The Baldwinsville Bullet started seventh in a field of 31 modifieds stacked with talent, and he marched slowly but steadily to the front to wage a heated battle with Matt Sheppard.
The two warriors were the class of the field slicing through lapped traffic as they battled for the top spot. Phelps saw the opportunity he needed on lap 56 when Sheppard was trying to put a lap on Erick Rudolph. Phelps darted to the outside and secured the top spot, but he spent the rest of the race fighting to keep it.
“We caught a break in lapped traffic, and we were able to get by Matt,” said an elated Phelps in victory lane. “We don’t run enough small block stuff to even know what we’re doing. The car was super.”
Sheppard looked to have the car to beat early in the event, but contact while trying to avoid a skirmish in front of him might have cost him the win.
“When Chuck (Bower) and Pat Ward got together I kind of bent the right front shock in half, and the car wouldn’t steer anymore,” said Sheppard. “Jimmy was really good tonight. We had a good car, too. If it wasn’t for the shock we might have had something for him. I’m just happy to hold on for second.”
The race started with former champion Mario Clair on the point alongside Pat Ward. Clair leapt to the lead at the drop of the green flag, and the Quebec racer looked right at home on the tricky 1/3 mile track.
A couple of early cautions kept the field bunched together, and Clair’s time at the front became brief. Veteran modified racer Dale Planck took his turn at the front, but he had one of the hottest drivers on dirt hot on his heels. Stewart Friesen is enjoying a great 2010 campaign, and he made his presence felt early on.
While Friesen stalked the leader former Brewerton Speedway champion Chuck Bower had different plans. Bower drove under Friesen in turn three. The two made contact, and Bower spun in turn four collecting Ward. The contact caused a number of leaders to check up including Sheppard who bent his front suspension in the melee.
When racing resumed Brett Hearn took his turn at the point. Hearn powered to the lead, and he and Planck worked different lines on the race track looking for grip. While the leaders stalked each other one driver working through traffic in a hurry was Danny Johnson.
The “Doctor” started deep in the field after a poor time trial effort left him climbing out of a hole all day. By lap 40 he was well into the top 10, and he appeared to be the fastest car on the track.
Just before the midway point Sheppard found speed on the bottom groove, and on lap 46 he drove under race leader Planck.
When the cross flags signified the midway point of the race Sheppard led a hard-charging Phelps with Hearn, Planck, and Johnson in tow.
It didn’t take Phelps long to challenge Sheppard after the two passed Planck. On lap 53 Phelps powered under Sheppard off of turn four, but Sheppard slammed the door shut. The two worked through lapped traffic while racing each other vigorously for the lead.
Phelps opportunity came on lap 56 when slower car Erick Rudolph came into the picture. Phelps swept to the outside of Sheppard to take the lead.
The two endured restarts, lapped traffic, and a slick race track all while racing for the lead. The scariest moment for Phelps came late in the race when they approached lapped traffic. The slower cars seemed to occupy the inside lane, and when Phelps moved up to pass Sheppard showed his nose on the inside.
Phelps held strong on the outside, and he distanced himself from Sheppard while getting through the traffic.
In the end Phelps hang on to win by a comfortable margin over Sheppard with Hearn, Decker, and Planck rounding out the top five.
Complete results to come when available. For more great photos from the event, visit our exclusive photo gallery at http://www.dirttrackdigest.com/GallerySDS/index.php