Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – LAKE CITY, FL – Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at All-Tech Raceway was another “what if” type night for Tim McCreadie.
For Brandon Sheppard, however, Saturday night was just what the doctor ordered.
McCreadie started 12th in the 50-lap main event and, when all was said and done, came away with a really nice second place finish in his Paylor Motorsports #39 Longhorn.
However, for many, including himself, the wonder of ‘what if’ will linger in the back of his mind.
“That’s just the way it goes,” McCreadie said. “We’ve had to battle our way every night. You think drawing a low pill in a group (for time trials) would be good and then it rubbers up and puts us in the back of a heat. We just keep battling.”
McCreadie qualified 10th quick in Group B of time trials on the night and that put him fifth to start the fourth and final heat race of the night. He was able to drive his way up to third at the finish of the event, but with the heads-up start for the feature, that put the defending series champion 12th.
“For us, it’s just a climb,” he said. “We have to pass ten cars a night just to get to the front and everybody’s going to say, well, you have to time better. It’s all circumstantial.”
According to McCreadie, it’s all about the breaks on each given night.
“We were half a tenth (of a second) off the pole and that leads to seventh in the B group,” he said. “In the A group, that puts you second fastest. It’s just the way things go sometimes.”
From that point on in qualifying, McCreadie was aggravated.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Tonight was frustrating because it rubbered up during the first group (of Group B time trials) and I was the first car on the track. As it went on, the track picked up nine-tenths of a second. That put us behind the rest of the night.”
During the course of the feature event, restarts cost McCreadie who had worked his way towards the front. He’d lose ground to those he had already worked by, which added to the frustration.
“Unfortunately, I got stuck on a couple of those restarts in a spot where I had to race back by guys I had just got done passing,” he said. “That’s part of racing. It’s just a situation where you feel like you’re not a dominate car but you’re good enough to win, it’s a small bit of frustration boiling over on my part.”
Again, it was a night of ‘what if’ for the Watertown, NY driver.
“We could have had a couple nights so far where if we’re a hundredth better and we’re on the pole of a feature maybe,” he said. “However, it’s part of life.”
For third place finisher Brandon Sheppard, this was a run he needed, and needed badly.
“This feels really good,” Sheppard said. “We needed this for sure. Bubba (Raceway Park) definitely wasn’t our best performance for sure but Matt Langston, Kevin Rumley and everyone involved with Longhorn have been putting in a lot of effort to help me and make sure I’m up front.”
Sheppard, who went back to running his own operation as part of Sheppard Riggs Racing after a very successful stint behind the wheel of the Rocket Chassis house car, has been tough on himself so far in the 2023 season to get up to speed.
“I’ve been slacking in that department lately,” he said. “It was definitely nice to have those guys help me out here, especially with practice here at All-Tech the other night. They helped to get me squared away.”
With each lap, Sheppard is gaining more and more information about his new Longhorn Chassis in an effort to be a consistent contender for victories.
“We’re learning a bunch on this car every time we go out,” he said. “I can’t say enough about those guys for taking me under their wing like they have. It’s just different.”
On Saturday at All-Tech, Sheppard was all smiles after finishing on the podium.
“It was sure a lot of fun tonight,” he said. “That was typical All-Tech right there. I was thinking it might rubber up but it never did. It stayed slippery and you could race. It was treacherous when you moved off the bottom but you could go outside and make time if you need to.”
Come feature time, Sheppard was nervous about how his car would react for 50 laps, if he’d made the right adjustments, but knew he had time to get it done.
“I was a little worried after the heat race but I knew our car was good,” he said. “It was just a matter of bobbing and weaving out there and making sure you could get turned and hit your marks. We were able to do that and had a really good car so I’m thankful to be on the podium tonight.”