RPW Column: Matt Sheppard Conquers Orange County’s New Racing Surface For Modified Win

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – After a successful practice session on Tuesday, the Orange County Fair Speedway gave their new surface it’s first racing tests on Saturday. And by the looks of the smooth looking track and multi groove racing, it was a complete success.

In a non-stop race, Matt Sheppard took the lead just past halfway and held off a huge challenge from Anthony Perrego to secure Saturday’s United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modified win.

Pole sitter Max McLaughlin led at the start as Billy VanInwegen moved past the outside pole sitter Sheppard. Billy V. dropped out on lap 2, with Sheppard moving up 2nd. Danny Creeden moved by Sheppard on lap 4 as the top 3 stayed in the same positions for the next 10 laps. Tanner VanDoren and Perrego both had moved into the top 5 by the 5th lap.

Creeden closed in on McLaughlin, but Sheppard had started to pick up the pace. The 9S passed Creeden for 2nd on lap 15 and closed in quickly on McLaughlin. Sheppard moved past McLaughlin on lap 17 for the lead. Perrego moved by Creeden also on lap 17 and a lap later, took 2nd from McLaughlin. VanDoren, having his best Modified run of the season, passed Creeden for 4th on lap 19 and then moved past McLaughlin for 3rd lap 22.

The final run to the checkers saw both Sheppard and Perrego using both grooves. Perrego was close enough to get a good run on Sheppard down low the last 2 laps. But at the finish, it was Sheppard just 2/10ths of a second over Perrego in a fantastic Big Block feature. VanDoren was 3rd, Creeden 4th with Mike Gular 5th. McLaughlin placed 6th with Craig Mitchell 7th, Dillon Steuer 8th, Jimmy Horton 9th and Roger Henion Jr., in a rare Big Block start, 10th.

The H.O. Penn 358 Small Block Modified feature was dedicated to the memory of long time OCFS car owner and track employee, Whitey Memmelaar. In honor of Whitey’s #45, the feature was 45 laps and paid $4,500 to win, a nice payday. And it was Perrego, capping off a good night of racing for the Brian Smith Superior #44 team, taking the win.

Outside pole sitter, Steuer, was the early pace setter, leading for the first 11 laps. Seventh starting Perrego moved into 2nd by lap 5 and began to chase down Steuer. In lapped traffic, Perrego was able to close in and on lap 12, made the pass of the Zubi’s racing #17z to take the lead.

While Perrego was unchallenged at the front, 8th starting VanInwegen moved up to take 2nd from Steuer on lap 20. Corey Cormier was another driver on the move, Corey raced from 20th spot to the top 5 by lap 16. Cormier passed Mitchell for 4th on lap 25, and on the last lap. he took the final podium spot from Steuer.

At the finish, it was Perrego 6 1/2 seconds in front of VanInwegen with Cormier 3rd, Steuer 4th and Mitchell 5th. After an earlier heat race win, Pat Reiser raced from 12th starting spot to finish 6th with Horton 7th, Creeden 8th, Jimmy Spellmon 9th and Alex Tonkin 10th.

Dominic Roselli Jr. came on strong in the final laps of Saturday’s Arkel Motors Sportsman feature to win over Joey Bruning and Kasey Hufcut.

After 2 early cautions really jumbled up the running order, the Sportsman got down to business and went caution free over the final 18 laps. After the early cautions, it was Hufcut to the lead with Bruning giving chase. On lap 11, Bruning moved past Hufcut. Roselli Jr. moved into 4th from 13th starting spot by lap 5. He passed Cody Higbie for 3rd on lap 7, and went past Hufcut for 2nd on lap 14.

With 4 laps to go, Dominic got past Bruning for the lead and at the checkered flag, he was the winner by 1.4 seconds over Joey. Hufcut was 3rd with Higbie finishing 4th and Josh Allen 5th Rounding out the top 10 were Jake Bedell 6th, Mike Sabia 7th, Ryan Neiger 8th, Greg Sleight 9th and Travis Green 10th.

Even with a planned move into an open wheel Sportsman, Dillion Gannon still had a full fender goal that he wanted to achieve, a NAPA North East Parts Group Street Stock feature win. And Gannon made it into Victory Lane on Saturday night as Dillion was able to park the awesome looking #46 Days of Thunder schemed car in the most coveted spot on any racetrack.

Gannon immediately moved out to the lead at the drop of the green. As Gannon cruised out front, never seriously challenged for the lead, several drivers had their turn in 2nd. First, Billy Deak Jr. was there for 2 laps. John Tucker held the spot for a couple of laps before Mike Vigiletti took over. Charlie Donald, with a sharp looking #32, took 2nd on lap 10, Vigiletti again to 2nd for a lap until Donald was able to secure the spot for good.

At the finish, it was Gannon by 1.4 seconds over Donald for his first career win. Deak Jr. was 3rd with Ryan Modiano 4th and Bob Sleight Jr. 5th and Vigiletti 6th.

Walt Henry and his team exhibited the dedication overnight Friday and early Saturday that racers are known and respected for. After suffering a blown engine while leading at Accord Speedway on Friday, Henry was able to secure an engine and raced his way to 7th place on Saturday. Congratulations to the Henry team and to all that made that effort possible,

Wayne Taylor finished 8th, Ben Richard 9th and Tyler Romer 10th.

Racing continues on the historic 5/8ths mile oval on Saturday, June 24th as the Big Blocks, Small Blocks, Sportsman and Street Stocks are all scheduled for action.

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