VERNON, NY – He’s back.
For the first time since 2018, Savannah, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard returned to Victory Lane at Utica-Rome Speedway.
“It feels really good (being back in Victory Lane at Utica-Rome). I feel like we’ve been in the hunt every week and we just haven’t gotten to the front fast enough,” explained Sheppard following the thrilling, 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature.
Sheppard stalked Sheffield, Mass., native Andy Bachetti for much of the final 20 laps, before finally making the move coming the white flag to secure his 43rd career Modified win at the ‘Home of Heroes.’
Sheppard started the feature from the 10th position, with Sean Beardsley and Marshall Hurd leading the field to the opening green flag.
With Beardsley setting the early pace, Middlesex, N.Y.’s Alan Johnson was forced to pull off the racetrack on lap five, after climbing to the runner-up spot. Marshall Hurd, who inherited second, was under fire from both Bachetti and Sprakers, N.Y.’s Jessica Friesen.
Bachetti worked his way to second, and Sheppard had climbed into fourth before a lap-10 yellow for Glenville, N.Y.’s Brian Gleason slowing to a stop in the fourth turn reset the field.
When the field went back to green, Beardsley dropped off the top of turns three and four banking before coming to a stop.
With 18 laps remaining when the field went back to racing, Bachetti had Matt Sheppard alongside of him, and Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner had entered the picture, racing to third.
Sheppard paced Bachetti, working the bottom side while Bachetti continued to rip the topside of the half-mile oval.
With 10 laps to go, the leaders began working in lap traffic, but Bachetti continued to be flawless. Sheppard’s chase continued until two laps to go, when lapped cars side-by-side threw the curveball that Sheppard was looking for.
Jim Walsh moved to the top right in front of Bachetti, and Sheppard filled the hole on the bottom. Bachetti tried to move to the bottom, but Sheppard beat him to the spot.
Sheppard led the final two laps, getting past his three runner-up finishes to open the season, and grabbing the elusive win.
“It was a great race. It seemed like every time I showed him a nose, he’d pick his pace up,” a happy Sheppard conveyed in victory lane.
Bachetti held on for second in his Garrity Asphalt No. 4. Rocky Warner grabbed third in his Jason Simmons Racing No. 98. Jessica Friesen finished fourth in her family-owned no. 1z, and Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski rounded out the top-five. Yankowski started 12th in his Utica-Rome debut
Claude Hutchings Jr. got his best finish of the year, coming home sixth. Whitney Point, N.Y.’s Marshall Hurd finished seventh, and Masonville, N.Y.’s Shaun Walker came home eighth. East Greenbush, N.Y.’s David Schilling came home ninth and Fultonville, N.Y.’s JaMike Sowle rounded out the top-10 in his Carole and Alton Palmer owned No. 76.
For the third time in four nights to open the season, Oneida, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk claimed the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman 25-lap feature.
Janczuk used several early yellows to move forward from his 12th starting position, racing by Perth, N.Y. native Chip Constantino on lap 10 to take the lead for good.
The win netted Janczuk $1,500, with the Crate 602 Sportsman racing for an increased purse on Friday night.
Dolgeville, N.Y.’s Dave Richer came home with his best finish of the season, grabbing the runner-up spot. Johnstown, N.Y.’s Brian Calabrese came all the way from 18th to round out the podium.
Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker Jr. followed last week’s win with a fourth-place run and Chip Constantino rounded out the top five.
The Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks put on another thrilling 20-lap feature event, and Grand Gorge, N.Y.’s Beau Ballard picked up his second consecutive win.
Ballard and Schenectady, N.Y.’s Nick Stone took over the top two spots with just five laps remaining. Stone was out in front as Ballard continued clawing forward, reeling Stone lap-by-lap.
On the white flag lap, the went side-by-side into turn one, and the lap car of Jerry Streeter spun out, and collected Stone who was running the bottom.
Ballard would hold on for the win in the one-lap dash, with Jason Morrison and Jim Normoyle rounding out the podium finishers. Morrison was later disqualified in post-race tech.
