By Chris Moore
VERNON, NY – Matt Sheppard called Victory Lane all his own on Championship Night at Utica-Rome Speedway, picking up his 11th win of the season and his second consecutive Sunoco Modified championship.
“I’m really proud of this team. What a great season… never would’ve dreamed we would’ve got rolling the way we did,” proclaimed Sheppard on his excellent 2022 season.
Sheppard’s 11th win of the season brings him to 59 total wins at the ‘Home of Heroes,’ second on the all-time win list and within three of the all-time lead held by Stewart Friesen.
“I missed racing here, I’m thankful Brett (Deyo) got this place going again,” proclaimed Sheppard of his gratitude to have Utica-Rome Speedway back.
“It’s really been a true Friday night home for us.”
Sheppard fired off from his customary 12th starting position following the handicap, while Genoa, N.Y.’s Will Shields and Masonville, N.Y.’s Shaun Walker held the front row starting positions.
While Walker faded in the early going, Shields quickly raced out to a healthy lead while Duanesburg, N.Y.’s Ronnie Johnson attempted to run him down.
The race’s first yellow came out on lap six, as David Schilling clipped an infield yuke tire, causing front end damage that ended his night.
The restart was great news for both Sheppard and Ronnie Johnson. Sheppard, who restarted in eight, was up to fifth by the completion of lap eight.
Johnson, meanwhile, was turning up the pressure on Shields up front for the lead. Johnson and Shields raced side-by-side for three laps, allowing the trio behind them to reel them in.
Norwich, N.Y.’s Alan Barker and Unadilla, N.Y.’s Billy Decker were joined by Sheppard, making it a five-car duel for the lead spot on lap 11.
Johnson emerged from the pack with the lead as the field completed the 12th circuit, while Decker and Sheppard both raced by Alan Barker for the third and fourth spots.
Decker, however, wasn’t done.
One lap later the ‘Franklin Flyer’ raced underneath Will Shields for the runner-up spot. Sheppard followed Decker in the following set of corners, driving underneath Shields for third.
Sheppard kicked it into high gear after getting to third. Both Johnson and Decker moved up off the bottom, leaving it open for Sheppard. ‘Super Matt’ raced by the lead duo and took the lead away for good.
Multiple yellows plagued the remainder of the race, giving two other drivers opportunities to climb through the field.
Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski – who started 16th – raced to sixth before a lap-20 restart. ‘Kid Rocket’ used an excellent restart to race around three cars on the inside row, then dive underneath Alan Barker to take the runner-up spot.
Sprakers, N.Y.’s Stewart Friesen would have a successful restart two laps later, taking the fourth position that he would hold onto.
Despite the numerous late race restarts, Sheppard was unchallenged up front, taking home the $2,400 victory on Championship Night.
Yankowski – powered by his excellent restart – would come home as the runner-up and Billy Decker rounded out the top three.
Friesen claimed the fourth position and Alan Barker rounded out the top five.
Finish sixth through 10th, respectively, were: Ronnie Johnson, who faded during the late race restarts; Binghamton, N.Y.’s Darren Smith in the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 12; Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker, who raced inside the top-10 throughout the 30-lap feature; Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner, who finished the season as the runner-up man in points; and Shaun Walker rounded out the top-10.
Dolgeville, N.Y.’s Dave Richer was the man dubbed to snap Matt Janczuk’s ten race win streak with the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman.
Richer fired off from the fifth position but wasted no time getting to the front and driving away from the field following early yellows.
Richer won in dominant fashion by nearly four seconds over Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker Jr. Allan Hodge rounded out the podium. Payton Talbot came home fourth and A.J. Miller rounded out the top five.
Janczuk, of Durhamville, N.Y., finished in 10th place, good enough to secure the championship, the ninth of his career.
“We were points racing tonight. I was just trying to survive because it was pretty wild there in the mid-pack,” Janczuk explained of his championship night performance.
Bret Belden raced to his first Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks feature win in over eight years at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Belden’s victory was a popular one, as the 62-year-old claimed his 36th career win in the division at the ‘Home of Heroes.’
Belden was victorious over Jay Corbin in a battle to the finish line. A.J. Walters, Jason Morrison, and Beau Ballard rounded out the top five.
Ballard, a Grand Gorge, N.Y. native, was crowned the champion of the Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks for the second consecutive year.
Alex Hughes claimed his fourth win of the season with the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman with a last lap pass of Dylan Piersall for the win. Piersall was the runner-up followed by E.J. Gallup, Eric Jensen, and Ernie Staelens.
Seth Martin, who came home sixth, clinched the championship by taking the green flag to start the race.
Jay Ingersoll invaded Utica-Rome Speedway for the first time and claimed the Dual Cam portion of the Fonda Fair Four Cylinder feature event. Wayne Russell Jr. was victorious for the third time this season in the Single Cam portion of the event.
