RPW Column: Perrego, Sheppard & Friesen Set Themselves Up For Good Night Saturday At Georgetown With Qualifier Wins

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – GEORGETOWN, DE – A band of usual suspects were able to find victory lane in qualifier action for the Short Track Super Series Elite event at Georgetown Speedway Friday night.

Anthony Perrego, Matt Sheppard and Stewart Friesen each took home wins in their respective 15-lap heat races to solidify their standing as possible favorites for Saturday’s $25,000-to-win Melvin L. Joseph Memorial.

For Perrego, starting out the night with a good draw was a big part of his success Friday at the Delaware race track.

“A good draw tonight put us in a good position to get this heat race win,” Perrego said.  “Obviously, our car’s pretty good but I think we’ve got a little bit of work to do tomorrow with the track changing.”

The Middletown, NY driver always seems to run well when he races at Georgetown and Friday was no different.  Does he have any ideas as to why that might be the case?

“I’m not really sure,” he said.  “There’s just something about this place and us kind of clicks.  We’re always excited to come down here and give this place a visit.”

In the second qualifier, Matt Sheppard got back to his winning ways with his black and blue #9s after a rare seventh place finish in the Camp Barnes race on Thursday.

Sheppard was another driver who took advantage of a decent draw for his heat race starting spot and when the race was complete, it paid off with a victory.

“A good draw definitely helps,” Sheppard said.  “This is a big, fast race track.  Track position is important sometimes and we were able to draw a decent number.”

Once Sheppard was able to grab the lead from Rick Laubach by the midway point, it was smooth sailing for the Savannah, NY driver.

“We were able to get up to the front and get some clean air,” he said.  “Anthony (Perrego) said the same thing about this place.  The track’s going to change tomorrow (Saturday).  We chased it all last night (Thursday) and we’re still chasing it.”

When he was working his way to the front, Sheppard was able to move around the track and make passes both on the high side as well as the low groove.

“I felt a little more comfortable on the bottom of (turns) one and two,” he said.  “I didn’t know where to be.  It was definitely more top dominant in turns three and four.  I could get a little bit of traction off the bottom of two and that’s what helped me get to the front.”

This is another event this year where Sheppard has visited Georgetown Speedway.  He’s been pretty successful during the 2022 season here including big victories in the $12K for 12K event and the Blast at the Beach.

That success has to have him confident heading into Saturday night’s event.

“We were really good here during the summer,” he said.  “I don’t feel quite as good tonight.  We’re going to go to work on this thing and hopefully we can draw a decent number tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll make the right choices for the race and we’ll see what happens.”

The night wasn’t quite as easy for third qualifier winner Stewart Friesen as it took him nearly half the race to get from his eighth starting spot to the lead.

That’s when he made an inside move around the 20 of David Schilling for the top spot and went to grab the victory and the $500 top prize.  However, just like Sheppard, Friesen was able to make moves both high and low.

“The track’s in really good shape right now,” Friesen said.  “The edge is right to the top edge in one and two but there’s a good bottom (Turns) three and four kind of hammer down on the cushion but you can throw some sliders and make different lines work.”

That type of racy track can usually play tricks on teams with setup but Friday, it was perfect for Friesen.

“It’s kind of tough here,” he said.  “The track’s pretty fast.  Our car was in really good shape tonight and now we’re in the redraw for tomorrow.”

What was the key for Friesen to get to the front?

“I think track position and having some clean lines,” he said.  “I think I went off the edge like five times on Thursday night avoiding situations.  Tonight, we were able to pick our way through the heat race clean.”

The race was marred by a vicious crash on a lap eight restart which saw Ryan Watt’s #14 move up half a groove, forcing Billy Pauch Jr. into the outside wall.

His car became airborne, with the underside exposed and then was hit by the 30 of HJ Bunting at full speed.  Mike Trautschold and Danny Creeden were also involved with Creeden able to continue, but all concern was for Pauch and Bunting.

Both drivers got out of their cars but were checked out for possible injuries.  The Pauch family released a statement late Friday night that Billy has three fractured vertebrae but has been released from the hospital and will be okay.

We have no word on Bunting’s condition at press time but we pass along our prayers to both drivers.

Friesen was also quick to do so after the race was complete.

“I’m thinking about those guys right now,” he said.  “Hopefully little Billy and H and Watty and all of those guys are okay.  That’s was a scary accident and hopefully they can come back to race another day.”

Qualifier No. 1 (15 laps): ANTHONY PERREGO, Jordan Watson, Ryan Godown, Rocky Warner, Max McLaughlin, Craig Von Dohren, Ronnie Johnson, Loudon Reimert, Sean Weiss, Anthony Tramontana, Brad Roberts, Matt Stangle, Norman Short Jr.

Qualifier No. 2 (15 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Rick Laubach, Cale Ross, Danny Bouc, Jimmy Horton, Mike Gular, Jeff Strunk, Alex Yankowski, Ryan Krachun, Joseph Watson, John Willman, Brandon Grosso.

Qualifier No. 3 (15 laps): STEWART FRIESEN, David Schilling, Mat Williamson, Mike Mahaney, Danny Creeden, Austin Hubbard, Ryan Watt, Ryan Riddle, Andy Bachetti, Billy Pauch Jr., HJ Bunting, Mike Trautschold.

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