Rotterdam, N.Y.’s Clayton DuMond grabbed his third Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman victory of the season.
DuMond raced from his fourth starting position to take the lead early and set sail from there. Baldwinsville, N.Y.’s David Hackett Jr. grabbed the second position and last week’s winner Stephen Gray rounded out the top three.
Justin Pope moved his win total to three in three tries, claiming the Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinders feature event. Ken Hollenbeck, who made his first appearance at Utica-Rome in 2021, was the Single Overhead Cam winner.
The Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series was on hand for their first appearance of 2021 at the Route 5-oval. Randy Delaney was the Modified winner of for the Vintage cars.
Stephen Denton picked up the Sportsman division victory, and Loren Lincoln was triumphant in the Antique Vintage division.
Racing resumes Friday, June 18, for the ‘School’s Out Special.’ The Sunoco Modifieds will race for $3,500-to-win to headline the event. Joining the modifieds will be the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman, Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks, Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman, and the Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinders.
The Speedway Entertainment Slingshot Tour will be on hand as well on the inner oval.
Gates will open at 5 p.m. and racing is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is uticaromespeedway.com. Like Utica-Rome Speedway on Facebook or @UR_Speedway.
RESULTS SUMMARY – UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY JUNE 11, 2021
Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Andy Bachetti, Rocky Warner, Jessica Friesen, Alex Yankowski, Claude Hutchings Jr., Marshall Hurd, Shaun Walker, David Schilling, JaMike Sowle, Sean Beardsley, Tim Mayne, Rich Christman, Kailee DiMorier, Jim Walsh, Randy Shantel, Aaron Jacobs, Brian Gleason, Alan Johnson, Walt Chyrywaty
Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): Matt Janczuk, Dave Richer, Brian Calabrese, Willy Decker Jr., Chip Constantino, Addison Bowman, AJ Miller, Brad Alger, Payton Talbot, Rocco Leone, Will Shields, Shawn Frost, Ed Lukas, Brent Joy, Tanner Warner, Richie Riggs, Steve Kotary, Dana Camenga, Joe Williams, David Manchester, Tucker O’Connor, Tim Falter, Harry Murphy
Did Not Start: John Baker
Next Generation Grafix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): BEAU BALLARD, Jim Normoyle, Ivan Joslin, Bill Knapp, Nick Stone, Ed Kotary, Aaron Page, Andy Graves, Mike Kazlauskas, Jerry Streeter
Disqualified: Jason Morrison
Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (15 laps): CLAYTON, DUMOND, David Hacket Jr., Stephen Gray, Jeremy Slosek, Nick Stone, Matt Backus, Ed Downing, Alexis Jacobs, Jason Lopes, Amber Jacobs, Mike Haman
Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinder Feature Finish (15 laps): JUSTIN POPE (DOHC), Ken Hollenbeck (SOHC), Corey Valade, Kerrie Hollenbeck, Wayne Russell Jr., Jean Foster, Matt Buckovan
Mohawk Valley Vintage Modified/Late Model Feature Finish (15 laps): RANDY DELANEY, John Flach, Jon Kuleszo, Jack Miller, Darral Hulbert, Stanley Wetmore, Billy Leonard, John Roese, Curtis Condon, Mark Anatriello, Brett Tardy, Will Reed
Mohawk Valley Vintage Sportsman/Mystique Feature Finish (15 laps): STEPHEN DENTON, Mike Francisco, Brian Gray, Ed Lawrence, John Constantino, Carl Cram, George Palmer, Rich Applebee, Dan Karl, Tim Natalino, Matt Scott, Tom Church, Phil Clawson
Mohawk Valley Vintage Antique Finish (12 laps): LOREN LINCOLN, Jimmy Fugel, Bryan Scofield, Jim Hillmire, Kavin Winton, Frank Blanchard, Stew Pidasso, Mark Reardon, Don Brigg, Tex Gorden, Don Docskalik