Matt Bukovan (DOHC) and Hunter Tarbania (SOHC) were crowned Four Cylinder champions.
Brett Putnam was victorious with the Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshots, clinching the win and his second consecutive championship to boot.
Corky Warner meanwhile took home his second win of the season with the D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshots while Blake Banek earned the championship.
Utica-Rome Speedway resumes tomorrow (Sept. 4) as the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco invades the Route 5 oval for the Halmar International ‘Elite’ Series for a $25,000-to-win main event. The Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman ($1,000-to-win), Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks ($1,000-to-win), and the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman ($500-to-win) will round out the program.
For the Sept. 4 program, pit gates open at 3 p.m. with grandstand gates following at 4 p.m. Hot laps are slated to begin at 6:15 p.m. with racing to follow at 7 p.m.
Grandstand admission is $30 for Adults and $28 for Seniors (ages 65 and above). Kids 11 and under get in FREE.
Pit Admission is $40 for Utica-Rome Speedway members and $45 for non-members.
The entire night of racing will air live and on-demand on FloRacing (www.floracing.tv).
Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is www.uticaromespeedway.com and can be reached by phone at 315.953.4097. Like Utica-Rome Speedway on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @UR_Speedway.
CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT RESULTS SUMMARY – UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY SEPTEMBER 2, 2022
Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Alex Yankowski, Billy Decker, Stewart Friesen, Alan Barker, Ronnie Johnson, Darren Smith, Willy Decker, Rocky Warner, Shaun Walker, Will Shields, Justin Wright, Eric Leet, Ronnie Holmes, Rusty Smith, Brad Godshalk, Jim Walsh, Ed Harris, Ted Starr, Pat Ward, JaMike Sowle, Aaron Jacobs, David Schilling, Brad Poppleton.
Did Not Start: Alan Johnson
2022 Sunoco Modified Track Champion: MATT SHEPPARD
Competition Carburetor Fast Lap Award ($100): Matt Sheppard (18.109)
Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): DAVE RICHER, Willy Decker Jr., Allan Hodge, Payton Talbot, A.J. Miller, Ed Lukas, David Hackett Jr., Gordon Smith, Kyle DeMetro, Matt Janczuk, Josh Amodio, Shawn Frost, Stephen Denton, Jim Nagle, Addison Bowman, David Manchester, Rocco Leone, Brad Alger, Brent Joy, David Dickey, Ed Downing, Will Eastman, Carter Gibbons, Matt Richardson, Jeremy Slosek, Mike Richmond.
2022 Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Track Champion: MATT JANCZUK
Competition Carburetor Fast Lap Award ($100): Gordon Smith (20.565)
Next Generation Graphix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): BRET BELDEN, Jay Corbin, A.J. Walters, Jason Morrison, Beau Ballard, Josh Coonradt, Bill Knapp, Tim Wood, Andy Graves, Ken Griffen, Jim Normoyle, Aaron Page, Mike Kazlauskas, John Holmes, Ed Kotary, Hunter Keith, Ivan Joslin, Dillon Vanston.
2022 Next Generation Graphix Pro Stock Track Champion: BEAU BALLARD
Competition Carburetor Fast Lap Award ($100): Jay Corbin (21.686)
Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): ALEX HUGHES, Dylan Piersall, E.J. Gallup, Eric Jensen, Ernie Staelens, Seth Martin, Bobby Rhinehardt, Maddy Broedel, Mike Haman, Zack Welch.
2022 Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Track Champion: SETH MARTIN
Competition Carburetor Fast Lap Award ($100): E.J. Gallup (21.229)
Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Cruiser Feature Finish (12 laps): JAY INGERSOLL (DOHC), Matt Bukovan, David DeNova, Rudy King Jr., Sophia DeNova, Kyle Coley, Austin Vanderhoof, Donald Kimball, Wayne Russell Jr. (SOHC), Jean Foster, Hank Wedgren, Dan Haslun, Hunter Tarbania.
2022 Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Track Champions: MATT BUKOVAN (DOHC) & HUNTER TARBANIA (SOHC)
Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshot Feature Finish (20 laps): BRETT PUTNAM, Chris Darrow, Jim Pollard, Scott Sprague, Josh Persse, Jason Dufel, Kirsten Swartz, Tadd Granger, Tyler Vadney, Bill Trexler Sr., Joel Vadney.
Did Not Start: Nicholas Jenkins
2022 Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshot Track Champion: BRETT PUTNAM
D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshot Feature Finish (15 laps): CORKY WARNER, Chase Spoor, Sullivan Dickey, Brody Janczuk, Ayden Goodier, Lucas Cole, Savannah Simmons, Kolt Gamble, Blake Banek, Maddy Broedel.
2022 D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshot Track Champion: BLAKE BANEK