Barberville, FLFebruary 11, 2010 – By Tom Skibinski, Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Chris Dolack Photo

Matt Sheppard picked up where he left off on the 2009 Super DIRTcar Series, authoring a late race charge to score his first victory of the new decade in convincing fashion Thursday night in the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals By University of Northwestern Ohio at Volusia Speedway Park.

The winningest DIRTcar Big-Block Modified driver in the Northeast last season also captured his first career feature win in the Sunshine State, establishing the second-generation standout from Waterloo, N.Y. as an early favorite to capture the overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship come autumn.

“It seems I’ve finished in just about every position but first here, so I finally accomplished that and now we can go for number two tomorrow,” remarked a confident Sheppard, 27, winner of 20 Big-Block main events in ’09, and already in prime position to carry the momentum back up north. “I think we’ve got the car to get the job done.”

“Tonight I could really put it anywhere on the race track. It was pretty good all night, especially at the end of the feature when it counted most. I really felt comfortable out there and that’s important at a place you only get to run at once a year,” added Sheppard, after parking the JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine in the winner’s circle to collect the $2,000 payoff.

Sheppard’s dramatic ride to the front foiled a stellar effort put forth by Delaware driver Jamie Mills, who was forced to settle for runner-up laurels after starting 12th on the 26-car grid and relinquishing the lead with just five to go. Sussex, N.J. speedster Brett Hearn rebounded from a crash the previous night to fall into third ahead of Jimmy Phelps, a fourth-place finisher for a second straight show. Popular New Yorker Danny Johnson steered the spec motor-powered Bicknell entry to fifth-place in the 30-lap finale, which finished as light rain continued to fall.

The customary 4-wide parade lap that has become a trademark of the World Racing Group carried over to green flag racing as the mighty Mod Squad covered every inch of the ultra-fast Barberville half-mile looking for the quickest way around. Front row partners Billy Decker and Bobby Varin had trouble making up their minds on the multi-groove surface as the veteran racers swapped the lead twice high and low during the first five circuits.

Billy Pauch slowed between turns one and two to incur the only caution of the race, a slowdown that was followed immediately by the second red flag in two days. With fifth-place starter Sheppard locked into a fierce battle up front, teammate Jeff Brownell Jr. was mired mid-pack before providing Florida fans with one of the most spectacular rollovers witnessed during race weeks.

The highlight film clip began with Brownell’s no. 29 car digging in deep down low entering turn three on the lap eight restart. His Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine turned sideways, and once the right front wheel got its grip in the tacky clay, proceeded to flip end-over-end no less than six times before landing on the no. 0 South Jersey Overhead Door mount of New Jersey invader Richie Pratt Jr.

No injuries were reported yet before the race could resume, the night was over for seven of the 10 cars involved in the wild melee, with Jimmy Horton the lone driver to need direct assistance as Dick Biever’s no 14 Alpha Distribution Solutions-McKeansburg Hotel/TEO entry sat motionless on its roof between turns three and four.

The remaining 19 cars refired 15 minutes later and in less than 10 more, Sheppard was standing in the winner’s circle and joined by Mills and Hearn on the frontstretch podium.

Mills had blasted from third to first on lap nine, overtaking both Decker and Hearn rim-riding aboard his I.G.Burton Car Dealership-ReMax Realtor-L&W Ins./Bicknell as the trio rounded turn four. Hearn wrestled away second from Decker by lap 15 and the next time around the no. 91 car suddenly exited the track high in turn four before limping down the back stretch access road; a maneuver that cleared the path for Sheppard to inherit third.

‘Super Matt’ pulled alongside Hearn on lap 20 and a half-dozen circuits later ducked under Mills to forge the final lead change as 17 cars remained trackside. The margin of victory ballooned to a full straightaway just four laps later while Hearn crept right up to Mills bumper as the final checkered flag waved.

“When the race started out I was okay but not any faster than any of the other guys, and the leaders were getting away,” noted Sheppard, after notching his 55th career DIRTcar Big-Block victory some 1,500 miles from home. “I was about the same speed as the guys in front of me, don’t really know if we got better or they got slower the longer the race went on. But man, at the end of the race that car was on rails.”

