Story By: CODY MANMILLER / SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES – DUNDEE, NY – For the 24th time in his career, Matt Sheppard triumphed in Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled by Sunoco competition, capturing the third stop on the River Valley Builders North Region tour at the Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, N.Y., on Tuesday evening.
Sheppard banked $5,000-plus with the win – more than enough to pay for his right-rear tire that fell flat as he rolled into Victory Lane – and vaulted himself back into contention for the North Region championship worth $15,000.
“Definitely a lot of laps around this place; that certainly helped,” Sheppard, a former Outlaw regular, remarked with a smile on his face. “Everything worked out in our favor tonight.”
The Savannah, N.Y., driver, who ranks second all-time in STSS history with 24 wins, marched through the field from his sixth starting spot, beating Stewart Friesen, who is the all-time leader with 34 STSS wins, to the front of the pack of the 50-lap feature event. Friesen was strong enough for second, ahead of early-race leader Billy Decker, strong-running Brett Haas and local young gun Alex Payne.
Decker led from the outset, launching from his outside pole starting spot to edge in front of Larry Wight, Brady Fultz, Danny Tyler and Alex Payne. Friesen and Sheppard battled one another for sixth and seventh before an early caution on lap two.
Once again, Decker led on the restart after choosing the outside lane and Danny Johnson, donning his famous No. 27J, rocketed around both Friesen and Sheppard on the outside lane and narrowed the gap to Payne and Fultz. By lap eight, Friesen was back past Johnson and also maneuvered Payne with Sheppard following behind. Then, just before Decker hit lapped traffic, the caution flew again for a spinning Pat Ward on lap 11, a pivotal moment of the event.
On that ensuing restart, Sheppard catapulted from sixth to second, shuffling Wight to third while Friesen followed to fourth, ahead of Payne. On lap 13, Friesen shoehorned under Wight for third as Sheppard set his sights on Decker. After a brief challenge, Decker pulled away using the outer edge of the surface before another caution on lap 15.
Decker held him off for a few laps but Sheppard eventually strangled the lead away from Decker on lap 18 on the very bottom of the track. Decker held second over Friesen and Wight as Mat Williamson rose to fifth after selecting the worst number in the redraw: 12.
The race halted again as Wight slowed with a flat on lap 21, surrendering a top-five position. When the green flag flew once more, Williamson scooted into the runner-up spot from fourth as he, Decker and Friesen briefly ran three-wide for the spot.
Friesen settled into third and Decker fourth. On lap 27 and after a few corners of side-by-side action, Friesen took second from Williamson and began his hunt of Sheppard.
With 15 to go and Sheppard stuck in a pack of slower traffic, Friesen closed. Once Sheppard, aboard his traditional No. 9s, sliced through some two-wide action, he once more pulled away before Williamson suffered late-race heartbreak with a flat tire while running third.
The lap-46 caution bunched the field again but also gave Sheppard clean air as he jaunted away for the victory.
“The top was so far out at the end, and I wanted to get down on the bottom like I normally would,” Sheppard said. “But I was just afraid Stewie would roll around the outside of me.”
“This is a great team; three wins in a row, I’m just happy to be here,” he added.
Friesen tried to challenge right around the infield tires but settled for second. Decker finished a solid third.
Haas moved forward from eighth to score his best STSS finish of his career of fourth with the Dave Prime MAC Tools No. 55. Payne battled in and out of the top five all night and captured an impressive fifth-place finish.
Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were: Danny Creeden who battled all the way from 21st to sixth after qualifying through the consolation event, earning the $350 TAMCO Hard Charger; Andy Bachetti, another consolation qualifier, who went from 22nd to seventh; Mike Mahaney, who started 17th, rebounded for eighth after suffering a late-race issue in his heat; Wight bounced back from his flat tire for ninth; and Tyler rounded out the top-10 after reaching as high as third early in the race.
A stout field of 41 STSS Modifieds filled the pit area.
Next on the Bob Hilbert Short Track Super Series Fueled by Sunoco tour is the ‘Dirty Jersey 50’ held at the New Egypt Speedway on Tuesday, May 24 and marks the third stop on the Hurlock Auto & Speed Supply South Region for the Modifieds plus the Belmont’s Garage Crate 602 Sportsman South Region.
The River Valley Builders North Region is back in action on Tuesday, June 7 at the Bloomsburg Fair Raceway for a 50-lap, $7,000 to win feature event. The ‘Battle at Bloomsburg’ is a combination event that will count toward both the North and South Region championships.
‘OUTLAW SHOWDOWN’ RESULTS SUMMARY – OUTLAW SPEEDWAY MAY 17, 2022
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 3 Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Stewart Friesen, Billy Decker, Brett Haas, Alex Payne, Danny Creeden, Andy Bachetti, Mike Mahaney, Larry Wight, Danny Tyler, Alan Johnson, Jeff Taylor, Bobby Hackel, Ajay Potrzebowski, Mat Williamson, Danny Johnson, David Schilling, Erick Rudolph, Brady Fultz, Pat Ward, Kyle Coffey, Jerry Higbie, Neil Stratton, Cory Costa, Jeffery Daugherty, Steve Paine, Derrick Podsiadlo.
Did Not Qualify: Jacob Dgien, Marshall Hurd, Tyler Siri, Bobby Varin, Mike Trautschold, Phil Vigneri, Frank Cozze, Darren Smith, Daniel Morgiewicz, Billy Van Pelt, Jim LaRock, J.R. Hurlburt, Richard Smith, Cole Youse.
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificates): Danny Tyler (10th) & Bobby Hackel (13th)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Brett Haas (fourth) & Larry Wight (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Mat Williamson (Redrew 12th)
Eibach Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Danny Creeden (sixth)
FloRacing Heat Race Winners ($50 Each): Stewart Friesen, Danny Johnson, Larry Wight & Matt Sheppard
Henry’s Exhaust System Power Position ($50 Certificate): Alan Johnson (11th)
Jimmy DiFulvio Construction 10th-Place Bonus ($200): Danny Tyler
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Matt Sheppard (winner), Stewart Friesen (second) & Billy Decker (third)
Schultz Racing Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Danny Tyler (10th)
Spyder Performance Filters Bonuses: Alex Payne (fifth) & Matt Williamson (15th)
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Stewart Friesen (second), Jeff Taylor (12th) & Jerry Higbie (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Matt Sheppard
TAMCO LLC Hard Charger Award ($350): Danny Creeden (21st to sixth)
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Award ($75 Certificate): Andy Bachetti (seventh)