Matt Sheppard found himself in the right place at the right time Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park.

The 10-time Super DIRTcar Series champion inherited first place after Larry Wight’s misfortune, leading the final seven laps to score his second Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals win.

“Lady luck was definitely on my side tonight,” Sheppard said. “On my side in the [Heat Race]. On my side in the Feature. Some nights, I’d definitely rather be lucky than good.

“Florida hasn’t been good in the past, but it was definitely good for me this year.”

Demetrios Drellos, the pole sitter, led the first 12 laps of the Feature before Erick Rudolph wrestled the lead away in lap traffic on Lap 13. Rudolph drove away as the #111 faded through the field. The Ransomville, NY driver started pulling away until Matt Caprara stopped in Turn 4, bringing out the caution on Lap 17.

That yellow flag played into Wight’s favor, who restarted fifth. When the green came back out, Wight immediately drove to the top of the track and started picking cars off one by one. Using the cushion to his advantage, he passed Matt Sheppard for third on Lap 20 and Mat Williamson for second on Lap 21.

“Lightning Larry” then turned his attention to Rudolph. And like Sheppard and Williamson, Wight stormed past Rudolph as they crossed the start/finish line on Lap 22.

Wight set a blistering pace for the next 13 laps and seemed destined to score his first gator since 2020 until everything changed on Lap 34.

When Wight entered Turn 4, he made heavy contact with Brett Hearn, sending them both over the cushion. Wight’s car stalled after the contact, but once he got it re-fired, his momentum slid him down the track and into the right side of Rudolph’s car.

Larry Wight led 12 laps in Friday’s DIRTcar Nationals Feature/Joe Grabianowski photo

While the Phoenix, NY driver maintained the lead, mud was all over his car. And when he drove into Turns 1 and 2, he hopped the cushion, rolling over twice as his aspirations of victory ended.

“I was lapping Brett, and rather than give the leader the courtesy, he stuffed his nose in there and tore up our front end,” Wight said. “Then we went into Turn 1 and ended up on our lid. The car actually stalled, and by the time I got it running again and down across the track, the tires were covered in mud. I went sliding across the track and caught the cushion with the frame rail, and away we went.”

Wight’s contact with Rudolph allowed Sheppard to sneak by the #25 before the completion of Lap 34, handing the lead to the Waterloo, NY driver with seven laps to go. 

When the race resumed, Sheppard cruised through those final seven laps to earn the $6,250 victory, tying Hearn and Stewart Friesen for the most Super DIRTcar Series wins at Volusia (10).

“Super Matt” explained his version of what happened on Lap 34 and how he found an opportunity to earn the win.

“I honestly don’t know what happened,” Sheppard said. “I started running Erick back down a little bit and I was concentrating on that. And then I saw Larry get together with Hearn. He kind of came across the track to the bottom, and I think Erick collected him. Somehow, I snuck by both of them and was able to beat Erick to the scoring loop.

“Then I went down into [Turn 1] and came off of [Turn 2] and heard red, red, red. And I guess Larry got up into the wall. It was just a crazy turn of events.”

Rudolph settled for second with sheet metal damage to the right side of his car. He said he never expected Wight to slide down the track after seeing him make contact with Hearn in Turn 4.

“I saw Larry ran into Brett, and they were up against the wall,” Rudolph said. “And then he made a 90 straight down the track. I never thought he would be on the outside wall, and then be all the way against the inside wall. So, I thought it was safe down there, but it turns out it wasn’t.

“From there, it was just track position.”

Williamson grabbed the final spot on the podium—his third top five of DIRTcar Nationals. The St. Catharines, ON driver said he focused on his race, inching closer to his second big gator trophy.

“I was trying to worry about my own race and keep my nose clean,” Williamson said. I felt really good at the start, and then toward the end, I was kind of just hanging on. A fifth, a third, a first. Hopefully, we can get another win [Saturday].”

Alex Payne finished fourth after starting 17th, and Anthony Perrego, Friday’s Hard Charger, rounded out the top five after starting 21st.

After three nights of Super DIRTcar Series action at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Williamson has a six-point lead over Sheppard entering Saturday’s finale.

Here are the top five in DIRTcar Nationals points:

  1. Mat Williamson 453
  2. Matt Sheppard -6
  3. Erick Rudolph -11
  4. Anthony Perrego -13
  5. Jimmy Phelps -35

For a full look at the Big Gator points standings, CLICK HERE

The Super DIRTcar Series makes its final stop of 2024 at Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday, Feb. 17 for the 40-lap, $6,250-to-win DIRTcar Nationals finale. For tickets, visit

If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision, either online or with the DIRTVision app.

DIRTcar Nationals Night 3 (40 Laps): 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard[2]; 2. 25-Erick Rudolph[3]; 3. 88-Mat Williamson[6]; 4. 70A-Alex Payne[17]; 5. 4*-Anthony Perrego[21]; 6. 111-Demetrios Drellos[1]; 7. 7-Rick Laubach[11]; 8. 15X-Justin Stone[9]; 9. 3J-Marc Johnson[22]; 10. 32C-Justin Haers[13]; 11. 29-Garrett Krummert[4]; 12. 84Y-Alex Yankowski[12]; 13. 1-Billy Pauch Jr[5]; 14. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[8]; 15. 16X-Dan Creeden[19]; 16. 91D-Billy Decker[14]; 17. 12-Darren Smith[10]; 18. 14-CG Morey[23]; 19. 21A-Peter Britten[18]; 20. 58-Louden Reimert[26]; 21. 27J-Danny Johnson[24]; 22. 165-Rex King Jr[15]; 23. 20-Brett Hearn[16]; 24. 11-Matt Caprara[20]; 25. (DNF) 99L-Larry Wight[7]; 26. (DNF) 2-Jack Lehner[25]; 27. (DNF) 91-Felix Roy[27]

Post-Race Tech: Tire samples from the right rear were taken from all four heat winners, Jimmy Phelps, Matt Sheppard, Mat Williamson, Billy Pauch Jr.  All tires conformed to the benchmark.