“We finished last season so strong, to come down here and get one under our belt right away, it seems we’re picking up right where we left off. And any night you can get by Brett you’re having a good night. So tonight was definitely a good one,” added Sheppard, after improving five positions from the night before to emerge as the Florida mini-series points leader through two of four scheduled events.

A three-time VSP race winner, including a 30-lap triumph last winter, Mills regrouped after finishing 18th the night before on the heels of one of the most thrilling performances of the week.

“I didn’t want to think about last night, just erase it from my memory,” commented Mills, 39, who suddenly slid off the track high in turn four on Wednesday before retiring pitside for the remainder. “I think it was more brain fade than anything else.”

“But its good that the fastest car won out here tonight, I’ve been in that position a couple times before. Matt had the best car so I’m happy to finish second the way he ran all night. He was the one we had to beat and just came up a little short,” Mills said.

After bending his primary Madsen Motorsports no. 20 Wentworth Custom Homes-Benjamin Moore Paints/TEO in a wild front stretch incident the night before, Hearn was back in form finishing third after qualifying for his 50th consecutive Florida feature since DIRTcar Racing returned to the Route 40 oval in 1998.

“There was a lot of clay flying at the end and it was getting tough to see, but I had a lot more fun than yesterday,” remarked Hearn, 51, a winner of 19 features during DIRTcar Nationals competition dating back to 1993. “We had to park the primary car after yesterday but fortunately we brought down two cars that were both prepared. It just shows what kind of team we have, coming back with different car and not missing a beat.”

Mirroring the formula put in place the day before, four qualifying heats were used to break down the 42-car field, with a pair of consolation events and two provisional starting spots provided to make up the 26-car starting field. John Stangle, Hearn, Phelps and Randy Chrysler scored heat race wins while Brownell and Jimmy Horton won last chance consolation round qualifiers to help determine the feature grid.

Sheppard leads the ground-pounding NE Modifieds back to Volusia for two more days of Big-Block action, closing out Friday with a traditional 30-lap feature before concluding with the fourth and final round on Saturday, February 13 as a $5,000-to-win 50-lap championship event will decide the 2010 DIRTcar Nationals points championship.

Through two races, Sheppard tops the point standings with 106 markers while Phelps (100) is right in the shadows just six back. Friesen and Varin are deadlocked with 98 points apiece while Dale Planck (92) stands fifth with two events remaining.

39th Florida DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH Big-Block Modified Schedule
*All times and events subject to change.
General Daily Schedule:
10:00 am — Pit Gates Open, Transporter Parking, Team Entry
1:00 pm Pit Pass Sales Open
3:00 pm Pits Cleared, Pit Passes/Credentials required
4:40pm Grandstand, Midway areas cleared.
5:00pm Grandstand Gate opens
5:00pm Drivers meetings (All draws for starting position conclude at the end of the driver’s meeting)
6:00pm Hot Laps/ Qualifying
7:20 pm Opening Ceremonies
7:30 pm First Race
3rd Night (Fri.-Feb. 12)
26 Car Field Maximum
4 heats (8-laps) with 5 cars from each qualifying for ‘A’ Feature
2 ‘B’-Features (10-laps) with 2 cars transferring
2 Provisional Positions to highest finishing point earners not to qualify through the ‘B’-Features
(Top 8 – 1st and 2nd – from each heat Redraw)
Final Night (Sat.-Feb. 13)
28 Car Field Maximum
4 heats (8-laps) with 5 cars from each qualifying for ‘A’ Feature
2 ‘B’-Features (10-laps) with 3 cars transferring
2 Provisional Positions to highest finishing point earners not to qualify through the ‘B’-Features
(Top 8 – 1st and 2nd – from each heat Redraw)

Super DIRTcar Series – Volusia Speedway Park, February 11, 2010
39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH Event #2

