Makin’ Tracks – Utica-Rome Sheppard Herds Mods Again – DTD Exclusive

By BILL FOLEY

Matt Sheppard rebounded from Wednesday disappointment at Fonda’s “The Jack” with a win at every track that finished a feature this weekend.

On Sunday night career win 37 and win number five in just nine starts at Utica-Rome brought the year total to 22 Modified victories for Super Matt.

There’s no doubt he is the fastest car at UR, but not only was that on his side on Sunday night, but also was lady luck.

On a fourth lap restart all hell broke loose in front of him. HE had originally started 14th in the 17 car field, but by lap three was up to eighth.




As the field regrouped after Randy Shantel’s slide off the west end of the speedway there was a jam up that colleted three cars ahead of Matt. Mike Mahaney, Marc Johnson and Jack Miller all got tangled up, but all continued (though not all were at full competitive strength).

Break two came on lap 19 as Danny Varin was leading and setting a good pace. Yes, Sheppard was closing, but it was setting the stage for a very interesting finish. Suddenly on the front stretch the 93 belched some smoke and he eventually coasted to a stop in the back straight. Sheppard inherited the lead and was never headed.

Though Pat Ward continued his consistency with a stand alone, not contested second place, and Mike Maresca had hit best finish of the season in third it was those that followed that kept things interesting.

Bobby Varin, Tim Fuller and Marc Johnson were all together simply awating a miscue by someone. However, the veteran trio drove flawlessly down the stretch and came home fourth, fifth and sixth.

Sheppard rebounded by extreme disappointment earlier in the week as the Fonda fourth place was his worst finish in a couple of weeks.

He had something very unique occur at Fonda. Talking about his situation he said, “The right rear was coming apart, but not in the usual way. It was chunking and it was almost as though it was melting as pieces stuck to my rear quarter panel. It was sort of what like happens on asphalt. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before. It started going about a quarter of the way through the race.”

However, Super Matt walked away from UR on Sunday with his second win of the weekend as he was only defeated by Mother Nature in a rain out at Outlaw on Friday night.
Sportsmen Mad Move Proves to Pay Off

On Saturday night at Fulton Matt Janczuk started about mid-pack and started to move forward, but found himself in a lengthy lap consuming and tire eating battle for a top five position with Jeremy Pitcher on the slick surface.

Sunday night he was in that type of situation once again as he battled with A.J. Filbeck and Kyle Kiehn for a long, long time.

Mark Effner appeared he could possibly pick up his second win of the year, but on the last lap the 33x just took off in the backstretch with a do or die move. He buried the car as low as he could possibly go in three, gained what appeared to be a decisive lead, then saw Effner come right back at him by shooting to the inside. They hit the start finish line and it was a moment of celebration for one and a moment of despair for the other as Janczuk, the point leader, won by .192 of a second over Effner.

Pit Stops

Brad Godshalk has been racing for 10 years. He is a Toyota engineer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan who is coming home on weekends to race as often as he can…

Tom Collins is a regular runner in the Sportsman division at Thunder Mountain and Outlaw, but he is a traveler. He bent up the car after a hard hit at Fonda on Wednesday, and is also running the DIRTcar Central Series and unexpectedly the Grit Series. He said, “Wasn’t planning on doing Grit, but got off to a great start so going the follow it right now.” Tom is from Lansing, N.Y. also home town of Mod driver Chuck Bower…

Five Rookies were in the pits including 14 year old Alexis Jacobs, winner Jimmy Moyer, Saturday night Fulton Novice winner Matt Becker, Devin Willis (in a Maresca car) and Brad Williams in the familiar Jeremy Vunk machine…

There was a little delay in Rookie victory lane as Jimmy Moyer sat in the cockpit as his mom shoved the phone in his hand. His sister Rachel wasn’t on hand and they had to call her with the good news…

Brian Thomas was in the Joel Thomas 60 Modifieds…

Just a few minor yellows in the Sportsman main as Charlie Tibbitts got the backstretch wall on lap one, Nate Peckham looped it on the ninth and Jeff Taylor had mechanical problems on the 11th…

Mike Welch rebounded and dominated the Pro Stock 20 lapper. There were just nine cars and in the future 10 cars or less will be a shorter distance for the main-event…

Sportsman driver Jeremy Nesved is a pure rookie, but in his heat he led for the first five laps of the six lap event. He got passed by Brent Joy and Dave Moyer on the final go around, but he made a solid impression…

17 Mods, 19 Sportsman, 9 Pro Stocks and 5 Rookies were pit-side…

Patrick LaPage paid a visit and noted, “I want to run here a few times before the big race in September, but the track then won’t be anything like tonight. It will be slick. This track is far from slick tonight.”…

Frank Hyatt had clutch problems last week in his heat, but got things cranked around to finish solidly. He said, “New clutch this week.” He started in the second row, was moving well, slipped once and found himself climbing back as he came home fifth…

Aaron Page had a good effort going only to break while in sixth…

Shane Henderson still on a high after the Pro Stock win the previous week. The young lady who jumped into his arms in victory lane was his fiancé. He said, “She is really not into racing and it was the first time all year she’s come up as it is a two and a half hour ride. It was a dream to win a race like that. Henderson started racing in ’08, but took five years off to serve in the U.S. Marines…

Jack Miller has been running the limited or open Sportsman class since 1973. He noted that he was forced to move to Mods this year because of the change. Of the 37A he said, “I still have my open motor with a good set of heads, but am probably 300 to 400 horsepower less than most cars.”…

Family autograph night was well attended and even with that scheduled the entire program was over at 9:22 p.m. with the Mods ending just after 9 p.m…

Regular show this week, but fans who like to see a lot of competitive racing should mark down August 20 as the Mods will be in the house along with all three King of Dirt Series. The 358’s return for the second time this year along with the KOD Sportsman and Pro Stocks. There will be two Pro Stock mains as there is a need for a make up from June…

Good to have Beth Bellinger back after a week off…

Steve Way appeared to have mechanical problems all night long electing to start in the back…

Alan Johnson apparently was spending the day with his grandchildren at Watkins Glen. Hope they all had a good time. Tough for drivers to spend quality time with families during racing season…

Track was very quick and tacky. Janczuk and Sheppard each noted how hard they had to work as they needed to be right up on the wheel. No slick surface this week…

Great working with Shane Andrews once again as with Mike Mallett on his annual pilgrimage to Knoxville guest announcers will be part of two weeks of action. Adam Buchanan making an appearance next Sunday to work alongside me…

The DTD TV appears to be catching on. They had some technical problems the previous week, but everything has been ironed out now. This is a pay to view deal, but usually there is a sneak preview during the night…

Long week finally came to an end as Fonda on Wednesday followed by Brewerton, Fulton and Utica-Rome really stretched me out…

That’s it for this time around. Any news, information or comments send along to foley395@hotmail.com.