By MIKE MALLETT
Matt Sheppard is showing no signs of slowing down in 2018. The Watorloo, N.Y., driver just keeps winning. On Sunday night at the Weedsport Speedway Sheppard picked up his third win of the weekend. He won Friday night at Outlaw Speedway, used a late race charge to win Land of Legends Raceway on Saturday before a Sunday night romp at Weedsport.
“It was an awesome weekend,” stated Sheppard. “It’s nice to get a weekend sweep. It’s kind of funny. We are doing a little bit of keeping everything the same and some nights we are in experimental mode too. We’ve been able to pick off some wins with a lot of different stuff here. I don’t know if we are learning or confusing ourselves more but I guess we’ll find out more as the season goes on.”
Sheppard won the opener at Weedsport with a 20th to first charge. He failed to win the Super DIRTcar Series event at Weedsport as Stewart Friesen went on to take those honors. Sunday night he left no doubt as he maneuvered through the field from his seventh starting position.
“We just missed it last time,” cited Sheppard. “We weren’t really that good. We good the first time, we were good tonight. We just weren’t good in the one we wanted to be good in. Sometimes that is just the way rolls. This is the same car here tonight that we had last time. We obviously made a few changes and it was definitely better. I don’t know if it was perfect the way I would want it for 100 lapper, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.”
There were two key improvements that helped Sheppard take the checkered flag. First, he was able to run a slightly different line in turns one and two. Rather than hunkering right down on the bottom, Sheppard rolled the middle lane with his Bicknell mount coming off of the second corner allowing him to make several key passes.
“There was a little bit of bite up there and I felt like I could carry really good corner speed getting to it,” mentioned Sheppard. “I think that was the key. I could get to it quick enough that I could make some time down the backstretch. Everybody was glued to that bottom so I said, ‘if I’m going to get to the front I got to find another groove.’ Luckily enough we were good enough that we could carry some decent moment up there and kind of inch our way to the front.”
The second improvement was mobility. During the Super DIRTcar Series event Sheppard was good in one groove; the bottom. Once he got to traffic in the series’ event he just couldn’t run the middle or top. Sunday night he was fastest on the bottom but still good enough to leave that groove when necessary.
“That was biggest thing that killed us last time here,” commented Sheppard when asked about maneuverability. “When we were rolling around the bottom in the series race we were probably good enough to maybe run third, but when we got traffic I was stuck on the bottom. I just couldn’t move around. I couldn’t maneuver. I think that is what this car did best tonight. I could run all over the race track. It wasn’t spectacularly fast, but it was had some good maneuverability. Hopefully this gives us something to work on.”
Wight Tried to Make High Lane Work
In typical Larry Wight fashion, he went with the unconventional. When his car didn’t roll the bottom like he needed it to in order to hold off Sheppard he went right to the top of the track looking for moisture. He found some at the entrance of the third corner. Unfortunately, if he didn’t hit it right entering the corner, the car would shove up the track and he was just hanging on for the ride before bouncing off the wall.
“I think there was enough up there I was just way too tight,” stated Wight. “I’d hit it good one lap and make up some time, get a little braver the next lap, catch the hole getting into three and as soon as I’d lose the right front I’d just hold on. I tried to get it bent so I would go in right rear first instead of right front first. We threw everything we could at it. I think we were good early but we just weren’t quite good enough late.”
He’ll go to work on the Bicknell and try to make improvements for the next time they are at Weedsport to improve upon the second place finish.
“We are happy,” Wight said. “This car has been really good. I don’t think we’ve been out of the top five too many times with it. It’s a promising car. We just got to keep working on it.”
Wight’s second place finish came off the heels of a 10th place finish in the All Star Circuit of Champions A-Main. It was an overall solid night in both features for the Phoenix, N.Y., driver.
Ward Happy to Be Back in Big-Block
Pat Ward completed the podium with his third place finish. Ward was happy to be back in his potent big-block on Sunday night at Weedsport as it was another solid outing for his LJL Kevlar powered Bicknell.
“I’ve been running good here every time,” commented Ward. “I love the big-block car. You can step on it and go. Kevlar, when you got one in the shop you want to drive it because they go like crazy.”
Ward fell back early on in the 40-lap feature before regrouping and getting things rolling in second half. He battled for multiple laps trying to get around a stout Tyler Trump. Once he did that he was gaining on the leaders at the checkered flag.
“I should have moved by Trump a lot quicker than I did,” said Ward. “I didn’t know if there was anything out there. When Matt went by me I figured I’d better give it a whirl. Then I went back to the bottom. When I had clear lane I felt like I was as good as Larry maybe, close to Matt. Matt is just so good, how do you know?”
There were 23 cars pit-side for the Modifieds on Sunday night requiring three qualifying heats which were won by Sheppard, Wight and Chris Hile…
Tyler Trump and Ronnie Davis III finished fourth and fifth respectively in their small-block mounts on the slick Weedsport surface. More later on this on Dirt Track Digest.
Brett Hearn spoke about the upcoming Big Show 10 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway during the redraw. He indicated that Kenny Wallace will be in attendance this year…
The Modified feature ran caution free.