1 5 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY ($2,000)
2 12 30 Jamie Mills/Milford,DE
3 7 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
4 3 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
5 4 49er Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
6 1 10 Bobby Varin/Sharon Springs,NY
7 19 34 Andy Bachetti/Sheffield,MA
8 11 66w Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
9 23 1x Willy Decker/Vernon,NY
10 20 1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
11 10 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
12 9 8r Rob Bellinger/Dexter,NY
13 15 56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY
14 17 22 Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE
15 18 07 Tim Kerr/Picton,ONT
16 27 19h Chris Higgins/Syracuse,NY
17 16 1p Billy Pauch/Frenchtown,NJ
18 2 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
19 6 6 John Stangle/Neshanic Station,NJ
20 14 0 Richie Pratt Jr./Woodbury Heights,NJ
21 21 29 Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY
22 13 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
23 22 14 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ
24 25 65 Rex King/Bristolville,OH
25 24 7 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA
26 8 42p Pat Ward/Genoa,NY
DNS 26 33 Ray Swinehart/Bechtelsville,PA
97-Michel Chicoine/Ste-Cecile de Milton,QUE
48too-Dave Rauscher/Waterloo,NY
85-Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA
165-Rex King Jr./Bristolville,OH
01-Brett Ballard/Pennsville,NJ
t21-Roger Chrysler/Lewiston,NY
1-Darwin Greene/Susquehanna,PA
66-Dexter Stacey/Kahnawake,QUE
70-Eric Acquaro/New Windsor,NY
85j-H.J. Bunting III/Milford,DE
23-Billy VanInwegen/Sparrowbush,NY
99L-Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY
79-Jeremy Markle/Port Jervis,NY
21k-Randy Chrysler/Lewiston,NY
43-Keith Flach/Ravena,NY
Lap Leaders: Decker (1), Varin (2-4), Decker (5-8), Mills (9-25), Sheppard (26-30).
1 Caution (lap 8); 1 Red Flag (lap 8).
Heat Races (8 laps, top 5 finishers transferred to feature, top 2 redrew)
#1: Stangle, Ward, Bellinger, Scagliotta, Clair, Brownell, Chicoine, W.Decker, R.King Jr., Ro.Chrysler, Stacey.
#2: Hearn, Sheppard, Planck, Pratt, Kerr, R.King Sr., Rauscher, Vauter, Ballard, Greene, Acquaro.
#3: Phelps, D.Johnson, A.Johnson, Vitale, Bachetti, Horton, Swinehart, VanInwegen, Markle, Ra.Chrysler.
#4: Varin, B.Decker, Mills, Pauch, Friesen, Laubach, Bunting, Wight, Higgins, Flach.
Consolation Round (10 laps, top 2 finishers transferred to feature)
#1: Brownell, W.Decker, Chicoine, R.King Sr., Vauter, Ro.Chrysler, Stacey, Acquaro, R.King Jr., Rauscher, Ballard, Greene.
#2: Horton, Laubach, Bunting, Wight, Flach, Higgins, VanInwegen, Markle, Swinehart, Ra.Chrysler (DNS).
Provisionals: King Sr., Swinehart.
Added: Higgins.

