BARBERVILLE, FL – Matt Sheppard has had a great car so far during the DIRTcar Nationals. The defending Super DIRTcar Series Champion looked like he had the car to beat Wednesday but luck wasn’t on his side. He ended up spinning while going for the lead after contact with Billy Decker. He went to the tail and ended up finishing seventh.
On Thursday night his luck was much better. The Waterloo, N.Y., driver out dueled Stewart Friesen to take the win at Volusia Speedway Park. It was the eighth of his career at the facility and it paid him $2,000.
“I really don’t like to run a race-car that hard, but I knew Stewie was right there,” Sheppard said. “I got rolling good on the bottom, but I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I got up top and drove the heck out of it and hoped I could hold him off. Thank God we could.”
Sheppard had a rocket start to the 30-lap Modified main, jumping from fourth to second and pressuring Peter Britten for the lead on the opening circuit. Before the lap was scored, red lights flashed as Danny Johnson got upside down entering turn three. He was okay.
On the complete restart, Sheppard wasn’t able to find the same kind of magic. Instead, Stewart Friesen was the one blasting from fifth to second, fighting with Jessey Mueller for the runner-up spot.
With the top four under a blanket, Mueller found speed up high and drove by Friesen and Britten to lead lap three. Britten dropped to third, as Friesen went by for second, and then Friesen went to work on Mueller.
By lap eight, Friesen found the bottom to his liking and got under Mueller for the top spot. Two laps after, both Britten and Sheppard slipped under Mueller, sending Mueller back to fourth.
In recent years, Friesen and Sheppard have racked up the highest win totals in Dirt Modified racing. The two were prepared to go toe-to-toe tonight, and Sheppard was ready to strike.
On lap 13, Sheppard got a monster run off the bottom of turn two, driving by Friesen and to the lead. Once out front, Sheppard was far from lonely on Valentine’s Day, as Friesen remained locked on Sheppard’s tail.
With ten to go, Sheppard and Friesen had ditched third place Britten and remained in a tight battle through traffic. Friesen kept within a handful of carlengths, occasionally poking a nose under Sheppard, but couldn’t get a pass completed.
“When all the lapped cars were on the bottom and I was rolling the top, I didn’t mind it too much since I knew it would be tough for Stewie to get around me,” noted Sheppard. “We got in an open track and he poked his nose under me, and we caught those last two lapped cars up top. I was thinking disaster, but luckily we were able to cut across and get a good enough run to bring it home.”
With five to go, Sheppard briefly opened up the gap, up to nearly a second with some open track.
With Sheppard high, Friesen went mining down low, finding bite along the inside wall. With two to go, Friesen had once more caught Sheppard and was looking to make a pass, and the front two reached lapped traffic on the final circuit.
In the last two turns, both Sheppard and Friesen had to come off their respective lines to navigate traffic, but ultimately it was Sheppard beating Friesen to the line for the 30-lap DIRTcar Nationals feature win.
Friesen nearly grabbed a win, and unfortunately due to prior asphalt commitments, will not be competing tomorrow.
“I kinda thought we had one, then Matt went smoking by,” said Friesen. “I got up on the wheel there and it sure was entertaining. I found something on the bottom at the very end, just too little too late.”
Britten, once more in self-owned equipment, brought his piece home in third, a much-needed solid run for a team with a small budget.
“We got rolling pretty good around the middle stages of the race,” Britten said. “Just really happy to get my own Troyer on the podium.”
Anthony Perrego was able to grab his second fourth place finish of the week with Wednesday night’s winner Billy Decker completing the top five.
VOLUSIA SPEEDWAY PARK SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES FEATURE FINISH (30-LAPS): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 2. 44-Stewart Friesen ; 3. 21a-Peter Britten ; 4. 18-Anthony Perrego ; 5. 91-Billy Decker ; 6. 19m-Jessey Mueller ; 7. 25-Erick Rudolph ; 8. 1-Billy Pauch ; 9. 99l-Larry Wight ; 10. 20-Brett Hearn ; 11. 3-Justin Haers ; 12. 42p-Pat Ward ; 13. 19-Tim Fuller ; 14. 88-Mat Williamson ; 15. 111-Demetrios Drellos ; 16. 118-Jim Britt ; 17. 5-Ryan Godown ; 18. 9t-Will Thomas ; 19. 2L-Jack Lehner ; 20. 33-Marc Johnson ; 21. 98t-Tyler Thompson ; 22. 23-Kyle Coffey ; 23. 46-Jeremy Smith ; 24. 1g-Darwin Greene ; 25. 7-Rick Laubach ; 26. 27j-Danny Johnson 
Contingency Sponsor Bonuses:
Billy Pauch – VP Fuels – $50 Cash
Matt Sheppard – Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux Fast-Time Award – $100 Cash
Tim Fuller – Comp Cams – $50 Cash
Matt Sheppard – MSD Ignition – $50 Cash
Danny Johnson – MSD Ignition – $25 Cash
Erick Rudolph – Fox Racing Shox – $50 Cash
Billy Decker – JE Pistons – $50 Cash
Erick Rudolph – ASI Racewear – $50 Cash
Larry Wight – Dart – $50 Cash
Demetrios Drellos – Cometic Gasket – $50 Cash
Jack Lehner – Drydene – $50 Cash
Matt Sheppard – Bicknell Racing Products – $100 Product
Jim Britt – JE Pistons – Product
Tyler Thompson – JE Pistons – Product
Erick Rudolph – KSE Racing Products, Inc. – $50 Product
Matt Sheppard – Wrisco – Product
Peter Britten – Dart – $100 Product