Story By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – WEST LEBANON, NY – Matt Sheppard turned Monday’s Memorial Day Super DIRTcar Series King of the Spring at Lebanon Valley Speedway into a night he won’t soon forget.
The nine-time champion captured the checkered flag for the 90th time in his career, breaking a tie with Danny Johnson for second place on the all-time Super DIRTcar Series wins list.
After running second in his heat race, Sheppard drew the coveted pole position in the redraw, putting him in charge of the $13,500-to-win, 100-lap main event at the 5/8-mile oval, where he made sure to control the pace from the drop of the green flag.
Sheppard, of Waterloo, NY, led the first 17 laps unchallenged, building a lead over early challengers Mike Mahaney and Peter Britten. Sheppard easily survived the first caution of the race on Lap 17, firing quickly on the restart and moving back out in front again largely uncontested. He skillfully moved his #9s machine in and out of lapped traffic as the race progressed, with no one in striking distance to break his pace.
“You get an open racetrack, and you can kind of just do your own thing,” Sheppard said. “Nobody is breaking your momentum. That certainly helps.”
Mahaney battled fiercely to chip away at Sheppard’s lead, getting close enough to keep the outcome undecided, but Sheppard showed why he’s the Series champion and kept his composure through five cautions, including one with only 13 laps remaining.
“Everything went pretty smooth,” Sheppard said. “We got through lapped traffic there when we need to, we got some cautions, had a clean, open racetrack. I had a good race car; I had a good starting position and really everything just went our way tonight.”
Sheppard held on to notch the 90th Series victory of his career and a guaranteed starting spot at the 51st Running of Super DIRT Week in October at Oswego Speedway. Sheppard’s first win came on July 12, 2004, at Autodrome Drummond. Brett Hearn has 141 victories, the most in Super DIRTcar Series history.
Mahaney finished in the runner-up position, feeling hampered by his performance on the restarts.
“Early on, I think we were good on the start and then cautions kind of hurt,” Mahaney said. “I was really slow on getting going on the restarts. Matt [Sheppard] was right on point on the starts and would get away from me. Early in lapped traffic, I would start running him down, and then late in the race, even in clean air, I could run him down on the long runs, but just never caught him… it was just too little, too late.”
Five-time and defending Lebanon Valley Speedway Big Block Modified champion Andy Bachetti rounded out the podium with a third-place finish. Bachetti started 11th and used his extensive track experience to surge to fifth by the halfway point. He continued full force ahead, passing fellow local driver Marc Johnson to move into third position, but Mahaney and Sheppard were too far out of reach to continue his hard charge.
Marc Johnson finished in fourth, and Sunday night’s Heroes Remembered 100 runner-up Jimmy Phelps finished in fifth. The championship points leader entering the night, Mat Williamson, crossed in eighth, breaking his streak of four consecutive Series victories.
The Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds will make their first visit to Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY on June 13 for a 71-lap, $7,500-to-win, showcase event followed up by a visit to Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY on June 14.
Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds
King Of Spring 100
1. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 2. 35-Mike Mahaney; 3. 4B-Andy Bachetti; 4. 9-Marc Johnson; 5. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 6. 35L-LJ Lombardo; 7. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 8. 88-Mat Williamson; 9. 21A-Peter Britten; 10. 12-Darren Smith; 11. 215-Adam Pierson; 12. 54-Steve Bernard; 13. 74V-John Virgilio; 14. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 15. 91-Felix Roy; 16. 99-Kolby Schroder; 17. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 18. 7D-Tyler Dippel; 19. 99L-Larry Wight; 20. 115-Kenny Tremont Jr; 21. 4-Anthony Perrego; 22. 42-Kyle Sheldon; 23. 43-Keith Flach; 24. 37M-Mathieu Desjardins; 25. 32R-Ronnie Davis III; 26. 5H-Chris Hile; 27. 2-Jack Lehner; 28. 11A-Kyle Armstrong; 29. (DNS) 55H-Brett Haas.