Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – It was the 103rd Anniversary Race at the historic Orange County Fair Speedway Thursday.
And it was Matt Sheppard, taking the biggest slice of the anniversary cake with a dominating win in the United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds over Stewart Friesen and Anthony Perrego.
It was Sheppard’s 21st career win at OCFS, seventh this season.
All 21 of his wins have come since April of 2019…simply an awesome display by ‘SuperMatt.’
After the redraw, it was Perrego on the pole with Dillon Steuer on the outside. Steuer got out front, at the green with Perrego and 4th starting Sheppard trailing. caution was out quickly on lap 4 for Gary Edwards III as he slowed and pitted.
After the restart, Sheppard got by Perrego and began chasing down Steuer. Dillon was strong in the top grove and held off Sheppard until Matt took over the top spot on lap 14.
As Sheppard pulled out to a big lead, there were other battles for positions further back. Steuer and Perrego were having a hard fought race for second.
Other positions were being swapped around between Larry Wight, Danny Creeden. Jimmy Horton and Friesen. Lap 25 saw Perrego pass Steuer for 2nd.
Friesen was inching his way forward, taking fifth on lap 28 and fourth on lap 30. Sheppard was well out front, trying out both the high and low grooves to see which worked best. lapped traffic didn’t seem to slow him as he maneuvered through with little loss of distance between him and Perrego.
The race stayed pretty stable until caution was out after 40 laps were completed as Creeden was spun around after contact. Sheppard was fortunate to have not gotten caught up in this as it happened not too far in front.
Tyler Boniface, Mike Gular and Wight all pitted under this caution with Boniface not returning.
The restart saw Friesen taking third from Steuer. Sheppard again pulled out to a big lead.
After Friesen threatened to take second from Perrego, Anthony was able to put some distance on Stewart. However, as the laps started to count down, Friesen closed back in on Perrego and the two 44’s raced hard for the spot.
Friesen was finally able to clear Perrego on lap 68, but Sheppard was long gone.
At the finish, it was Sheppard by half a lap over Friesen with Perrego in third, Steuer fourth and Horton fifth.
“I can’t say enough about this racecar,” Sheppard said in Victory Lane. “We have been tweaking it and it was just a rocket ship tonight. What a good place to get dialed in with the money that Chris (Larsen) is putting up. I’m glad to be able to take advantage.”
Now Sheppard has his eye on the bigger prize for the 2022 season at OCFS.
This win will lock us into the Final Four Championship Race if I’m not mistaken,” he said. “We really want to win this championship and put that feather in our cap.”
Peter Brittan was sixth with Wight, Gular, Charles Loiodice and Creeden completing the top 10.