By CHRIS MOORE
PORT ROYAL, PA – What. A. Race.
Two of New York State’s finest battled down the stretch of the 40-lap Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco Modified main event Sunday afternoon at Port Royal Speedway.
At the drop of the Sunoco checkered flags, it was Middletown, N.Y.’s Anthony Perrego taking a $5,000 victory in the ‘Speed Showcase’ driving for a Delmarva-based team owned by Gary Simpson. Perrego edged ‘Super Matt’ Sheppard in a back-and-forth battle before a large crowd.
Perrego is in his first year driving for the Simpson team on the series in search of the $10,000 STSS Velocita-USA South Region presented by Design for Vision and Sunglass Central title. His first win came in Race No. 2 of the season.
“We definitely have something to work with,” Perrego said of Simpson’s Pro Power/Teo-Pro car combination. “It’s a good piece.”
Perrego started 11th in the 27-car starting field at the ‘Speed Palace’ located on the Juniata County Fairgrounds. It veteran Jimmy Horton who launched off the pole at the start, but all-time leading STSS Modified winner Stewart Friesen – Horton’s teammate – advanced from his third starting position to the lead on lap two.
Friesen’s run, however, was derailed when he brought out the race’s only yellow flag on lap five, the victim of a power steering line issue.
Danny Bouc, with a back-up 360 cubic inch small-block engine under the hood of the Pondish Racing No. 6, assumed the lead. Bouc paced the field through lap 10 when Sheppard swept past with the Hurlock Auto & Speed No. 9s.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on Perrego, who had marched from his sixth-row starting spot to the top-three.
On lap 13, Perrego slipped by Bouc for the runner-up position and the battle was on. Sheppard and Perrego negotiated lapped traffic and used every inch of the speedway’s red clay.
Perrego first cleared Sheppard for the lead on lap 22. Sheppard got it back on the 24th circuit.
Perrego shot the gap to the inside of Sheppard on the 26th tour, but, once again, his lead was short-lived. Sheppard was back on the point on the 27th lap.
The key moment of the race took place entering turn three with 10 laps remaining.
Perrego got a run to the inside down the backstretch. Sheppard attempted to block the low line entering turn three, but Perrego was there. The two slapped side rails, battled wheel-to-wheel before Perrego emerged with a lead he would not relinquish.
“I had to move him (Sheppard) a little bit,” Perrego said. “I hated to do it, but racing one of the best there is, I had to take that opportunity.”
Despite his runner-up finish, Savannah, N.Y.’s Sheppard was all smiles afterward with his $3,200 effort that included the $200 Precision Hydraulic & Oil Halfway Leader bonus.
“This is one of the raciest race tracks I’ve run on in a long time,” he said of his Port Royal debut.
Mat Williamson made the long haul south from Ontario, Canada and sliced through the field from his 19th starting position. After just 12 laps, he was fifth. Ultimately, he ended his ascent at third, nearly catching Sheppard in the final laps.
The effort was a morale builder for Williamson, who drove his own No. 6 big-block.
“After Florida, I didn’t know if I could drive a race car anymore,” he said, noting his struggles in the Sunshine State.
Williamson picked up $250 from Pioneer Pole Buildings Inc. as the event’s Hard Charger.
Pipersville, Pa.’s Bouc turned his early season around in fourth and Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J., made his Port Royal debut a memorable one, completing the front five.
Placing sixth through 10th, respectively, were David Van Horn Jr. of Ringoes, N.J., in the VAHLCO Wheels No. 323ov; Oley, Pa.’s Craig Von Dohren driving the Dick Biever No. 14s; Mike Mahaney of King Ferry, N.Y., making his debut in the Huttig Motorsports No. 35; Rick Laubach of Hellertown, Pa., driving for Ryan Kerr; and Danny Johnson of Rochester, N.Y., at the controls of the Petruska family No. 66.
Friesen was the Beyea Custom Headers Fast Timer with a 19.110 fast time award.
Hearn, Ryan Watt, Van Horn and Mahaney won the heat races for the 34 assembled STSS Modifieds. Richie Pratt Jr. took the 10-lap B-Main.
