Story By: BRETT DEYO / SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES – LEHIGH VALLEY, PA – A historic night. With the Bear Creek Mountain Resort serving as a backdrop, the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco celebrated a successful 2019 season and honored its first Insinger Performance ‘Grand Champion’ in Matt Sheppard Saturday night.
Savannah, N.Y.’s Sheppard received $58,500 in point fund money for his unprecedented trifecta, winning the STSS Halmar International North Region ($12,500), Velocita-USA South Region presented by Design for Vision and Sunglass Central ($10,000) and the home-track American Racer Cup ($11,000) racing on Friday nights at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, N.Y.
Bruce Insinger of Sunoco Race Fuels distributor Insinger Performance in Dushore, Pa., pledged a $25,000 bonus should one driver sweep the trio of titles. Sheppard cashed in just two years into the program.
The $58,500 ‘Grand Champion’ payday marked the most lucrative dirt Modified title in the country.
“There were a lot of moving parts to make this possible,” offered Sheppard, thanking primary sponsor Hurlock Auto & Speed and representatives on hand from several different states. “I told Bruce (Insinger), never challenge a racer, because we will find a way.”
Sheppard credited the notebook he built chasing the ‘Grand Champion’ honors the previous season.
“We knew what we needed to do,” Sheppard said. “But everything had to go our way and fall into place to get it done.”
STSS organizer Brett Deyo opened the evening with a review of the ’19 season. He cited several impressive statistics from the season. A total of 291 drivers attempted at least one STSS Modified event, with 232 drivers taking part in a Crate 602 Sportsman STSS-sanctioned race. An all-time-high 299 drivers registered for the American Racer Cup in its ninth year.
The STSS paid out $505,273 in purse money during the season, in addition to $24,652 in cash bonuses. The point fund totaled $77,000, the American Racer Cup another $51,450 and the Insinger Performance $25,000 cash bonus brought the annual payout to $683,375.
In the Halmar International North Region, consisting of eight events, Sheppard won on three occasions: the opener at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y., the combination North-South ‘Anthracite Assault’ at Big Diamond Speedway in Minersville, Pa., in June and the Short Track SuperNationals at Afton (N.Y.) Motorsports Park in October.
Sheppard’s six top-five finishes were enough to clinch the title by a margin of 42 points aboard the Hurlock Auto & Speed No. 9s.
Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass., finished all eight North Region races inside the top-10 and picked up a win at Accord (N.Y.) Speedway. Bachetti finished runner-up in the standings, worth $7,000.
Six top-10 finishes propelled Mike Gular to a third-place result with Terry Fasnacht’s No. 2A. Boyertown, Pa.’s Gular received $4,000. Despite missing an event due to his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series commitments, Stewart Friesen of Sprakers, N.Y., utilized three victories (Outlaw Speedway, N.Y.’s Fonda Speedway and the Orange County Fair Speedway finale) to place fourth in points, taking home $3,000.
Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, Ont., completed the top five driving the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse-fielded No. 3. Williamson received $2,500. Williamson recorded five top-10 finishes including a season-high third-place finish on three occasions.
Finishing sixth through 12th, respectively, were Anthony Perrego of Middletown, N.Y., ($2,000) with a best finish of second in the North Region finale; Craig Hanson of Johnstown, N.Y., ($1,750) with three top-10 finishes; Danny Creeden of Wurtsboro, N.Y., ($1,650); Billy Decker of Sidney, N.Y., who won his career-first STSS Modified event at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, N.Y., in May; Mike Mahaney of King Ferry, N.Y., ($1,450); Billy Van Pelt of Westfield, Pa., ($1,000); and J.R. Hurlburt of Otego, N.Y., ($1,000).
Eight events comprised the ’19 STSS Velocita-USA South Region presented by Sunglass Central and Design for Vision. Sheppard won twice – at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., in April and Big Diamond in June – and posted seven finishes inside the top-10.
He secured the title by merely taking the green flag in the finale at Georgetown Speedway, boasting a 107-point edge.
Three-time series champion Ryan Watt of Boyertown, Pa., registered a runner-up result, pocketing $5,000 for the Ron Roberts-fielded team. Watt racked up six finishes inside the top-10.
Earning his second-career STSS Modified victory at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway in August, David Van Horn Jr. of Harmony, N.J., placed third in points ($3,000) driving for Fred Vahlsing. Jeff Strunk of Boyertown, Pa., finished fourth in the Glenn Hyneman Keystone Racing No. 126 ($2,000) and Milford, Del.’s Jordan Watson, who won the Mid-Atlantic Championship finale at Georgetown Speedway, placed fifth ($1,500).
Drivers placing sixth through 12th were Mike Gular of Boyertown, Pa., who chased the entire series schedule in ’19 ($1,400); Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass., another full-season follower ($1,300); Craig Von Dohren of Oley, Pa., ($1,200); ‘Blast at the Beach’ winner Billy Pauch Jr. of Milford, N.J., ($1,100); Brandon Grosso of Belle Mead, N.J., in his first season on the series ($1,050); Rick Laubach of Hellertown, Pa., ($1,000); and Danny Bouc of Pipersville, Pa. ($1,000).
