RPW Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Matt Sheppard is so hot at the Orange County Fair Speedway right now that he will find Victory Lane wherever it may be.
Sheppard raced his way to the newly relocated OCFS United Rentals DIRTcar Victory Lane to take his third consecutive win in a convincing drive over Jack Lehner and Max McLaughlin. With points leader Anthony Perrego retiring early with crash damage and placing 22nd, Shepperd will undoubtedly be the points leader once the figures are tabulated.
Three heat races were run with Chris Shultz, Sheppard and Perrego taking the wins. Nick Rochinski had a hard crash in warmups which ended his night.
Shultz and Chris Whitehead led the field to the green flag with Shultz taking the lead. When caution waved after lap one, Sheppard had already picked up 5 spots from his 11th starting spot. Numerous cautions continued to plague the early portion of the feature. Shultz continued as the leader through the restarts, but Sheppard continued to gain positions as the cautions flew. He moved into 3rd on lap 6. Second place Bob Hentschel pulled into the hot pit on lap 8 with a flat and that moved Sheppard into 2nd. Sheppard took the lead on the restart and started to pull away. Lehner and Jimmy Horton were moving up as well. When caution flew on lap 9, it was the ensuing restart that saw Perrego have his problems. He had to go to the hot pits. He came back out, but soon pulled in for good on lap 11.
Lehner took advantage of the restart to move into 2nd with Horton 3rd and McLaughlin cracking the top 5. A big crash occurred on lap 18 when Horton slowed with a left rear flat and was collected by Dillon Steuer, Tyler Dippel and Tyler Boniface. Dippel was able to return after some quick repairs, but the cars of Boniface, Steuer and Horton were heavily damaged. The final restart saw Sheppard again move out to a healthy lead as McLaughlin put some pressure on Lehner for 2nd. Sheppard easily circled the track the final laps to record the win with Lehner 2nd and Mad Max 3rd. Taking advantage of the high groove, Dippel raced his way back up to 4th. Matt Hitchcock was 5th and Jerry Higbie finished 6th. Shultz, Donnie Wilson, Mike Mahaney and Jimmy Spellmon completed the top 10.
It was a great couple of days for Lehner. He finished 2nd Friday night at Albany Saratoga and he followed it up with this 2nd place run to Sheppard Saturday. He really seems to be getting comfortable at OCFS. McLaughlin really had a great run from 20th starting spot to take 3rd.
In the Sportsman division, it was Matt Shultz taking the win over a fast charging Tanner VanDoren and Jeff Hulseapple.
The 3 Sportsman heats were won by Hulseapple, Ryan Neiger and Jeff Higham.
Neiger and Hulsapple made up the front row of the feature with Husleapple getting the lead at the start. Before a lap was even scored, 2 contenders were forced out with damage. Sammy Martz Jr. and last week’s winner Cody Higbie were both done for the night. As the race got back underway and laps were being completed, Hulseapple paced the field as Shultz was making his way towards the front. Shultz moved past Hulseapple for the lead on lap 6. VanDoren was slicing his way through the pack from his 16th starting spot, moving into 4th on lap 9. VanDoren passed Hulseapple for second on lap 15 and made up some ground on Shultz. But the laps ran out and Shultz grabbed the win over VanDoren and Hulseapple. Daniel Morgiewicz was 4th and Troy Arnold was 5th. Filling in spots 6-10 were Bobby Flood, Mel Schrufer, Jake Bedell, Joe Bonetti and Grant Hilfiger.
With his usual car sidelined with engine problems, defending Street Stock champion Bob Sleight had to go to his backup car for racing duty on Saturday night. But the old reliable #8 was strong enough for Sleight to capture his 2nd feature of the season and pad his slim points lead a bit.
John Aumick jumped out to the lead at the feature start, but his first lap spin proved to be the only caution of the race. On the restart, Sleight took the lead over Nick Giardini and Rob Taylor. The rest of the race was caution free with little changing of positions. Sleight was the winner over Giardini and Taylor with Jim Hajkowski 4th Charlie Donald 5th. Wayne Taylor, Aumick, Jack Beaumont, Dillon Gannon and Paul Maiolo rounded out the top 10.
OCFS is back in action on Tuesday, July 28th with the Revenge 40 and Twin Sportsman 20’s. It will once again be a live streamed only event. Information on the live stream can be found on the speedway’s social media pages and the track’s official web page. Be sure to check out Race Pro Weekly’s coverage of the event.