By BOBBY SWEENEY
VERNON, NY – Throughout the Modified feature at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday night, it always seemed Matt Sheppard was in the right spot at the right time, propelling him to his fifth win of the season at the track.
While Danny Varin started fourth on the grid for the 30-lap feature, he was the leader by the time the field reached turn one on lap one. Varin stretched out his lead in a big way early in the event, but a lap three caution for a slowing Randy Shantel bunched the field together. On the restart, the field got bunched up even more, as third and fourth running Marc Johnson and Mike Mahaney hooked bumpers, collecting second place Jack Miller in the process. With the carnage near the front of the field sending multiple drivers to the rear of the field, Sheppard’s charge from 14th got a little easier, as he was now fifth on lap three.
By lap eight, Sheppard had worked past Bobby Varin and Pat Ward for third, and began chasing after Mike Maresca for second. Maresca put up a solid fight to hold off Sheppard, but Sheppard claimed the runner up position at halfway. Sheppard now had 15 laps to chase down Danny Varin, and with the pace Varin was setting, it appeared Sheppard would need every lap. However, as Varin crossed the line to start lap 19, a big puff of smoke came out from behind the #93, and Varin coasted to a stop. This handed the lead over to
Sheppard, with Ward in tow. Over the last 11 circuits, Ward could never mount a challenge on Sheppard, as Matt Sheppard cruised to his fifth win of the season. Pat Ward chased in second, followed by Mike Maresca, Bobby Varin, and Tim Fuller.
“Man, I’m wore out. The track had a ton of bite in it tonight, and while we had a really good race car, we caught a couple really good breaks,” Sheppard noted. “We didn’t get caught up in the melee on that restart, and obviously Danny (Varin) had a really good car but something let loose. You got to have luck on your side, but you also need to be good enough to capitalize on the opportunities when they present themselves. Fortunately for us, the car has been holding together and our stuff has been fast, we just need to keep it rolling.”
Mark Effner led the vast majority of the Sportsman feature, first fending off AJ Miller in the first half of the event, then Kyle Kiehn in the later stages. Effner appeared to be well on his way to his second win of the year, but Matt Janczuk threw his hat into the ring in a big way in the final laps. Janczuk was fifth with five laps remaining, but charged fast, reaching second with less than two laps to go. Entering turn three on the last lap, Janczuk executed a perfect slide job on Effner and won the drag race to the finish line. The win was Janczuk’s first of the year, and he was followed by Effner, Kiehn, AJ Filbeck, and Chris Mackey at the finish.
Mike Welch snuck past Jim Normoyle just before halfway in the Pro Stock feature and dominated the remainder of the race. Unlike last week, Shane Henderson could never get close enough to challenge Welch, as Welch easily walked to his fourth win of the year. Jimmy Moyer grabbed the lead on lap three from Brad Williams and drove to his first Rookie Sportsman win at the track.