Rudolph in the Mix Thursday Night plus News and Notes from Super DIRTcar Series Centennial Weekend Kickoff at OCFS – DTD Exclusive

By MIKE MALLETT

As hot as Matt Sheppard has been as of late, there is one driver that has been constantly nipping at his heals. That driver is Erick Rudolph. The duo has been swapping wins the last few weeks with neither driver able to shake the other. Rudolph dominates a weekend, then Sheppard comes back and does the same.

On Thursday night at the Orange County Fair Speedway Rudolph was good. Maybe not as good as Sheppard, but he had a bit more work to do in the in the Battle of the Midway 100 for the Super DIRTcar Series which jump started Centennial Weekend. He started seventh with Sheppard going off from the inside of the second. Sheppard went on to win with Rudolph finishing third.

“He’s a fierce competitor,” said Rudolph of Sheppard. “We just do our best. We are getting closer to his level, but we aren’t quite there yet. We just hope to be.”

Rudolph had a great battle with second place finisher Ryan Godown. He was a bit faster than Godown, but he just couldn’t find a way around him. Even though he finished third, the finish allows him to keep pace with Sheppard in the chase for the Series point championship.




“We are closing in on the end of summer and points are a factor,” commented Rudolph. “We pulled away from third place tonight a little bit. Matt got a little jump on us, but it’s only a couple points. It’s another solid points night, overall solid effort tonight.”

Rudolph did have a little luck in the main. A lap 76 restart was called off after Sheppard and Godown played an excessive game of cat and mouse. That led to a non-start. That was good news for Rudolph as he got turned around as he checked up behind Sheppard.

“I think we got a little lucky when we got turned around that no one clobbered us,” said Rudolph. “We were lucky in that regard. We finished the whole race and got a podium finish.”

The main positive for Rudolph from the night is the team learned some things that they believe will improve the car.  That is key if they want to have any shot of claiming the $100,000 prize on Saturday night.

“I didn’t really know what to expect with the track when we got here,” said Rudolph. “I heard this, that and the other thing about it. You don’t really know until you are on it and racing on it. We learned a few things tonight and hopefully we can be a little bit better for tomorrow and Saturday. Overall, I’m just happy with how things went.”

Orange County Outtakes

Thursday night saw 69 cars attempt to qualify for the feature.  That resulted in six heat race events which were all won by outsiders. Those wins went to Sheppard, Pauch Sr., Williamson, Peter Britten, Jimmy Phelps and Ryan Godown.

L.J. Lombardo blew a motor while running in the top 10. As of last night the team was looking for a motor. Based on early morning reports, he’ll be borrowing a motor from Steve Hough to continue on Friday night…

Billy Pauch Sr., was fun to watch on nearly every restart in the feature. The veteran driver from Frenchtown, N.J., kept going to the outside wall looking for bite. He made up some ground in the high-line each time before getting back to the bottom after a couple of laps. He finished sixth…

Tim Sears Jr., made a rare start at Orange County. Sears picked up a ride in another Ray Graham Racing car as a teammate to both Billy Dunn and Pauch Sr. Sears went on to finish 15th…

Billy Decker was all set to challenge Matt Sheppard on a lap 76 restart. He refired well from the outside of the second row getting by both Rudolph and Godown for second only to have the caution come out when Brian Krummel, Billy VanInwegen and Jimmy Horton tangled in turn two.  That negated his forward progress…

Larry Wight changed cars midway through the night going to a backup after the heat races. The change paid off as Wight drove from 34th to 14th in the main-event. The team also changed tires late in the 100-lap affair…

Chris Hile made his first Modified start at Orange County. He competed at the track previously in the Sportsman division. His goal on the night was to learn for Saturday night’s main-event. The team did just that as he finished in 11th…

Mat Williamson and Gary Edwards Jr., sported throwback paint schemes on their rides.