Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – VERNON, NY – When one sits down to write a racing column, one tries to find different ways to be creative and not use the same descriptions when a driver wins multiple times in a season.
But when it comes to the 2022 season of Matt Sheppard, one tends to run out of creative ways to describe the action when he scores a win. That’s just how epic his season has been. Multiple championships, leading all the major points series’ and so many big wins with trips to Victory Lane has been the story of Super Matt’s season.
And it continued on Tuesday night as Sheppard again rolled to a dominant win in the Sunoco Modifieds Modern Day Outlaw 50 worth $5,000.
And with his 12th Utica-Rome win of the season, Sheppard has now set a new mark for most wins in a single season.
“We finished the year here the way that we started it here, standing in Victory Lane,” Sheppard said. “12 wins, that’s cool, a lot of history here. What a great year for my team. Unbelievable year here at Utica-Rome. Just a storybook season. We’ve been on a roll lately. We’ve got a busy stretch here, a busy week. But what a great way to start it off. That’s pretty special with the 12 wins, with all the history in New York State and all the different tracks, it’s great to have a small part of it. Until somebody knocks me off, we’ll have the bragging rights.”
Sheppard started 9th in the feature and he didn’t make a big charge at the start.
“I felt a little free here early,” Matt said. “That’s kind of the way it is when there is some speed in the track. But once the track slows down a bit, it really seems to come to me.”
By lap 10, Sheppard had moved to 5th and over the next 10 laps, he picked off a car every couple of laps. On lap 20, he passed Larry Wight for 2nd and began to chase down Rocky Warner, who was leading the race. Fast through lapped traffic, Sheppard moved past Warner on lap 26 and was well out front when the only caution flag in the event flew on lap 32 for Billy Decker with a roll over in turn 4. Decker was uninjured.
After the caution, there were some positions changing in the top 5. But the one thing that didn’t change was Sheppard’s dominance. At the checkered flag, Sheppard was 7 seconds clear of Wight, who finished 2nd. Demetrios Drellos, who ran in the top 5 most of the race, raced up to finish 3rd. Early leader Warner finished 4th. Bobby Hackel IV was fast during the first half of the race, climbing all the way to 2nd. He held on to finish 5th.
The balance of the top 10 were Alex Yankowski 6th, David Schilling 7th, Alan Johnson 8th, Will Shields 9th and Willy Decker 10th.
It was a big night at Utica-Rome for Jeremy Slosek on Tuesday as he scored his first ever Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman win. He also set a new track record in winning his heat.
“We couldn’t have pictured a better night than tonight,” Slosek said. “Came through the gate, draw number 1, fast from the get go. Draw number 1 again for the feature. I didn’t think it would go green-to-checkered but it did and it worked in our favor. We’ve been fine tuning all year long. Little changes here and there. I just thank everyone who makes this happen.”
Slosek bolted out front from his pole starting spot and was never challenged. He had a 6 second margin of victory as the last checkered flag of the season flew at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Chip Constantino finished 2nd with Jim Nagle 3rd, David Hackett Jr. 4th and Ed Lukas 5th. Rounding out the top 10 were Payton Talbot 6th, AJ Digsby 7th, Blaine Klinger 8th, Derrick McGrew Jr. 9th and Troy Palmer 10th.
Modern Day Outlaw Modified Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Larry Wight, Demetrios Drellos, Rocky Warner, Bobby Hackel IV, Alex Yankowski, David Schilling, Alan Johnson, Will Shields, Willy Decker, Brian Gleason, Pat Ward, Danny Bouc, Jeff Trombley, Neil Stratton, Jeff Taylor, Cale Ross, Rusty Smith, Billy Decker, Alan Barker, JaMike Sowle, Brian Murphy, Andy Bachetti, Ronnie Johnson, Ryan Darcy, Aaron Jacobs.
Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): JEREMY SLOSEK, Chip Constantino, Jim Nagle, David Hackett Jr., Ed Lukas, Payton Talbot, A.J. Digsby, Blaine Klinger, Derrick McGrew Jr., Troy Palmer, Zack Welch, Matt Richardson, Ryan Barrett, Roger Hummer, George Dyer, E.J. Gallup.
Did Not Start: Willy Decker Jr.