Hustlin’ on the High Banks 53.
Fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Tuesday’s Stampede at Albany-Saratoga by clicking here.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos