Story By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – Matt Sheppard conquered the inaugural Thunder in the Thousand Islands 100, NAPA Super DIRT Week Qualifier from the outside pole.
Sheppard defeated all challengers including Jimmy Phelps, Erick Rudolph, Billy Decker, Billy Dunn, and Mat Williamson to hold onto the lead for the huge $10,000 payday.
Mat Williamson’s brand-new No. 88 Buzzchew Chevy Big-Block Modified ride was stout and finished in Sheppard’s tracks for second place. Billy Dunn took advantage of a familiar race track where he’s won many races to round out the podium.
Challengers kept stepping up to the plate, but Super Matt Sheppard was just too good on the .625-mile Northern New York speedway. It had been ten years since the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds turned laps at Can-Am Speedway, and it was the same story then as it is now: Matt Sheppard in Victory Lane. This time Sheppard takes home $10,000 and a guaranteed starting position in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at NAPA Super DIRT Week.
Despite picking up his seventh Super DIRTcar Series Championship last year, Matt Sheppard was not satisfied with how they closed the season.
“It seemed like we couldn’t buy a win on the tour at the end of last year, flat tire after flat tire after flat tire. We brought a really good race car tonight. We survived the attrition and a lot of restarts that we didn’t want to see. I was able to get it to the end and it feels good. It’s a great way to start the season.”
A huge crowd turned out in LaFargville, NY for the return of the Super DIRTcar Series, and they did not leave disappointed.
“I really gotta thank the fans that came out tonight. It’s nice to be able to race this early in April in Upstate New York. What a night for it!”
Although Sheppard led from early on in the race until the checkered flag, he did not go un-harassed. First, the No. 9s had to get around pole-sitter Jimmy Phelps, which he was able to do on the outside during an early restart. While Phelps faded, Erick Rudolph moved into the number two spot and mounted a charge against the defending Champion. Rudolph also faded and unfortunately pulled pit-side with only five laps remaining.
Every restart had the fans on the edge of their seat.
“I didn’t know where to restart, on the top or the bottom. I made a lot of restarts work on the top. I wanted to move down. When Billy [Decker] moved that tire in turn four a little bit, that made my decision a little easier on where to make my restarts. After that I just wanted to try and stay smooth and keep the thing under me and not do anything stupid,” said Sheppard.
When Gypsum Racing’s Billy Decker took his turn to shoot for the top, Sheppard again weathered the storm. Eventually, Decker clipped a yuke tire on the inside of the track and had to be towed away with front end damage. Billy Dunn took over second place and gave arguably the best run at Sheppard’s lead. Dunn was side-by-side with Sheppard multiple times but couldn’t complete the pass. Late in the race, Dunn slipped up between turns three and four, which allowed an opportunistic Mat Williamson to power into second.
Third place finisher Billy Dunn noted, “I think Matt [Sheppard] had the best car. The track changed a little more than we thought it would. We had a great car; We just came up a little bit short. We’re going some stuff that we haven’t done with the Big-Block so we are adjusting to that. We had a little bit of a home-field advantage in the Heat Races, but come Feature time these guys figured it out.”
Mat Williamson finished second but was never able to give Sheppard a serious challenge for the lead, but the No. 88 looked strong until the final lap. Sheppard had to be perfect.
The runner-up was pleased with his finish:
“It’s a very good start to the points race here. I can’t say enough about the guys who worked on this car tonight. It starts with Spot, he’s dedicated, and just wants to win. The effort that they put in is huge. I couldn’t do it without all those guys in the back. Matt [Sheppard] is going to be hard to beat this year, as usual. Hats off to those guys. They’ve got their stuff figured out.”
Next up the Super DIRTcar Series heads to Fulton Speedway for the High Bank Holdup 100 on Saturday, April 27.
Thunder in the Thousand Islands 100 RESULTS:
1) Matt Sheppard [$10,000] 2) Mat Williamson 3) Billy Dunn 4) Justin Haers 5) Pat Ward 6) Larry Wight 7) Ryan Watt 8) Mike Mahaney 9) Ryan Godown 10) Michael Maresca 11) Dave Marcuccilli 12) Jessey Mueller 13) Dave Rauscher 14) Peter Britten 15) Erick Rudolph 16) Jack Lehner 17) Demetrios Drellos 18) Jimmy Phelps 19) Ryan Arbuthnot 20) Billy Decker 21) Tyler Trump 22) Rich Scagliotta 23) Jordan McCreadie 24) Tim Sears Jr. 25) Max McLaughlin 26) Louie Jackson Jr. 27) Tim Fuller 28) Danny Johnson 29) Lance Willix
VP Fuels – Mike Mahaney – $50
Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux – Billy Decker – $100
Cometic Gasket – Dave Rauscher – $50
Comp Cams – Peter Britten – $50
Fox Racing Shox – Ryan Watt – $50
JE Pistons – Larry Wight – $50
MSD Ignition – Matt Sheppard – $50
MSD Ignition – Max McLaughlin – $25
NGK Spark Plugs – Larry Wight – $50
DART – Erick Rudolph – $50
Drydene – Larry Wight – $50
ASI Racewear – Ryan Watt – $50
Hoosier Racing Tire – Justin Hears – 1 Free Tire
NGK Spark Plugs – Erick Rudolph – $50 in product
Comp Cams – Matt Sheppard – $50 in product
Bicknell Racing Products – Matt Sheppard $100 in product
KSE Racing Products – Peter Britten – $50 in product
Drydene – Jack Lehner – $50 in product
DART – Larry Wight – $100 in product
DART – Ryan Arbuthnot – $100 in product
Wrisco Aluminum – Matt Sheppard – Product
JE Pistons – Billy Decker – Product
JE Pistons – Erick Rudolph – Product