By CHRIS MOORE
MINERSVILLE, PA – Drawing 75 of 75 available numbers for his heat race. Starting 21st in the feature.
None of the above deterred ‘Super Matt’ at Big Diamond Speedway Tuesday night.
Matt Sheppard of Savannah, N.Y., parlayed an 11th-row starting position in the 50-lap ‘Anthracite Assault’ to a $5,000 victory in the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco ‘Civil War’ at the Schuylkill County track.
The event offered points toward both the STSS Halmar International North Region and Velocita-USA South Region presented by Design for Vision and Sunglass Central. A talented roster of drivers flocked to Big D to challenge for a pay structure of $25,670 plus cash and product bonuses.
Sheppard qualified for the 50-lap feature by winning one of two B-Mains to put his Hurlock Auto & Speed-sponsored No. 9s in the field.
A true ‘North vs. South’ front row was comprised of New Jersey’s Ryan Godown and New Yorker Mike Mahaney. Godown shot into the lead at the outset, while Brandon Grosso, a Garden State resident, raced from seventh to second before a lap-10 caution.
The next green flag run was when Matt Sheppard’s charge became noticeable. He had gone from 21st to 11thin the opening 17 laps. Following another yellow and another great restart, Sheppard was to the sixth position in the blink of an eye.
“We had a little bit of luck, we were in the right groove on a lot of restarts and things like that,” said Sheppard said, recounting his charge.
Working both the inside and outside lanes, Sheppard had climbed to the third position by lap 23.
On the ensuing green flag, the battle was on for the runner-up spot and Brandon Grosso was more than up for the challenge. Grosso was working the outside lane of the red clay surface and holding off Sheppard.
Meanwhile, the second-place battle was closing on Godown.
Just before the three-way battle was ready to begin, Mahaney came to a stop on the backstretch.
On the ensuing green, it was Grosso taking the spotlight – going high and low – looking for racing room to get by Ryan Godown.
“They were going at it pretty good,” Sheppard said of Godown and Grosso. “I could barely keep up with them.”
On a lap-35 restart, the story changed. Sheppard wasn’t going to wait around this time. Sheppard motored underneath Grosso for second and went to work on Godown.
Godown had been running the bottom all race, but after seeing the pressure Grosso put on him from the top, the Ringoes, N.J., resident decided to try the top. That was all Sheppard needed.
Sheppard worked below Godown and take the lead on lap 42 of the 50-lap affair. The 21st-to-first clinic was cemented, and Sheppard took home his eighth career STSS victory.
“We really didn’t change a whole lot after the heat race,” Sheppard said. “We waited for the track to come around to us.”
Godown finished second, taking home $3,200 after leading the $200 Superior Remodeling Halfway Lap with the Searock Motorsports No. 26.
Driving the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse No. 3, Mat Williamson of St. Catharine’s, Ont., roared from 25th starting position – a North Series provisional – to finish third. Williamson received the $200 Precision Hydraulic & Oil Hard Charger Award for his efforts.
“We weren’t very good in the heat race, but my guys worked their butts off and we were a lot better in the feature,” offered Williamson, who was making his Big Diamond debut.
Billy Pauch Jr. of Milford, N.J., drove Rick Holsten’s No. 96 to a fourth-place finish and Mike Gular of Boyertown, Pa., guided Terry Fasnacht’s No. 2A to fifth at the checkered.
Milford, Del.’s Jordan Watson wheeled his family owned No. 1J to a sixth-place finish, followed by Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass., recovering from an early flat tire; Grosso, of Montgomery, N.J., with a slowly deflating right-rear tire; Jeff Strunk of Boyertown, Pa., in Glenn Hyneman’s No. 126; and Danny Creeden of Wurtsboro, N.Y., up from 20th on the grid.
Rob Sherlock Roofing heat winners, each receiving $100 cash, were Rick Laubach, Mahaney, Gular and Strunk. Sheppard and Craig Von Dohren split the consolations.
Thirty-seven Modifieds checked into the pit area.
Pulling a car virtually out of mothballs, young Nathan Brinker of Allentown, Pa., annexed the ‘North vs. South’ STSS Crate 602 Sportsman 20-lap feature to earn a $1,500 payday. The event was historic as the first-ever Crate 602 Sportsman event at Big Diamond Speedway.
Brinker, driving a 2004 Bicknell with the No. 62 on its doors, led from start-to-finish in a race that spun off caution-free.
Lansing, N.Y.’s Tommy Collins, a proven traveler in Crate 602 Sportsman competition, ran within striking distance of Brinker in the final laps but settled for a $700 second-place result. Jimmy Johnson of Bloomingburg, N.Y., was a strong third. Like Collins, he was tight with the leader as the distance wore down.
A pair of Empire State drivers – Bobby Flood and Tim Hartman Jr. – completed the front five finishers.
An impressive 32-car STSS Crate 602 Sportsman field signed in at a facility that does not host the division. Cole Stangle, Corey Cormier, Johnson and Flood took the heats. Joe Toth won the consolation.
