Weedsport, NY — September 3, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Brent Smith Photo
Matt Sheppard remains one of the hottest commodities on the DIRTcar Racing Northeast circuit in 2009.
Sheppard’s status as a pre-race favorite in the Super DIRTcar Series ‘Night of Champions’ at Cayuga County Fair Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 6 won’t waver a bit as he heads into the track Big-Block finale in quest of his first points title at the flagship facility in Weedsport, N.Y.
“You struggle so hard in racing trying to get everything right so you can go out there and win, then when you actually are winning and things are going so good for you its almost unreal,” remarked Sheppard, 27, who has racked up a career-high 16 Big-Block wins, exactly double his previous best scored in 2007. He not only leads the Cayuga County standings entering the final regular-season event, the Waterloo, N.Y. pilot also tops the point charts at Brewerton Speedway (Fri.) and Canandaigua Speedway (Sat.), currently ranking second in his bid for the coveted overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship.
“We’re excited going into this weekend, catching Brett (Hearn) in the series and being on top at all our local tracks. We’re going to do everything we can to win and pick up all three titles, definitely a great accomplishment for anybody,” said Sheppard, who will be back aboard the JB Motorsports no. 9s XTreme Lubricants/Bicknell along with Jeff Brownell Jr. in the no. 29 team car.
Heading into the Cayuga County curtain-closer, Sheppard leads veteran tour traveler Alan Johnson by just four points. Not only are fans in for a trackside treat featuring some of the tightest tour competition, they will get two Big-Block features for the price of one as a rain-delayed 35-lap Modified main will close out the Sunday special.
Weedsport’s own BattleKarz division will also be doing double duty on Sunday as drivers take to the track for two 20-lap features. In addition, Sportsman, Street Stocks and Midstate Vintage Mod mains plus a World Famous Boat Race cram the card for just $20 in this holiday happening.
Warm-ups for all divisions are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Cayuga County followed immediately by Integra Shocks Modified Time Trials. Qualifying heats start at 7 o’clock with pit gates unlocking at 3 p.m. and the main grandstands opening at 4 o’clock.
Sheppard will also be an early favorite Monday evening across town at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in the second half of the Labor Day Weekend series doubleheader, with a Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series event along with the recent addition of the DIRTcar Street Stock division highlighting the show. Warm-ups are scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. with pit gates unlocking at 2 p.m. and seating in the main grandstands beginning at 3 o’clock.
“We put this team together just weeks before last season started and it just keeps getting stronger and stronger the longer we keep going. We’re not working as hard at it as before and things are definitely coming easier,” said Sheppard, who has also whittled down season-long Super DIRTcar Series point leader Brett Hearn’s margin to a mere 60 markers with the help of four tour triumphs and a handful of Integra Shocks Fast Time Awards. Prior to the ’09 campaign, ‘Super Matt’ had reached victory lane just once each of the past five seasons, with the 2003 Rookie of the Year climbing as high as sixth in the ‘08 DIRTcar title chase.
“Its really been just a bunch of little things that have made (car) a little faster here, a little faster there, which takes a lot of 2nds and 3rds and turns them into wins. The motor program has really improved this year and we’re using a little different style chassis. With such a good handling car that’s so fast, it really makes my job easy,” Sheppard noted.
Second-generation chauffeur Sheppard won’t have an easy time with the best in the Big-Block business coming back into his neighborhood over the weekend. With every tour driver having plenty of experience at Cayuga County and Rolling Wheels, Sheppard isn’t expecting any surprises when the green flag falls.
“We’ll basically keep doing what we’ve been doing,” figured Sheppard, who finished third in back-to-back series races during All-Star Weekend in July at the popular Weedsport oval. “We’ve been pretty much up front the last month in the series, that’s all we can do. The only way we’re going to catch Brett is to race, finish up front and hopefully beat him to the checkers.”
“Should be interesting at Cayuga County with Alan and I both starting in the back, it’ll be a race for the championship whoever gets to the front first. We’ve had some bad luck this year at Weedsport, feel like we should’ve won 4 or 5 times, but still we’re fortunate to finish up front enough to have a slim margin. We’ve only won once but I guess we’re having a better year than everybody else there,” Sheppard added.
Along with all-time DIRTcar NE Big-Block Modified winner Johnson and series stalwart Hearn, Sheppard will have to fend off the challenges of reigning overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Champion Billy Decker, All-Star Weekend winner Ryan Phelps and top Troyer driver Jimmy Phelps, along with Gary Tomkins, Justin Haers, Danny Johnson, Michael Storms, Billy Dunn, Steve Paine and Larry Wight to get the job done.
For additional information, contact DIRTcar Racing Northeast Competition Directors Cory Reed (cell 315/224-9009) and Joe Skotnicki (cell 716/880-0110), or the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606) in Weedsport. Also log into www.superdirtcarseries.com or visit the track websites anytime at www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com and www.rollingwheelsraceway.com.
Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified Points (Thru Aug. 27, 2009)
Rank No. Driver Total Diff Wins Top-5 Top-10 Starts
1 20 Brett Hearn 1,258 0 2 11 13 15
2 9s Matt Sheppard 1,198 -60 4 9 11 15
3 98H Jimmy Phelps 1,125 -133 1 6 11 15
4 91 Billy Decker 1,081 -177 3 7 7 15
5 3 Justin Haers 961 -297 0 1 9 15
6 99 Ryan Phelps 955 -303 2 4 8 15
7 84 Gary Tomkins 949 -309 0 4 9 15
8 77x Dale Planck 876 -382 0 2 5 15
9 27J Danny Johnson 875 -383 0 2 7 15
10 4 Mike Storms 708 -550 0 0 2 15
11 14J Alan Johnson 705 -553 1 3 7 11
12 99L Larry Wight 668 -590 0 0 0 15
13 49 Billy Dunn 658 -600 0 1 2 13
14 29 Jeff Brownell Jr. 626 -632 0 2 4 11
15 7x Steve Paine 530 -728 0 2 6 8
16 74 Tim Fuller 486 -772 1 3 3 7
17 8 Rich Scagliotta 378 -880 0 0 1 6
18 6 Pat O’Brien 337 -921 0 1 2 6
19 42p Pat Ward 306 -952 0 1 4 6
20 FX1 Frankie Caprara 283 -975 0 0 2 5
21 42 Pete Bicknell 203 -1,055 0 1 2 3
22 18 Sean Beardsley 189 -1,069 0 0 0 4
23 34b Andy Bachetti 178 -1,080 0 1 2 2
24 43 Keith Flach 176 -1,082 0 0 0 3
25 62 Tom Sears Jr. 169 -1,089 0 0 0 3
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event —Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse— runs October 7-11, 2009 featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into www.superdirtweekonline.com anytime.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.