McLaughlin surges 18th-4th, Friesen’s runner-up makes him new Series points leader
Matt Sheppard stood in Victory Lane where he has many times before after winning the Thunder on the Thousand Islands Super DIRTcar Series event at Can-Am Speedway Wednesday night, making himself $7,500 richer.
After posting a DNF in his last race with the Series at Bridgeport Speedway on May 3, the reigning champion bounced back in dominating fashion, leading all 75 laps for his first Series win of the season.
Sheppard ran a solid time in Qualifying to place him second on the starting grid before a win in Heat Race #2. Later, “lady luck,” as he describes it, was on his side, pulling the pole position for the 75-lap Feature.
“Things are going our way,” Sheppard said. “We’re getting good draws, we’re getting cautions when we need them, we’re not getting cautions when we don’t need them, lady luck is just as big a part of it as anything. You can have a fast race car and do everything right, but if you don’t have luck on your side, you’re in trouble too.”
Sheppard took the green flag and bolted out to an early lead. Jimmy Phelps put pressure on him in second until Lap 48 when he was passed by Stewart Friesen. Sheppard never relinquished the top spot, holding the lead the entire way in the caution-free event.
“I looked up at the lap counter and saw the laps were ticking on, and I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know if I want to see a caution now,’” Sheppard said. “Like I said, it went our way tonight.”
Defending winner of the Thunder on the Thousand Islands, Stewart Friesen, had his work cut out for him after drawing the eighth position in the redraw. Friesen finished second in his last Series event at Bridgeport, getting edged out by one spot to local driver Ryan Godown in the final laps.
He battled his way into contention after a quick eighth-to-fifth jump on the opening lap, then clawing his way through the top-five over the next 45 laps. His biggest climb was catching Jimmy Phelps for the second spot, erasing a gap of over 1.5 seconds from Lap 26 to Lap 47 when he finally made the pass.
In the end, the multi-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion was unable to close a six-plus second gap to leader Sheppard, finishing the race in the runner-up spot for the second race in-a-row. However, back-to-back bridesmaid results have put him in control of the Series points standings by 13 over Max McLaughlin.
“We’ll keep trying and we’ll keep swinging,” Friesen said. “This place is a lot different than it was last year. We’ll see what it is the next time we come back. We go to Weedsport and then Lebanon Valley, so some tracks we’ve had good runs at lately. We’ll try to get one better.”
Rounding out the podium was 2005 Series champion Tim Fuller, who made a late-race charge and went from fifth-to-third inside the final 20 laps.
McLaughlin had one of the most eye-opening drives of all, advancing 14 spots of position in 71 laps on his way from 18th to finish fourth. He now sits second to Friesen in the Series points standings, just 13 markers behind.
The Super DIRTcar Series next heads back home to Weedsport Speedway for the Heroes Remembered 100 on Sunday, May 29, followed by a Monday night showdown at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Monday the 30th. Stream all the action live on DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (75 Laps): 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 2. 44-Stewart Friesen; 3. 19-Tim Fuller; 4. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 5. 88-Mat Williamson; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 7. 25R-Erick Rudolph; 8. 3H-Justin Haers; 9. 28-Jordan McCreadie; 10. 21A-Peter Britten; 11. 2L-Jack Lehner; 12. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 13. 4-Anthony Perrego; 14. 99L-Larry Wight; 15. 2A-Mike Gular; 16. 3J-Marc Johnson; 17. 91-Billy Decker; 18. 7Z-Zachary Payne; 19. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 20. 215P-Adam Pierson; 21. (DNF) 7MM-Michael Maresca; 22. (DNF) R70-Ryan Arbuthnot; 23. (DNF) 49-Billy Dunn; 24. (DNF) 66X-Carey Terrance; 25. (DNF) 60-Jackson Gill; 26. (DNF) 34-Kevin Root; 27. (DNF) 66W-Derek Webb