COAL NUGGETS: A picture-perfect night for racing drew out the largest crowd to date for the ‘Anthracite Assault’ event, run for the first time on the new red clay surface applied to the speedway by promoter Jake Smulley during the off-season….
After breaking through with a series win at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, N.Y., on Memorial Day Sunday, Billy Decker was the first car out at Big Diamond, pulling to the infield on lap three….
Duane Howard’s Norm Hansell-owned No. 357 appeared poised for a podium effort until the right-rear tire went down on the 46th lap of the main….
The event started on time at 7:30 p.m., with the STSS Modified 50 completed by 10 p.m. in a quickly paced program….
Mike Gular now has four consecutive top-five finishes with the STSS dating back to Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y., April 7 (fifth), Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., April 30 (fifth), Thunder Mountain Speedway May 26 (fifth) and again Tuesday night at Big Diamond (fifth)….
Next up for the STSS is Halmar International North Region Event No. 4 on Wednesday, June 19 at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, N.Y., where the ‘Outlaw Showdown’ will reward the winning driver with more than $5,000 to win for 50 laps in the Finger Lakes.
To learn more about the 2019 Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit e-mail www.shorttracksuperseries.com, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out ‘Short Track Super Series’ on Facebook or @ShortTrackSS on Twitter or Instagram.
The Short Track Super Series is presented by American Racer/Lias Tire, Sunoco Race Fuel, Insinger Performance, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Halmar International, Velocita-USA, Design for Vision/Sunglass Central, Rob Sherlock Roofing, ATL Racing Fuel Cells, Behrent’s Performance Warehouse, Beyea Custom Headers, Bicknell Racing Products, Dirt Track Digest, EIBACH Springs, Escape RV, Fast Axle, Fox Racing Shocks, Henry’s Exhaust, Hig Fab, HyperCo, Kirkey Racing Fabrication, Land Hoe Maintenance, K&N, MJK Home Maintenance, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, QA1, Racing Optics, Superior Remodeling, Teo-Pro Car, VAHLCO, Velocita, WELD Racing & Wilwood.
‘ANTHRACITE ASSAULT’ RACE SUMMARY – BIG DIAMOND SPEEDWAY JUNE 4, 2019
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco ‘Combination North/South Event’ Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Ryan Godown, Mat Williamson, Billy Pauch Jr., Mike Gular, Jordan Watson, Andy Bachetti, Brandon Grosso, Jeff Strunk, Danny Creeden, Ryan Watt, Craig Von Dohren, Alex Yankowski, Craig Hanson, Rick Laubach, Frank Yankowski, Jimmy Horton, Duane Howard, Dan Bouc, Stewart Friesen, Allison Ricci, Ryan Krachun, David Van Horn, Mike Mahaney, Jeremy Smith, Anthony Perrego, Jared Umbenhauer, Doug Manmiller, Billy Decker.
Did Not Qualify: Brian Malcolm, Matt Stangle, J.R. Hurlburt, Billy Van Pelt, Frank Cozze, Mike Kolka, Brett Kressley, Tim Hartman Jr.
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire): Jeff Strunk (ninth) & Craig Hanson (14th)
ATL Fuel Cell Bonus ($200 Certificate): Mike Gular (fifth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Billy Pauch Jr. (fourth) & Jeff Strunk (ninth)
Bill Brown & Company Inc. Move of the Race ($50): Matt Sheppard
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jordan Watson (sixth)
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Ryan Watt (11th)
MJK Home Maintenance Heat-Race Hard Charger ($125): Brandon Grosso (advanced four positions)
Precision Hydraulic & Oil Hard Charger Award ($200): Mat Williamson
Racing Optics Bonus (Tear-Off Sleeve): Mat Williamson (third)
Rob Sherlock Roofing Heat Winner Awards ($100 each): Rick Laubach, Mike Mahaney, Mike Gular & Jeff Strunk
Sunoco Race Fuels Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Ryan Godown (second), Craig Von Dohren (12th) & Ryan Krachun (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Ryan Godown
WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award (FREE Wheel): Doug Manmiller
Wilwood ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($50 Certificate): Andy Bachetti (seventh)
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco ‘Combination North/South Event’ Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): NATHAN BRINKER, Tommy Collins, Jimmy Johnson, Bobby Flood, Tim Hartman Jr., Cole Stangle, Daniel Morgiewicz, Ryan Macartney, Ryan Kunkle, Trent Van Vorst, Corey Cormier, Blaine Klinger, Jonathan Swift, Sammy Martz Jr., Dylan Swinehart, Jim Housworth, Joe Toth, Aaron Bowes, Stacy Jackson, Dustin Jordan, Mike Schane, Travis Green, Mark Pettyjohn, Samantha Muller, Justin Grosso, Tim Guild, Joel Smith, Craig Whitmoyer.
Did Not Qualify: Cole Youse, Tom Princiotta, Kevin Brady, Dakota Kohler.