Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST HAVEN, VT – There’ just something about Devil’s Bowl Speedway for Matt Sheppard and his team.
It’s either feast or famine for the driver from Savannah, NY who, on Sunday night, enjoyed his time in the Green Mountain state as he led all 50 laps of the Short Track Super Series’ “Slate Valley 50” to score the victory and take home the $10,000 top prize.
“It seems like when we come here, we either have a really good night or a really bad night,” Sheppard said. “It’s either one or the other and thankfully we’ve had a couple really good nights recently.”
Sunday afternoon’s event at the West Haven, VT facility took place under blistering sunshine which made the track extremely hard and slick. Couple that with starter Joe Kriss using the lapping flag more than any other, Sheppard had to pick and choose the right line as to where on the track to get around lapped cars.
“I feel like the track was going through a little bit of a transition,” he said. “At one point, the top seemed to be going away and the bottom started to come back a little bit but it was still awfully slick. It was a matter of finding a new line, trying to find more speed and trying to get by lapped traffic.”
Did Sheppard’s car feel good to him for all 50 laps?
“It seemed like the car would come and go,” he said. “I’d feel good for five or ten laps. Then, I’d feel bad for five laps and then I’d feel good again. I spoke with Anthony Perrego and he felt the same way. I’m not sure if it was tires or what.”
On Sunday, Sheppard was the man to beat. He won his heat race, drew the pole position and led every lap. Even though that seems like the perfect night, he had to work for this victory.
“It’s always a wild race when we come here to Devil’s Bowl,” he said. “It’s so slippery. It’s so technical. There may be a little bit of bite off the top of turn two and you have to hit it just right. I’m just thankful we had a good car. We drew a good number and went 50 laps caution-free. Everything just went our way tonight.”
Sheppard has a lot of support from the Green Mountain state, even though his home is over four hours away. Two of his sponsors, Elmo’s Pit Stop and Camara Slate, are both a short drive from the track and one of his first car owners, Wayne Ryan (the Nick’s Cafe #28s days) is also from Vermont.
If not for the drive, could Sheppard like to run Devil’s Bowl more?
“We do always enjoy coming up here,” he said. “It’s too bad it’s so far away because I think this place would race really well at night time. It still raced pretty well for the beating sunshine in the middle of the afternoon but, it’s dirt racing. Dirt doesn’t like sun.”
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 5 Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Mat Willamson, Demetrios Drellos, Anthony Perego, Erick Rudolph, Tim Fuller, Jimmy Phelps, Mike Mahaney, Max McLaughlin, Stewart Friesen, Andy Bachetti, Marc Johnson, Bobby Hackel, Brett Haas, Derrick McGrew, Tanner Siemons, Robert Bublak, Roger Henion, Dan Creeden, Adam Pierson, Randy Green, David Schilling, J.R. Hurlburt, Richard Smith, Danny Tyler, Neil Statton, Daniel Morgiewicz.
Did Not Qualify: Jeremy Pitts, Brock Pinkerous, CG Morey, Ryan Odasz, William August.
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificates): Mike Mahaney (eighth) & Derrick McGrew (15th)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Anthony Perrego (fourth) & Max McLaughlin (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Tim Fuller (redrew 12th)
Eibach Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Tim Fuller (sixth)
Five 55 Enterprises Hard Charger ($300): Max McLaughlin (16th to ninth)
Five 55 Enterprises Heat Winner Bonuses ($150 each): Matt Sheppard, Demetrios Drellos, Brett Haas & Marc Johnson
Henry’s Exhaust System Power Position ($50 Certificate): Andy Bachetti (11th)
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Matt Sheppard (first – $150 certificate); Mat Williamson (second – $75 certificate); Demetrios Drellos (third – $50 certificate)
Schultz Racing Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Stewart Friesen (10th)
Spyder Performance Filters Bonuses: Erick Rudolph (fifth – FREE filter) & Derrick McGrew (15th – 50-percent off)
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Mat Williamson (second); Marc Johnson (12th); David Schilling (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Matt Sheppard
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Award ($75 Certificate): Jimmy Phelps (seventh)