Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – BROWNSTOWN, IL – Ten years ago to-the-date, an 18-year-old Brandon Sheppard became the youngest driver ever to win a DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature with a breakout victory over his Illinois racing idols.
Friday night at Fayette County Speedway, the now 28-year-old Dirt Late Model superstar collected his 25th career Hell Tour victory over some of those very same drivers, leading all 50 laps to collect the $10,000 check and his first win of the week.
“I’ve been racing for a long time, it seems,” Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, said. “I’m only 28, and to say that I won my first Summer Nationals race 10 years ago now, it’s pretty crazy.”
Sheppard won his Heat Race and redrew the pole for the Feature, setting him up for a clean-sweep of the green-to-checkered Feature. He blasted off at the drop of the green and took his Rocket Chassis #B5 to the high side, holding off the opposition and sailing around lapped traffic with ease as he led all 50 laps around the quarter mile.
Back Behind Sheppard, a three-way battle for the runner-up spot raged on between Shannon Babb, Tanner English and Ashton Winger. They went outside-middle-inside for a few corners before lapped traffic split them up.
Winger batted with Babb for several laps before fading back to fourth. Babb and English soon broke away and engaged in a side-by-side battle of their own – Babb got the upper hand on the low side after losing the spot multiple times to English. He did his best to reel-in Sheppard in the final laps, and actually closed the gap to under two-and-a-half seconds but was no match for Sheppard’s speed out front.
After the sour ending to his bid for the lead in last year’s Summer Nationals visit to Fayette County, Sheppard sang a song of redemption Saturday night in front of his family and Illinois fans.
“I’ve been really fast here the past couple of years, and I felt like I gave it away here two years ago. Last year, we had a really great race and a really fast car and got into it with Brian [Shirley] and Frankie [Heckenast]. It cost us a chance at it that time,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard had been battling internal mechanical malfunctions since his season debut on Wednesday night, but was glad to have them solved in time to win $10,000.
“Definitely a big weight off my shoulders to get this thing back in Victory Lane,” Sheppard said. “We’ve been struggling, I don’t know if it’s the motor problems or me not having the car right – it’s probably a little bit of both.”
Riggs Motorsports pilot Tanner English crossed in second and made up some points in the standings on leader Bobby Pierce, who was not in attendance Saturday. Shannon Babb, still in the search for Summer Nationals win #100, came home third after the battle with English. Jason Feger and Mitch McGrath, who bagged his second top-five of the season, completed the top-five.
The Hell Tour next stops at Lincoln Speedway Sunday night, July 4, for an Independence Day special.
Feature (50 Laps) 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 81E-Tanner English; 3. 18-Shannon Babb; 4. 25-Jason Feger; 5. 74-Mitch McGrath; 6. 3S-Brian Shirley; 7. 12-Ashton Winger; 8. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 9. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 10. 14G-Joe Godsey; 11. 44-Blaze Burwell; 12. 15-Kolby Vandenbergh; 13. 16-Rusty Griffaw; 14. 14R-Jeff Roth; 15. 30-Mark Voigt; 16. 11T-Trevor Gundaker; 17. 10J-Jordan Bauer; 18. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 19. 6K- Michael Kloos; 20. 248-Brandon Lance; 21. 48-Tim Lance; 22. 148-Tim Lance Jr
HERM ON THE BERM: Wallace Returns to Summit Modified Winner’s Circle at Fayette County
Hoffman not in attendance, win streak snapped by Elite Chassis pilot Wallace
One of dirt track racing’s most enthusiastic and recognizable names made his long-awaited return to DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals Victory Lane Saturday night. Kenny Wallace is once again on top of the heap.
“There were years where I was winning everything,” Wallace said in Victory Lane. “Now, I guess I’m back.”
Indeed, the 2012 Summit Modified champion was back – right on the top side berm of the quarter-mile Fayette County Speedway. With the utmost car control and speed, Wallace cruised to his eighth career Summit Modified victory and a $3,000 check with the American Modified Series co-sanction. But not without a frightening sight heading into Turn 3 on the opening lap.
Polesitter Rick Conoyer went into Turn 3 with a full head of steam and lost the handle right in front of Wallace, and the rest of the 24-car field, sending cars into a frenzy to try and avoid him spinning. Wallace did just that and continued on, albeit with a rapid heartbeat.
“I was ready to go, and when Rick spun out, it was one of those deals like, ‘oh my gosh.’ But we got lucky and missed it,” Wallace, of St. Louis, MO, said.
A complete restart was in order, and Wallace jumped right on the opportunity to swipe the lead away on the outside. Which, he did, making the move around Conoyer on Lap 3.
Six-time Summit Modified champion Mike Harrison, of Highland, IL, managed to track down Wallace on the top side after another restart before halfway and was getting ready to make his move for the lead when he tagged the wall at the exit of Turn 4, sending his right-side wheels above the wall and back down again, damaging the car.
Immediately, Harrison fell off the pace and took it pit-side one lap later, done for the night. This freed up Wallace to maneuver through traffic at his own pace, as Conoyer was more than four seconds behind at that point.
With the laps winding down and thin traffic in front of him, Wallace cruised to the checkers for his first win with the tour since June 2018.
Piloting a new Elite Chassis for the 2021 season, Wallace has been spending lots of time in the seat getting used to driving it. The car was fabricated by three-time and defending Summit Modified champion Nick Hoffman, who opted to race in Indiana on Saturday, ending his eight-race win streak with the tour. However, Wallace was able to pick up the win and at least keep the streak going for the Elite brand.
“Nick Hoffman’s been good to me, but he always holds an ace up his sleeve. So, I had to find what I needed, and I drove it like asphalt,” Wallace said.
The Summit Modified tour next stops at Lincoln Speedway Sunday night, July 4, for an Independence Day special.
Feature (30 Laps) 1. 36-Kenny Wallace; 2. J82-Treb Jacoby; 3. 14C-Rick Conoyer; 4. 128-Zach Schantz; 5. 43A-Larry Anderson; 6. 1A-Aaron Draege; 7. 59R-Jacob Rexing; 8. 87Z-Zeb Moake; 9. 22-Wade Wenthe; 10. 88L- Rob Lee; 11. 4T-Jake Trebilcock; 12. T6-Tommy Sheppard Jr; 13. 13-Charlie Mefford; 14. 15-Richard Gibson; 15. 4TM-Timothy Monroe; 16. 10-Jason Highley; 17. 27-Keith Harre; 18. 83-Kasey Schrock; 19. 51-Phil Bible; 20. 1S-Brian Shaw; 21. 59N-Chad Evans; 22. 24H-Mike Harrison; 23. 5T-Rob Timmons; 24. 9H-John Demoss