Florida DIRTcar Nationals Point Standings (through Feb. 11, 2010)
106 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY
100 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
98 1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
98 10 Bobby Varin/Sharon Springs,NY
92 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
82 66w Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
81 30 Jamie Mills/Milford,DE
78 22 Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE
76 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
72 1x Willy Decker/Vernon,NY
71 49er Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
68 1p Billy Pauch/Frenchtown,NJ
64 65 Rex King/Bristolville,OH
64 34 Andy Bachetti/Sheffield,MA
62 14 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ
59 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
56 42p Pat Ward/Genoa,NY
55 19h Chris Higgins/Syracuse,NY
48 07 Tim Kerr/Picton,ONT
47 7 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA
45 0 Richie Pratt Jr./Woodbury Heights,NJ
44 8r Rob Bellinger/Dexter,NY
42 56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY
40 33 Ray Swinehart/Bechtelsville,PA
36 165 Rex King Jr./Bristolville,OH
34 6 John Stangle/Neshanic Station,NJ
31 85 Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA
31 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
30 48too Dave Rauscher/Waterloo,NY
22 29 Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY
20 29 Vic Coffey/Leicester,NY
20 85j H.J. Bunting III/Milford,DE
20 97 Michel Chicoine/Ste-Cecile de Milton,QUE
20 43 Keith Flach/Ravena,NY
20 70 Eric Acquaro/New Windsor,NY
20 t21 Roger Chrysler/Lewiston,NY
20 01 Brett Ballard/Pennsville,NJ
20 21k Randy Chrysler/Lewiston,NY
20 23 Billy VanInwegen/Sparrowbush,NY
20 1 Darwin Greene/Susquehanna,PA
20 99L Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY
20 79 Jeremy Markle/Port Jervis,NY
20 66 Dexter Stacey/Kahnawake,QUE
10 66 Wallace Stacey/Kahnawake,QUE

2010 Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified Roster (42)
Car# Driver/Hometown Team (Sponsor / Chassis / Engine)
0 Richie Pratt Jr./Woodbury Heights,NJ South Jersey Overhead Door/TEO/DDE
01 Brett Ballard/Pennsville,NJ Burlington Overhead Door/TEO/DDE
07 Tim Kerr/Picton,ONT The Bronskill Group-Loewen Window Center-Hubert Kerr Construction/Bicknell/Enders
1 Darwin Greene/Susquehanna,PA Greene Quality Bluestone-Big Diamond Tools-TJ’s NAPA/Bicknell/Jensen Tech
1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT Pizza Logs-Jeff Daley & Sons Oil Service-Westmoreland Golf Club/TEO/Enders
1p Billy Pauch/Frenchtown,NJ K&A Excavating Contractors-Pioneer Pole Buildings-Greenfield Dodge/Bicknell/Morrison
1x Willy Decker/Vernon,NY Container-Commercial Roofing/Bicknell/Finger Lakes
6 John Stangle/Neshanic Station,NJ Active Disposal-Lightning Delivery-Metro Optics/TEO/VanHorn
7 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA Benton Electric & Elevator-Jones Racing Products/TEO/Enders
8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ Central Jersey Trailer & Hitch Depot-Adamsville Maintenance/Troyer/Feil
8r Rob Bellinger/Dexter,NY Westward Painting-Coffin Excavation-Lake Ontario Realty/Troyer/Finger Lakes
9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell/C.C. Performance
10 Bobby Varin/Sharon Springs,NY Commercial Roofing & Sheetmetal-JWJ Container-Gypsum/Bicknell/Morrison
14 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ Alpha Distribution Solutions-McKeansburg Hotel/TEO/Enders
19h Chris Higgins/Syracuse,NY Transportation Repair Service-JLRB Construction/Bicknell/Higgins Performance
20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ Madsen Mtrsprts-Wentworth Custom Homes-Benjamin Moore Paints/TEO/Enders
21k Randy Chrysler/Lewiston,NY Cigarettes-Randy’s Smoke Shop/Bicknell/Mr. E
t21 Roger Chrysler/Lewiston,NY Frontenac Water-Randy’s Smoke Shop-Joey’s Sneaks-NECO/Bicknell/Nickel
22 Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE ResistO-Batiments JDL-GMCI Express/Bicknell/Morrison
23 Billy VanInwegen/Sparrowbush,NY Len & Jo’s Restaurant/Bicknell/Precision
29 Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell/C.C. Performance
30 Jamie Mills/Milford,DE I.G.Burton Car Dealership-ReMax Realtor-L&W Ins./Bicknell/H&G Associates
33 Ray Swinehart/Bechtelsville,PA J & L Speed Supplies/Bicknell/Malcuit
34 Andy Bachetti/Sheffield,MA Steve Hough Motors-Garrity Asphalt Reclamating/PMC/JPM
42p Pat Ward/Genoa,NY Gypsum Express,Ltd./Bicknell/Kevlar
43 Keith Flach/Ravena,NY Flach Crane & Rigging-Gould Erectors & Riggers/Bicknell/Enders
48too Dave Rauscher/Waterloo,NY Magee Transportation Services-Monadnock Disposal Service/Bicknell/Morrison
49er Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY Nick Nero Motorsports/Bicknell/Hi-Performance Chevrolet
56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY Affordable Landscaping-V & V Racing/Troyer/Enders
65 Rex King/Bristolville,OH Midway Garage Doors-RD Bank Chevrolet-GS Engine Poer/Bicknell/Jim Bailey
66 Dexter Stacey/Kahnawake,QUE Bully’s Truck Stop-CFF,Inc.-Unicast Crusher Parts/Bicknell/Morrison
66w Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY Bully’s Truck Stop-CFF,Inc.-Unicast Crusher Parts/Bicknell/Morrison
70 Eric Acquaro/New Windsor,NY Arkel Motors Int’l Truck Dealer-P&M Fab.-Behrent’s Performance/TEO/Ammirati(358)
77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY RezX Racing-Twin Leaf/Bicknell/Kevlar
79 Jeremy Markle/Port Jervis,NY Len & Jo’s Restaurant-Advance Recovery/Bicknell/Precision
85 Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA Vauter Racing/Bicknell/Enders
85j H.J. Bunting III/Milford,DE J&M Roofing & Builders-Art Collins Trucking/TEO/Medford Speed
91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int’l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell/Kevlar
97 Michel Chicoine/Ste-Cecile de Milton,QUE GMCI Express-E.Beaudry Enterprises/Bicknell/Enders
98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY HBR Motorsports-Wave Energy Drink-Mohawk Northeast/Troyer/Bruneau
99L Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY Gypsum Express,Ltd./Bicknell/Kevlar
165 Rex King Jr./Bristolville,OH Jim Brown Seed Sales-Reese Services-Cintas/Bicknell/Jim Bailey

