RPW Exclusive: Matt Sheppard Was Dominant In Super DIRTcar Series Opener At Can-Am

Column By: TIM BALTZ / RPW – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – “We were on this track at 3:45 this morning,” were the words of the track crews at the Can Am Speedway in Lafargeville New York and it paid off with a packed house and a full field of the best Big Block Modified Super Dirtcar Series drivers.

Matt Sheppard won the last outing in 2009 and stayed out of trouble in the caution filled event with a front row starting spot on this night as he outlasted a quality field for the 63rd time in a point paying series race.

The attrition however began on the initial green flag. Heading into turn 1 Phoenix New York’s Larry Wight came into contact with an infield tire breaking the front end on his machine after starting 3rd. Nobody made contact with his car and he was able to get towed back to the pits, but it would not be the end of his night as with a lap 2 caution was only down one lap but would regain it quickly and put on a charge. Jimmy Phelps would lead the field in the opening laps but Matt Sheppard relied on that magic from the last series race as he jumped out front and drove away from the field in the early going. The only thing that would stop Sheppard from totally dominating the race was cautions and there were plenty of them throughout this contest. With plenty of rain over the previous weeks track conditions were tough on tires and suspension parts all evening.

Series veterans like The Doctor Danny Johnson and series new comers Dave Marcuccilli along with Demetrios Drellos all experienced problems while running in the top 10. Larry Wight who had begun his charge from 28th to 10th had hard contact with Tim Sears Jr. in turn 4. He would yet again make a run to the front after a pit stop.

Even with all the early race attrition Sheppard was not phased by anything and held off repeated challenges from Jimmy Phelps Billy Decker and defending 358 Modified track-champion at Can-Am, Billy Dunn who had his big block ride in the top 5 all night long.

Billy Decker who won this event in 1999 saw a sure top 5 run go away after he was forced into the infield and collected an infield tire late in the going on lap 76 while running 3rd. He was credited with a 20th place finish.

As the laps clicked off Sheppard was too strong but another challenger emerged as Mat Williamson took over 2nd and looked like a driver who could possibly mount a challenge to the seven-time series champion. While this was happening more troubles for drivers in the top 10 with Ryan Arbuthnot, a Can Am regular, losing a left rear tire, Jimmy Phelps broke his front end in turn 4 seeing a top 5 run go away and Erick Rudolph broke while running in top ending a chance at victory.

Following a Jack Lehner caution on lap 93 Mat Williamson and Billy Dunn knew this was their last chance to overtake Sheppard. On the restart it was no contest as the Waterloo native pulled away to score the big $10,000 pay day and guarantee himself a spot at Super Dirt Week in October. Mat Williamson and Billy Dunn held on to second and third with Justin Haers and Pat Ward making up the top 5. Larry Wight rebounded from the early race issues to claim 6th, filing out the top 10 were Ryan Watt, Mike Mahaney, Ryan Godown and Michael Maresca, who came from 29th on the grid to earn the evenings Hard Charger award, improving 19 positions at the finish.

Sheppard also made history becoming only the 2nd driver in track history to score back to back Super DirtCar Series wins joining Watertown native Tim McCreadie, who accomplished the feat back in 2002 and 2003.

The High Bank Hold Up 100 at the Fulton Speedway is next for the Super DirtCar Series and after a disappointing start at Can-Am, Billy Decker will be looking for his 4th straight triumph but teammate and defending 358 Modified track champion Larry Wight will have a say. A host of others will also be chasing another trophy in two weeks-time on April 27th.