Tim Hartman Jr. of Niskayuna, N.Y., made a decision to chase STSS Crate 602 Sportsman North Region points in ’19. The choice paid off with four wins in five completed events. Hartman started the season with a victory at Thunder Mountain and followed with checkered flags at Fonda, Accord (N.Y.) Speedway and Afton.
Hartman took the title by a massive margin of 175 points and received $1,500 for his efforts for the Parillo Services No. 22 team.
The top-10 drivers shared in point-fund money. Bobby Flood, Blaine Klinger, Jim Housworth, Travis Green, Daniel Morgiewicz, Jimmy Johnson, Tommy Collins, Dustin Jordan and Kenny Hammond finished second through 10th, respectively.
The South Region Crate 602 Sportsman title was decided in November at Georgetown. When a number of contenders succumbed to misfortune, youthful Cole Stangle of Neshanic Station, N.J., persevered and took the crown.
Stangle earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s, ending the year with a 36-point edge. Stangle received $1,500 for the title.
Jim Housworth, Jimmy Johnson, Dylan Swinehart, Joe Toth, Sammy Martz Jr., Trent Van Vorst, Ryan Macartney, Scott Hitchens and Samantha Muller trailed Stangle.
STSS organizer Brett Deyo distributed a number of special awards during the ‘Night of Champions’ ceremonies.
The WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award recipients for the series were Danny Bouc (South Region) and Billy Van Pelt (North Region). Both drivers received a free WELD wheel for the “award no one wants to win.”
VAHLCO Wheels presented the South Region overall Hard Charger. Passing a total of 61 cars during the season, Sheppard was the recipient of four VAHLCO Elite Series wheels with a cash value of $1,400.
For his tireless work to revitalize Afton Motorsports Park, Ron Ford received the Short Track Super Series Promoter of the Year. After a dismal ’18 season, Ford resurfaced Afton and rebuilt the weekly car counts and crowds before hosting a highly successful Short Track SuperNationals 12 in October.
Terry Fasnacht, who fields the Conestoga Valley Custom Kitchens No. 2A driven by Mike Gular, was named STSS Car Owner of the Year. Fasnacht’s support allowed Gular to chase both the North and South Region championships for the second straight year.
The Dedication to the Series Award went to Andy Bachetti. Since winning the very first STSS event in April 2014, Bachetti has made the haul from Sheffield, Mass., to an astounding 73 of the 79 events run to date.
Mario Street, who not only travels to STSS events to assist with tech and pit duties but also puts in hours doing virtually any job at Georgetown Speedway, earned the Contribution to the Series Award.
Several product drawings took place during the night.
Receiving custom Velocita-USA race suits, with a minimum value of $999, were Danny Creeden (North Region) and Rick Laubach (South Region).
The Flach Performance Products (FPP) radiator giveaway went to Craig Hanson via a drawing of the top-12 Modified drivers.
The Henry’s Exhaust drawing recipient was Billy Van Pelt for an exhaust system.
A number of door prize giveaways and music from DJ Jammin’ Jimmy Payne rounded out the evening.
Attention now turns to the inaugural ‘Sunshine Swing’ at All-Tech Raceway in Lake City, Fla., Feb. 5-8, 2020 with both the STSS Modifieds and STSS Crate 602 Sportsman in competition.
Short Track Super Series 2019 ‘Night of Champions’ Additional Product Certificates
- Behrent’s Performance Warehouse $200 Gift Cards (Halmar International North Region): Stewart Friesen (fourth) & Billy Decker (ninth)
- Behrent’s Performance Warehouse $200 Gift Cards (Velocita-USA South Region): Jeff Strunk (fourth) & Billy Pauch Jr. (ninth)
- Top-Finishing Teo-Pro Car $500 Certificate (Halmar International North Region): Anthony Perrego (sixth)
- Top-Finishing Teo-Pro Car $500 Certificate (Velocita-USA South Region): Jeff Strunk (fourth)
- Top-Finishing Bicknell Racing Products $500 Certificates – $1,000 Total (Halmar International North Region & Velocita-USA South Region): Matt Sheppard (champion)
- Top-Finishing Hig Fab Chassis $500 Certificate (Halmar International North Region): Danny Creeden (eighth)
- Velocita-USA Gift Certificates ($100 each): Tim Hartman Jr.; Bobby Flood; Jimmy Johnson; Daniel Morgiewicz; Cole Stangle; Dylan Swinehart; Samantha Muller; J.R. Hurlburt; Danny Bouc & Danny Creeden
- Bob Hilbert Sportswear Certificates ($150 each): Matt Sheppard (total of $300); Ryan Watt; David Van Horn Jr.; Andy Bachetti; Mike Gular; Tim Hartman Jr. & Cole Stangle