When it comes to the Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, NY, nobody knows how to get around better than Matt Sheppard. The 2017 track champion has started this season where he left off, winning the majority of the races run thus far. As the Super Dirt Series rolled into town, Sheppard was sure to be the odds-on favorite for the victory, but it would be Modified legend Brett Hearn that would spoil his party.
After the top four finishers of each heat race redrew for starting positions, it would be Erick Rudolph starting from the pole with Hearn on his outside. When the green flag dropped, Hearn would blister to the lead on the high side, with Stewart Friesen following him around the top. The first caution would come out when former track champion Brian Swarthout would get off the racing surface in turn one.
On the ensuing restart, Hearn would get out ahead of Friesen, but it would be short lived as “Mr. Freeze” would take the lead on lap 30 as they battled through traffic. Hearn would continue to follow Friesen around the top, but the yellow would once again come out as Jimmy Phelps went around after contact with a lapped car in turn one.
When racing resumed, Friesen would take off with the lead once again as Hearn got a challenge from third place runner Danny Johnson, but Hearn would power off the top to hold the position. Behind the top two, Johnson, Sheppard, Rudolph and Billy Decker duked it out, swapping positions for nearly 10 laps. Unfortunately the race would go back to yellow again as Alan Johnson would pull high with a problem on lap 78. The yellow would come out three laps later, again for Johnson pulling high, this time ending his night.
Friesen pulled away from Hearn once again on the restart, but things would go downhill for him from there. On lap 89, Friesen would bobble down the front straightaway, and then pull into the pits, ending his night with a broken axle and passing the lead on to Hearn.
Although Hearn would inherit the top spot, Sheppard would get to his back bumper from the 12th starting position. He would take a look to the inside of Hearn, but couldn’t get by. Battling through lapped traffic, Marcus Dinkins would go around racing with the leaders on lap 91.
A single-file restart would put Sheppard behind Hearn, but Hearn wouldn’t be denied. He would hold off a couple of charges from Sheppard right off the restart, but would pull away and claim the victory. Sheppard, Danny Johnson, Erick Rudolph, and Tim Fuller would round out the top 5 across the stripe.
“We had a good car right from the get go, led those early laps. Stewart beat me in those lapped cars and then after we got one-two and got it sorted out, I think we were close to being equal,” Hearn told Speed51.com. “When I saw him wiggle going into turn one, I dove to the bottom just hoping third place wasn’t close to us and then had to hold off Sheppard which is no easy feat at a track he has a lot of experience at.
“When I saw he had gotten into second and we had the single file restart, I thought ‘well, let’s see what I got now’. All I could do was try to stay smooth and hit my marks on the track, which I thought were working pretty good for me and obviously it was enough.”
The win definitely was a surprise to the the driver of the No. 20 machine, as Hearn continues to add to his 900-plus Dirt Modified victories.
“Very unexpected win for us. A track we don’t have a lot of runs at in the modern era I guess. It’s pretty cool to win one that you didn’t expect to be good in,” said Hearn. “I really didn’t expect to come in here and kill it, so to come in here and run good at this track is very, very surprising for me.”
Hometown favorite Matt Sheppard charged from deeper in the field, challenging Hearn late but it just wasn’t quite enough.
“We battled all night long. Track position was at a premium tonight and unfortunately we drew 12 and we really, really had to work our way through the field,” said Sheppard. “I thought we had something for Brett there. I was able to roll up to the inside of him. Unfortunately that caution came, ended our bid. We had a good car tonight, take second and move on to the next one.”
The next race for the Super Dirt Series will be at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY, where Hearn is a former track champion. Make sure to follow Speed51.com and subscribe to the video recap of the ‘Ultimate Outlaw 100’ on the 51 Network.
-By Evan Canfield, Speed51.com Northeast Contributor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Mojo Photos