RPW Column: Timely Restart Key To Matt Sheppard’s Victory Sunday Evening At Weedsport
Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEEDSPORT, NY – Matt Sheppard is good. We all know that. He’s got the resume to back that up.
However, sometimes, a driver doesn’t just have to be good. Sometimes, they also need to have luck on their side and Sheppard did just that Sunday evening at the Weedsport Speedway.
As the 50-lap Modified main got underway, pole sitter Anthony Perrego was the man in control, leading from the drop of the green with third-place starter Sheppard in tow.
Mat Williamson look like he was ready to join the top two in a battle for the top spot as the race neared lap 20. However, while challenging Sheppard for the runner-up spot, Williamson made contact with the 9s and then ricocheted off the inside wall.
The contact collapsed the front end of the Buzz Chew #88 and ended the night of Money Mat.
This is where the luck factor came to fruition for Sheppard on Sunday.
It appeared that the 9s was starting to lose the handle a little before the caution and may have been passed by Williamson. We’ll never know.
However, in turn, the yellow flag came out and gave Sheppard the shot he needed. Could he grab the lead on the restart from leader Perrego?
As the field lined up, Perrego chose the bottom and gave Sheppard the outside.
This ended up being the moment that won “SuperMatt” the race.
On that restart, Perrego fired first, but even before the field hit the starters stand, Sheppard was in the lead.
This was a position he’d never relinquish as the Savannah, NY driver went on to collect career win #25 at the Port.
“I think that restart was definitely the turning point,” Sheppard said. “Anthony and I seemed pretty darn equal there.”
Could Matt have gotten by Perrego without the caution?
“It seemed like we were both cruising around there about equal speed,” he said. “I don’t know if I was any better than him or if he was any better then me.”
Did the slippery track conditions play into Sheppard’s setup and driving style on this night?
“I think the track burned up enough off of four that being on the outside actually gave me a little bit of momentum,” he said. “He (Perrego) couldn’t really find any brown to grab and get a good spurt on the restart.”
From that point on, once out front, Sheppard just had to hit his marks and contend with lapped traffic.
“That restart really was the difference tonight,” he said. “Getting out front and trying to get around a couple lapped cars while keeping the nose clean was the difference tonight.”
Sheppard had a near flawless evening. He was able to win his heat race which put him in the redraw. From there, he pulled the third starting spot and stayed with Perrego until opportunity presented itself to grab the top spot.
“This type of racing, more and more, is getting ever more draw-dependent,” he said. “When you come to Weedsport, it’s such a tough field here. To get a good draw for the heat, get in the draw for the feature and then get another decent number, certainly helps a whole bunch.”
Having a good piece underneath you doesn’t hurt either.
“You definitely have to have a good enough car to capitalize, though,” he said. “Luckily, we were able to put it all together tonight.”
Sunday night was a nice $4,000 payday for Sheppard, but it was more than just that. Now, he’ll be locked into the Super DIRTcar Series event next Sunday (May 28th) at the Port, the Heroes Remembered 100.
More importantly, this was a great tune-up for that event for the driver of the 9s and his team.
“We actually were doing a little testing here tonight,” he said. “I think we learned a few things. I still think there’s room for improvement but we’ll see what happens next Sunday.”
Perrego was able to bring the Vinny Salerno-owned #4* home in the runner-up spot with Erick Rudolph charging hard late to come home in the third position.
Larry Wight and Jimmy Phelps completed the top five.
Chad Phelps was sixth with Tim Fuller in seventh and Darren Smith in eighth. At one point, Smith was as high as third and lurking around the runner-up spot after using the high line to charge through the field. Unfortunately, the handles went away on Smith’s #12 and he slid back to eighth at the finish.
Billy Dunn and Mad Max, Max McLaughlin, completed the top 10.
A tip of the cap to Al Heinke, Jimmy Phelps, Betsy Angelone and the entire staff of the Weedsport Speedway.
They were able to run off the Modifieds and the headline class of the night, the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars, in a full show for both, and have the final victory lane completed by 8:45pm.
It was truly an efficient night by everyone involved with the speedway and the All Star Sprints.