Weedsport, NY — May 28, 2009 — By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Brent Smith Photo
What a difference a year can make, at least after just one race in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series.
Yet when it comes down to chasing points on the DIRTcar Racing Northeast Big-Block Modified circuit, Matt Sheppard is once again locked into the same mud-slinging, bumper-banging season-long battle both at home and on the road.
“It’s a long year, anything happen but at least we didn’t have to build a team from scratch just a few weeks before the season started,” remarked Sheppard, 26, who joined up with team owner Jeff Brownell Sr. late last winter yet still opened the Advance Series with a thrilling victory at Virginia Motor Speedway. Any chance of repeating last year’s stellar effort was gone just three laps into the 2009 lid-lifter when the JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell entry hit water and slammed the turn three wall to put him last (30th) in the April 26 finish at Big Diamond (Pa.) Raceway.
“We got off to a bad start, we’re just gonna have to work our butts off. Its really too early in the season to measure where you stand anyway. The series starts out with some oddball events so you really can’t gauge anything until July. That’s when things will start getting back to normal and we’ll be able to follow more of a regular routine,” figured Sheppard, citing that first series show staged at Big-Diamond since 2004, the first-ever tour trip to Lebanon Valley Speedway in June followed the next day by the Big-Block Modified series debut on the asphalt at Airborne Speedway.
With the tour taking off the entire month of May, the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series returns to action as a unique doubleheader hits New York State. Sheppard leads the top point chasers to the high banks of Lebanon Valley on June 6 before traveling north to Airborne on June 7 for ‘The Battle of Plattsbugh’ in the only pavement special of the year. Both 100-lap Modified main events pay $6,000 to win.
A year ago Sheppard sandwiched his VMS tour triumph with an opening day victory at Cayuga County Fair Speedway in April before closing out the month of May with a feature win at Brewerton. Then came a two-month drought until he swept the first weekend in August by taking first-place trophies at Brewerton, Cayuga County and Canandaigua Speedway which amounted to his final checkered flags of the year.
“Our cars and motors are really good this year so hopefully we can tack on a few more wins before the month ends,” said Sheppard, who ended last year with a half-dozen DIRTcar Big-Block wins, and including a Small-Block special at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway in March, has already cracked the winner’s circle five times in ’09. Currently topping the points chart at Canandaigua with three wins, ‘Super Matt’ also ranks third in the standings at Brewerton (1 win) and fourth at Cayuga County following Memorial Day weekend.
“Brewerton is always up and down from week to week with so many good cars, just one bad night is usually what determines who gets the points title there. Consistency will be a key at Canandaigua, right now we’re way out front because Gary (Tomkins) broke over the past weekend. Last Sunday was almost like a series show at Cayuga County with most of the tour guys in the field. I guess that makes you more comfortable seeing the same top drivers wherever you go, its just the tracks that change when you follow the series and the competition never gets any easier,” noted Sheppard, who was named DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Rookie of the Year in 2003.
2008 marked Sheppard’s sixth full season campaigning a Big-Block Modified and the second-generation standout from Waterloo, New York placed sixth in the final overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Modified Championship. He led three Series races for 74 laps, highlighted by a 49-lap stint to pace the Rite Aid 200 pack during Super DIRT Week at Syracuse.
“Its really tough to gauge a successful season until its actually over,” summed up Sheppard, who is already halfway to matching his career-best total of eight Big-Block wins registered in 2007. “But right now everything feels good getting around with the brand new Bicknell cars and the C.C. engines are really strong.”
“If you win 20 races and finish out of the Top-10 in Mr. DIRT it might seem like a mediocre season, yet being around the front every week then winning at Syracuse could turn it into one of the best year’s ever. Right now our goals are pretty much the same as always this time of year, win a lot of races and be Mr. DIRT. Its too early in the season to tell anything more or even worry about it. I just want to keep racing and take care of what I have control over,” Sheppard added.
Sheppard and teammate Jeff Brownell Jr. will be joined in the Lebanon Valley/Airborne twin-bill by defending Mr. DIRTcar Champion Billy Decker, along with series all-stars Brett Hearn, Gary Tomkins, Jimmy Phelps, Dale Planck, Danny Johnson, Frankie Caprara, Ryan Phelps, Justin Haers, Billy Dunn and ’08 Rookie of the Year Larry Wight plus upstart Michael Storms.
For additional information, contact DIRTcar Racing Northeast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed via cell (315/224-9009) or in the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606 x227). Also log into www.superdirtcarseries.com or visit the track websites at www.lebanonvalley.com and www.airborneparkspeedway.com.
2009 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Schedule
*All events subject to change.
DAY-DATE TRACK WINNER/LOCATION
Wed-Feb 11 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Pat Ward
Thr-Feb 12 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Pat Ward
Fri-Feb 13 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Jamie Mills
Sat-Feb 14 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Brett Hearn
Sat-Mar 28 Hagerstown Speedway rain-cancelled
Sun-Apr 26 Big Diamond Raceway Duane Howard
Sat-Jun 6 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY
Sun-Jun 7 Airborne Speedway Plattsburgh,NY
Wed-Jun 17 Orange Co Fair Speedway Middletown,NY
Fri-Jul 3 Ransomville Speedway Ransomville,NY
Sat-Jul 4 Fulton Speedway Fulton,NY
Thr-Jul 9 Brockville Ont Speedway Brockville,ONT
Fri-Jul 10 Autodrome Granby Granby,QUE
Sat-Jul 11 Autodrome Drummond Drummondville,QUE
Sun-Jul 12 Cornwall Motor Speedway Cornwall,ONT
Sat-Jul 18 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Sun-Jul 19 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY ($20,000-to-win)
Mon-Aug 3 Merrittville Speedway Thorold,ONT
Fri-Aug 7 Brewerton Speedway Brewerton,NY
Sat-Aug 8 Canandaigua Speedway Canandaigua,NY
Fri-Aug 21 Can-Am Motorsports Park LaFargeville,NY
Thr-Aug 27 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY ($17,500-to-win)
Sun-Sep 6 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Mon-Sep 7 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Fri-Sep 11 Lernerville Speedway Sarver,PA
Sat-Sep 19 -TBA-
Sat-Sep 26 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Sun-Oct 11 New York State Fairgrnds Syracuse,NY ($50,000-to-win)
Sun-Oct 18 -TBA-
Sun-Oct 25 -TBA-
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, home of the 2009 DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Sportsman and Big-Block Modifieds in the richest short-track show of its kind in the nation — the $20,000-to-win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series “DIRTcar All-Star 100” on Sunday, July 19.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, 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.