PORT POINTS: Speedway promoter Steve O’Neal was so pleased with Sunday’s event that it was announced the Short Track Super Series would return on the same weekend in March next year, etching a date on the 2020 Port Royal Speedway calendar….
The win for Perrego was his sixth career STSS victory. He has now one on four different tracks on the circuit….
Tough luck for both Erick Rudolph and Billy Van Pelt, whose efforts were over early in the afternoon with engine problems….
Defending STSS South Region Ryan Watt had climbed into the top-three with the Ron Roberts No. 14W before a drive shaft issue sent him to the infield late in the event….
The top-three drivers received Oakley Sunglasses thanks to series sponsors Design for Vision and Sunglass Central….
With a pair of second-place finishes, Matt Sheppard assumes the STSS South Region championship lead entering Delaware International Speedway on Tuesday, April 30….
Next up for the STSS is the Halmar International North Region opener on Sunday, April 7 at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y. The Escape RV ‘Hard Clay Open’ offers $11,919 to win and $700 to take the green flag for 50 laps at the five-eighths-mile oval.
To learn more about the 2019 Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com, email@example.com, check out ‘Short Track Super Series’ on Facebook or @ShortTrackSS on Twitter or Instagram.
The Short Track Super Series is presented by American Racer/Lias Tire, Sunoco Race Fuel, Insinger Performance, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Halmar International, Velocita-USA, Design for Vision/Sunglass Central, Rob Sherlock Roofing, ATL Racing Fuel Cells, Behrent’s Performance Warehouse, Beyea Custom Headers, Bicknell Racing Products, Dirt Track Digest, EIBACH Springs, Fast Axle, Fox Racing Shocks, Henry’s Exhaust, Hig Fab, HyperCo, Kirkey Racing Fabrication, Land Hoe Maintenance, K&N, MJK Home Maintenance, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, QA1, Racing Optics, Superior Remodeling, Teo-Pro Car, VAHLCO, Velocita, WELD Racing & Wilwood.
‘SPEED SHOWCASE’ RACE SUMMARY – PORT ROYAL SPEEDWAY MARCH 24, 2019
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Velocita-USA South Region Event No. 2 Modified Feature Finish (40 laps): ANTHONY PERREGO, Matt Sheppard, Mat Williamson, Danny Bouc, Brett Hearn, David Van Horn Jr., Craig Von Dohren, Mike Mahaney, Rick Laubach, Danny Johnson, Jimmy Horton, Duane Howard, Jeff Strunk, Billy Pauch Jr., Mike Gular, Stewart Friesen, Brandon Grosso, Roger Henion Jr., Rex King Jr., Alex Yankowski, Andy Bachetti, Jordan Watson, Ryan Krachun, Richie Pratt Jr., Cale Ross, Ryan Watt, Matt Stangle
Did Not Qualify: Brett Kressley, Chad Brachmann, Ryan Anderson, Clay Tatman, Kyle Coffey, Billy Van Pelt, Erick Rudolph.
American Racer Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire): Mike Mahaney (eighth) & Jeff Strunk (13th)
ATL Fuel Cell Bonus ($200 Certificate): Brett Hearn (fifth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Danny Bouc (fourth) & Rick Laubach (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Fast Time Award ($100): Stewart Friesen (19.110)
Bill Brown & Company ‘Move of the Race’ Award ($50): Anthony Perrego
Design for Vision/Sunglass Central Oakley Giveaway (FREE Holbrook Sunglasses): Anthony Perrego, Matt Sheppard & Mat Williamson
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): David Van Horn Jr. (sixth)
Henry’s Exhaust System Bonus ($50 Certificate): Jimmy Horton (11th)
Pioneer Pole Buildings Inc. Hard Charger ($250): Mat Williamson (19th to third)
Precision Hydraulic & Oil Halfway Leader ($200): Matt Sheppard
Racing Optics Bonus (Tear-Off Sleeve): Mat Williamson (third)
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonus ($50 Certificate): Matt Sheppard (second), Duane Howard (12th) & Jordan Watson (22nd)
VAHLCO Wheels Hard Charger ($50 Certificate): Mat Williamson (19th to third)
WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award (FREE 5XL Wheel): Billy Van Pelt