HIGHLAND, IL – Highland Speedway never fails to show why it’s a staple of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, and the next chapter in its book of exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing was scribed Friday night by two of the sport’s brightest stars – Brandon Sheppard and Bobby Pierce.
For the entire second half of the Feature, the two Illinois boys battled and chased each other non-stop, with Sheppard making the final pass for the lead on Lap 37 and fending off Pierce’s charge over the final 13 laps to score the $10,000 victory.
“Me and Bobby raced really clean. It’s a lot of fun racing with him, for sure,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard rarely pulls into Victory Lane with body damage, but the close-quarters racing in the early going crumpled his left-rear quarter-panel on the start after a stack-up in the bottom lane.
“[Blaze Burwell almost] looped it in front of me and I slowed down and got hit from behind. I thought we were done – I thought for sure the left-rear tire was flat, because [Michael] Kloos got up on my tire,” Sheppard said.
But all four tires stayed inflated, and Sheppard was able to restart toward the front. With Pierce in the lead from the pole, Sheppard knew he was going to give an A-plus effort if he wanted to see the front by the end of 50 laps.
Over a caution-filled event, Sheppard used the green-flag stretches and restarts to his advantage, making passes under green and the yellows to help catch the next car in line. When he finally reached Pierce, the battle was on.
For over 15 laps, Sheppard hounded Pierce, inside and outside. Until one particular restart on Lap 36, where Pierce left the door open on the top for Sheppard to get by, and it cost him.
Sheppard swung it to the high line in Turns 3-4 on Lap 37 and just barely nosed Pierce by inches at the line to take the lead. Pierce got him back down low in Turns 1-2, but a tangle in Turns 3-4 brought out the caution. With Sheppard being scored as the leader on that lap, that meant he would bring the field back to green on the restart.
With the ball now in his court, Sheppard hit the jets and never looked back. Pierce struggled behind him, nearly looping it in Turn 4 on Lap 39 and getting held up by slower traffic in the final laps, which gave Sheppard the room he needed to park it in Hell Tour Victory Lane for the 27th time in his career.
“We know there’s a lot of tough competition here, and Bobby’s one of the best-of-the-best. To pass him when he’s leading is really tough. But I found a little bit of a different line when I was racing with them guys that he probably didn’t see, just because he was leading,” Sheppard said.
Pierce came home second and again extended his points lead over third-place finishing Tanner English. Garrett Alberson crossed in fourth as Ashton Winger drove it back to fifth from 15th.
The Summer Nationals next head to Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 for Race #25 of the season on Saturday, Aug. 14. Catch all the action live on the newly redesigned DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (50 Laps) 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 81E-Tanner English; 4. 59-Garrett Alberson; 5. 12-Ashton Winger; 6. 18-Shannon Babb; 7. 14G-Joe Godsey; 8. 25-Jason Feger; 9. 44-Blaze Burwell; 10. 78-Chad Zobrist; 11. 74-Mitch McGrath; 12. 17-Todd Rehg; 13. 16-Rusty Griffaw; 14. 5-Brian Wolfmeier; 15. 87- Jason Zobrist; 16. 14R-Jeff Roth; 17. 7-Dan Jacober; 18. T4-Adam Tischauser; 19. 14-Paul Kuper; 20. 6K-Michael Kloos; 21. 10-Daryn Klein; 22. 248-Brandon Lance