By MIKE MALLETT
Matt Sheppard’s dream season ended a position short of his ultimate goal of capturing his eighth Super DIRTcar Series championship. The Waterloo, N.Y., talent had a rough start to the feature on Friday night at the World Finals before mechanical issues slowed him in the finale for the Super DIRTcar Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
The result, a second-place finish in the overall chase for the Super DIRTcar Series title. Sheppard fell 28 points short in the final tally to newly minted champion Mat Williamson.
“We dropped a cylinder and still had a good enough race car to finish fourth,” mentioned Sheppard after the 40-lap feature race on Saturday night. “That is pretty impressive at this place. When it’s your year, it’s your year. When it’s not your year, it’s not your year. You can’t do anything about stuff like that. We had a really good year, a good year on tour. We got a lot of wins and finishes up front, we just had too many bad nights. That’s all it boils down to.”
The biggest blemish on Sheppard’s resume in 2019 was his finish at Oswego Speedway as part of Super DIRT Week. Sheppard was involved in a jingle that broke the rear on his No. 9s where he finished 31st. That finish cost him a 100-point cushion in the series standings. He still had a shot prior to that after a win at Brockville, but it just wasn’t in the cards in Charlotte.
“Even with the issues last night and tonight, if it wasn’t for Oswego we would have still been the champion,” cited Sheppard. “It is what it is. Them guys did a great job. The driver, crew and team of just staying steady and not having too many bad nights and that’s what it takes to win championships.
“You can deal with a 10th or 11th here and there or a flat tire and come back. The 31st is tough to overcome, especially in the championship point deal. That was a 100 points right there. If it had been a race earlier in the season where it was only 60 points difference instead of a 100 that would have helped as well, but it is what it is. We still had a phenomenally good year. We won a lot of races. We just came up a little short.”
Sheppard’s disappointment was softened by the fact that he won the Short Track Super Series title which earned him over $58,000 dollars when bonuses and contingency prizes are factored in for winning the both the North and South Regions along with the American Racer Cup.
“It’s uncommon that is the Super DIRTcar Series is the little championship,” joked Sheppard. “If there is any consolation second in the Super DIRTcar Series pays better than second in the Short Track Super Series. We still made out pretty good. It was a darn good year. We had 36 wins, that’s pretty good and three track championships, three American Racer championships so that’s pretty solid.”
It was an outstanding year for Sheppard, one that any driver on the planet would be happy to have, but by his standards, it was a few spots short of the ultimate goal. It’s one that he’ll be looking to right in 2020 as he’ll do his best to get back on top of the standings.