RPW Column: Lap Traffic Was Key To Anthony Perrego’s Short Track Super Series Win Friday At OCFS
Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Lap traffic was the main reason Anthony Perrego was in victory lane at the end of the Short Track Super Series Hard Clay Finale at Orange County Fair Speedway on Friday night.
However, it was also the main reason Matt Sheppard wasn’t.
Perrego draw for a feature starting position wasn’t as great as he had hoped as the former Orange County Big Block Modified champion drew tenth for the 50-lap event. From the drop of the green, however, the 44 was on a mission, making moves at any chance he could.
Several cautions played into Perrego’s favor as well, but it was his work in lap traffic that aided his march to the front.
“Matt (Sheppard) was living and dying by the top of (turns) one and two,” Perrego said. “I actually found the bottom because a lapped car went back by me and I was like it must be pretty good down there.”
As Perrego continued to move forward, he made an impressive inside move on second place-running Marc Johnson off of turn four with 20 laps remaining and began to chase down Sheppard, who had built quite a substantial lead.
Over the next ten circuits around the Hard Clay, Perrego began to reel in the Sheppard 9s and then as the lap counter clicked off the 41st circuit, there was a new leader.
“Lap cars had Matt pretty jammed up,” he said. “There wasn’t much to grab off of turns three and four. I rolled up to him pretty quick and I actually tried the outside and I lost a bunch of ground on him. I knew if I was just patient enough and followed the lap cars it might work out in my favor.”
“I got a pretty good break off of turn two,” he said. “We were able to sneak by him coming off of four and then the yellow came right out. We were really lucky at that point.”
Did Perrego want to see that caution or would he have liked to race Sheppard the rest of the way in traffic?
“The lap traffic was pretty hectic in front of us,” he said. “There were quite a few of them running side-by-side. I knew the bottom was really good and it was going to be tough for him to drive back around me so I was happy to see that yellow.”
In the end, Perrego did something very few have done over the last two months…not only beat Sheppard in race, but pass him to do it.
“It feels great to come here and win this race,” he said. “Especially beating that 9 car tonight. He’s been so good all year. I guess hanging around with him long enough some of his luck has been rubbing off on me.”
On the flip side, where lap traffic helped Perrego, it ended up hurting Matt Sheppard’s chances at the $10,000 top prize.
“We just really wanted to get to victory lane tonight,” Sheppard said. “We felt pretty comfortable most of the race but really got hung up behind the 5L. He was taking up a lot of real estate. I don’t know if he was having a seizure or what was going on.”
It was at that moment Perrego was able to close in and ultimately drive around Sheppard.
“That guy was taking up an awful lot of real estate for a lap car and Ant was able to sneak by me,” he said. “He was really good and he’s a good buddy of mine. I am happy to see him in victory lane.”
Sheppard led from the drop of the green flag until Perrego made the move by him. As the race progressed, he was able to move around the track and the lap traffic wherever he wanted and looked to be on his way to victory until he got to the car of Charles Loiodice.
“I really was getting through traffic well until I caught the 5L,” he said. “I couldn’t really go around him. I couldn’t go under him. He was using a lot of race track. I probably should have put the bumper to him but was feeling nice tonight. All-in-all, good run for my team.”
For third place finisher Marc Johnson, drawing the pole definitely helped on Friday night but having a strong and fast S&S Asphalt Paving #9 didn’t hurt either.
“We had a big hill to climb after the draw,” Johnson said. “The draw ended up working for us in the feature and we’re happy to be up on the frontstretch and finishing in the top three.”
Sheppard got around Johnson on the opening lap and then Perrego did so with 20 to go. At one point, he even got passed by Mat Williamson but was able to retake the third position on the final restart with nine to go and bring his Bicknell home in the show position.
“I was struggling with lap traffic,” he said. “I couldn’t get any grip down in (turns) three and four off the bottom, but got some good grip on the last restart and that got us back up to third.”
Williamson was able to come home with a fourth place finish while Mike Mahaney brought his #35 home in the fifth spot.
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 10 Feature Finish (50 laps): ANTHONY PERREGO, Matt Sheppard, Marc Johnson, Mat Williamson, Mike Mahaney, Max McLaughlin, Mike Gular, Bobby Hackel, Dillon Steuer, Jimmy Horton, Craig Mitchell, Charles Loiodice, Andy Bachetti, Alex Yankowski, David Schilling, Danny Creeden, Allison Ricci, Brett Haas, Daniel Morgiewicz, J.R. Hurlburt, Brian Calabrese, Peter Britten, Cody Higbee, Randy Green, Tommy Meier, Robert Bublak, Bobby Flood, Corey Cormier, Billy VanInwgen, Tanner VanDoren.
Did Not Qualify: John Brown, Mel Schrufer, Rodger Henion, Tyler Dippel, Tyler Corcoran, John Ferrier, Chris Diamond, Brett Hearn, Austin Smith, Tim McCreadie, Edward Kitchell, Lenny Helmich, Jr., Sammy Martz, Jr., Sam Martz, Corey Lowitt, Pete Carlotto, Pat Mann, Billy Fiske, Ray Hall, Jr., Joe Conklin, Jimmy Devitt, Geoff Quackenbush, Heath Metzger, Chris Stevens, Will Shields, Joe Bonetti, Will Dietz, Tanner Siemons, Derek Bornt, Ryan Darcy, Sean Mandel, Brandon Daley, Travis Green, Kevin Root, Dylan Smith, Mike Loney, Ryan Walther, Neil Stratton, Matt Stangle.
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificates): Bobby Hackel (eighth) & Craig Mitchell (11th)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Mat Williamson (fourth) & Dillon Steuer (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Mat Williamson (redrew 12th)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Max McLaughlin (sixth)
Evergreen Fuels 46th Lap ($200): Anthony Perrego
FloRacing Heat Winners ($50): Jimmy Horton, Anthony Perrego, Craig Mitchell, Mike Mahaney, Matt Sheppard, Mat Williamson
Henry’s Exhaust System Power Position ($50 Certificate): Craig Mitchell (11th)
Landhoe Maintenance Hard Luck Award ($80): Bobby Flood
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Anthony Perrego (first – $150 certificate); Matt Sheppard (second – $75 certificate); Marc Johnson (third – $50 certificate)
Rock Fantasy Hard Charger ($300): Dillon Steuer
Schultz Racing Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jimmy Horton (10th)
Spyder Performance Filters Bonuses: Mike Mahaney (fifth – FREE filter); David Schilling (15th – 50-percent off)
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Matt Sheppard (second); Charles Loiodice (12th); Peter Britten (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Matt Sheppard
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Award ($75 Certificate): Mike Gular (seventh)