2010 Super DIRTcar Series Schedule
NP=Non-Point event; SP=Show-Up point event;
Wed-Feb 10 Volusia Speedway Park-np Stewart Friesen
Thr-Feb 11 Volusia Speedway Park-np Matt Sheppard
Fri-Feb 12 Volusia Speedway Park-np Barberville,FL
Sat-Feb 13 Volusia Speedway Park-np Barberville,FL
Sat-Mar 27 Hagerstown Speedway Hagerstown,MD
Sat-Apr 10 Fulton Speedway Fulton,NY
Sun-May 30 Cayuga County Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Tue-Jun 15 Grandview Speedway Bechtelsville,PA
Wed-Jun 16 Orange County Fair Speedway Middletown,NY
Wed-Jun 23 Mohawk International Raceway Akwesasne,NY
Sun-Jul 4 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park Elbridge,NY
Sun-Jul 11 Cornwall Motor Speedway Cornwall,ONT
Thr-Jul 15 Brewerton Speedway Brewerton,NY
Fri-Jul 16 Cayuga County Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Sat-Jul 17 Cayuga County Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Mon-Jul 19 Autodrome Granby Granby,QUE
Tue-Jul 20 Autodrome Drummond Drummondville,QUE
Mon-Aug 2 Merrittville Speedway Thorold,ONT
Thr-Aug 26 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY
Sun-Sep 5 Cayuga County Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Sat-Sep 18 Mohawk International Raceway Akwesasne,NY
Sat-Oct 2 Fulton Speedway-sp Fulton,NY
Sun-Oct 10 New York State Fairgrounds Syracuse,NY
Sun-Oct 17 Brockville Ontario Speedway Brockville,ONT
Thr-Nov 4 The Dirt Track @ Charlotte(qual.) Concord,NC
Fri-Nov 5 The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Concord,NC
Sat-Nov 6 The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Concord,NC

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 annually in October 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 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 and VP Racing Fuels Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation, Dig Safely New York and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks, Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Ferris Industries, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks,, Racing Electronics, Rislone Oil Stabilizer and Wrisco Industries