Story By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – MIDDLETOWN, NY – August 15, 2019 – Matt Sheppard raced up from his third-place starting position to snatch the $10,000-to-win Battle on the Midway 100 at Orange County.
In his tracks, the Ringoes Rocket Ryan Godown fought off red hot runner Erick Rudolph to secure his best Series finish and a guaranteed starting spot in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVIII.
The Watertown, NY pilot of the No. 9s Matt Sheppard parked his Big Block Modified in Victory Lane amongst hundreds of his swarming fans. Once out of the car, he hoisted the VP Race Fuels checkered flag high above his head and pumped his fist in a blizzard of confetti celebrating the $10,000 payday.
Sheppard’s car was on rails.
He noted,“This thing was really good tonight. We went to our Central New York setup,” which due to the new slick and smooth surface at Orange County, proved to be part of the winning formula.
“Our car was so good on the bottom I was afraid to go around the outside of guys [lapped cars]. That’s how Ryan [Godown] lost the lead,” said Sheppard who passed Godown for the lead at the quarter mark of the race.
The $10,000 Battle on the Midway 100 win marks his seventh Series victory in 2019 but he knows the competition is close behind.
“The Series points are getting down the end of the season. Erick [Rudolph] has been close all year, “ noted Sheppard.
Ryan Godown, driver of the yellow No. 26 machine from Ringoes, NJ, is now the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He started on the front row and never gave an inch. Only Sheppard managed to pass him but Godown held off Championship contender Erick Rudolph to claim second.
“It feels unbelievable. We’ve been running tenth to fifteenth all year and we couldn’t seem to get on track. We’ve changed it up here and there the last couple weeks and it’s starting to get a little better. For me it’s just unbelievable right now,” Godown said with a huge grin.
Godown described his race day, “ We usually Hot Lap well and then lose a few spots in Time Trials. But tonight we were able to do well in Time Trials and then we won the Heat Race, so the momentum was there and I knew I had to go out and do it for 100 laps and not just eight.”
He continued, “We got the lead early. I made an aggressive pass going into turn one. I wanted to get out there because I knew Sheppard was third. I wanted him to beat me on the top if he was going to pass me. Then we got to lapped traffic and what did I do? I went to the top. I thought I could roll but the outside was just so slow. I saw him underneath and I thought ‘you gotta be kidding me’. I thought I’m not losing second by doing that again. There were times where I thought I was a little better than him [Sheppard] but he might have been taking it easy. How can you know? He’s the best guy going right now.”
Almost every race track the Series goes to is a brand new launchpad for the Ringoes Rocket.
“The biggest thing for me on the Series is that we go to some of these tracks and I have four laps to figure it out. I’ve been starting eighteenth and getting up to tenth. It’s tough to get up farther unless you’re really good.”
With the strong second-place finish, Ryan Godown has now locked himself into the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway on Sunday, October 13.
Despite being off to a rough start in 2019, Erick Rudolph and his team are putting up a tremendous mid-season push for his first Series Championship.
“We didn’t start the season out how we needed to, a bunch of DNFs, a bunch of poor performances, but starting late June and all through July and into August we’ve been really putting in excellent efforts,” Rudolph explained.
Late in the race, Rudolph had a few chances to overtake Godown.
He said, “I think I was a little bit better than Godown, especially at the end of the race. Sheppard was out a little ways. We might have had something in lapped traffic for him.”
Eight-time Champion Matt Sheppard was fast off the trailer. He was the quickest in Hot Laps, picked up the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast-Time Award, won his Heat Race, and of course, took the Feature win.
The KSE Hard Charger award went to the Gypsum Express driver Larry Wight. He gained twenty positions. After starting thirty-fourth, Wight managed to make his way back up to fourteenth and that even included a trip to pit lane.
When Jimmy Phelps pulled his number in the Dig Safely 811 Redraw, he looked at it and said, “Free tire!” which means the Baldwinsville Bandit had to start in the twelfth spot. However, his HBR team will receive a certificate from Hoosier Racing Tire for one free tire.
Next up is another NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVIII Qualifier. This time the Series invades Lebanon Valley Speedway for the $25,500-to-win Mr. DIRT Track USA 100 on Saturday, August 31.
FEATURE (100 Laps)
1. 9S-Matt Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 26-Ryan Godown [$5,000]; 3. 25-Erick Rudolph [$3,000]; 4. 91-Billy Decker [$2,750]; 5. 20-Brett Hearn [$2,500]; 6. 1P-Billy Pauch [$2,250]; 7. 21A-Peter Britten [$2,000]; 8. 27j-Danny Johnson [$1,750]; 9. 3w-Mat Williamson [$1,500]; 10. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [$1,400]; 11. 5H-Chris Hile [$1,300]; 12. 18D-Billy Dunn [$1,200]; 13. 35-Mike Mahaney [$1,150]; 14. 99L-Larry Wight [$1,100]; 15. 18s-Tim Sears [$1,050]; 16. 42p-Pat Ward [$1,000]; 17. 66-Tom Meier [$975]; 18. 111-Demetrios Drellos [$950]; 19. R2-Rusty Smith [$425]; 20. 37-Paul StSauveur [$900]; 21. 17-Marcus Dinkins [$375]; 22. 44-Anthony Perrego [$850]; 23. 43H-Jimmy Horton [$825]; 24. 17Z-Brian Krummel [$800]; 25. 4v-Billy VanInwegen [$775]; 26. 35L-LJ Lombardo [$750]; 27. 4-Andy Bachetti [$725]; 28. 6D-Dillon Steuer [$700]; 29. 16x-Daniel Creeden [$675]; 30. 7-Rick Laubach [$650]; 31. 93X-Craig Mitchell [$625]; 32. 69-Tyler Boniface [$500]; 33. 19-Tim Fuller [$500]; 34. 126-Jeffery Strunk [$500]; 35. 3p-Billy Pauch [$500]; 36. 244-Chris Whitehead ; 37. 2L-Jack Lehner 
KSE Hard Charger Award: 99L-Larry Wight[+20]
Contingency Sponsor Awards:
VP Race Fuels $50 – Danny Johnson
Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux $100 – Matt Sheppard
Cometic Gaskets $50 – Billy Dunn
Comp Cams $50 –Chris Hile
Fox Racing Shox $50 – Erick Rudolph
JE Pistons $50 – Billy Pauch
MSD Ignition $50 – Matt Sheppard
MSD Ignition $25 – Tim Fuller
NGK Spark Plugs $50 – Billy Decker
DART $50 –Chris Hile
Drydene $50 – Peter Britten
ASI Racewear $50 – Peter Britten
Hoosier Racing Tire (1 Free) – Jimmy Phelps
Bicknell Racing Products – Matt Sheppard
Comp Cams – Matt Sheppard
JE Pistons – Tim Sears Jr./Paul St-Sauveur
KSE Racing Products – Larry Wight
Wrisco Aluminum – Matt Sheppard
NGK Spark Plugs – Demetrios Drellos
DART – Erick Rudolph/Paul St-Sauveur
Drydene – Demetrios Drellos