Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – LAKE CITY, FL – Thursday night’s box score from the Short Track Super Series race at All-Tech Raceway will show that Matt Sheppard placed first, but it could have easily had Larry Wight’s name written in that spot.
Then again, it also could have easily had the name of third place finisher Bobby Hackel, too.
Wight put on a driving display that even took Sheppard by surprise at some points during the 35-lap affair. Thursday night’s strong run for after a second in the ‘Sunshine Swing’ opener has the Phoenix, NY driver excited right now.
“We had a really good car tonight,” Wight said. “We’re just making small changes and now we’re able to “take” the lead from Matt (Sheppard) a couple of times so we’re getting closer.”
At one point, the Gypsum Racing #99L went to the extreme outside on a restart, drove from eighth to second and sparked memories of a move the legendary Richie Evans made at Oswego Speedway in an asphalt Modified later in his career.
“That one restart really helped us,” he said. “Going eighth to second before we got to the line definitely was going to either make our break our night. That really helped us get out of the possible trouble and allowed us to run our own line.”
After starting in 13th, Wight was able to get to the runner-up spot early on in the feature and that allowed him to put serious pressure on Sheppard, as the two swapped the lead back and fourth.
“That goes to show anyone that doubts that this place (All-Tech Raceway) can put on a great race,” he said. “If you have a car that can go, the track’s there for you.”
Wight gave high praise to the speedway for how racy it was during the main event.
“It’s probably one of the only tracks that I know that can be bottom-dominant for five laps, top dominant for five laps, then two laps on the bottom, two on top and so on,” he said. “All-Tech’s probably the most technical track I’ve ever been on and probably the most technical track in the country.”
For Hackel, Thursday’s third place run just proved how good of a car his team has for the Sunshine Swing and helped to back up his 23rd to ninth effort on Wednesday.
“The Killer Crate 97 was great tonight,” Hackel said. “I just needed the car to get some momentum to go down the straights. I felt good in the corners but am having a little trouble with forward drive to get down the straightaways.”
Now with two top 10 results to kick off his 2024 season, Hackel is excited for to keep working on his car to continue the improvements.
“We threw our shots at it tonight,” he said. “We’re getting this thing closer, building the notebook. It’s all about experience and learning because I’ve never raced here at All-Tech.”
Even with the momentum he has so far through two of Brett Deyo’s races in the Sunshine State, Hackel isn’t resting on his laurels. He’ wants more.
“We’ll enjoy this one right now,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow (Friday). Hopefully we can do a little better. We’ll work harder to get even better, both myself learning this place and with this car. Hopefully, it’ll pay off. We’re going to keep digging.”