By CHRIS MOORE
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Matt Sheppard has a long resume of victories in his dirt Modified career.
Orange County Fair Speedway, however, had eluded him.
Until Sunday, that is. ‘Super Matt’ collected his first-ever victory at the Legendary House of Power in the Escape RV Inc. ‘Hard Clay Open’ to launch Race No. 1 of the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco Halmar International North Region.
Sheppard collected $11,919 from the posted $47,219 payout plus $100 from Rob Sherlock Roofing for winning his heat race, $150 as a Precision Hydraulic & Oil Halfway Cash Dash winner and $200 from Superior Remodeling as the Halfway Leader for a total of $12,369 for 50 laps!
The win for Sheppard came from 12th starting position aboard the Hurlock Auto & Speed No. 9s.
“There were no excuses tonight,” a smiling Sheppard said after climbing to the roof of his Bicknell race car. “We started 12th and had to drive our way to the front.”
A field of 60 STSS Modifieds rolled through the gates in hopes of kicking off the 100th anniversary of OCFS in Victory Lane. The car count was the highest in the six-year history of the ‘Hard Clay Open’ springtime event. A large crowd took in the action from both sides of the five-eighths-mile oval.
Invader Danny Varin and defending OCFS champion Anthony Perrego led the field to the drop of the green flag for the 50-lap affair. Varin grabbed the initial lead in the Magsarus No. 93, with Perrego wasting little time in his drive to the front. He rolled the outside lane to the lead on lap three.
Following a yellow on lap seven, two cars stood out from the rest. Matt Sheppard had made his way from his 12th starting spot to sixth in the first seven laps. Not too far behind was Stewart Friesen who was up to 11th from his 20th starting position.
When the race resumed, Sheppard and Friesen continued their assault on the field. After Varin took the lead back from Perrego on the restart, a three-car battle ensued after Sheppard climbed into the third spot. After three laps of intense, door-to-door racing, Sheppard emerged from the fray with the lead on lap 16 and went to work on lapped traffic.
Friesen’s Halmar International No. 44 had clawed his way into the top-five and caught the battle up front. He along with, Perrego, Varin, Brett Hearn, and Mat Williamson fought for the runner-up spot until a yellow came out on lap 31.
Sheppard motored away on the restart, leaving the chasers battling each other. Williamson began to show signs of an ill-handling racecar, sliding back to fifth before cutting the right-rear tire on the Jeff Behrent-owned No. 3 prior to the final yellow on lap 48.
Friesen’s climb from the 10th row ended with a runner-up finish as Savannah, N.Y.’s Sheppard broke his long winless drought at Orange County.
Friesen, of Sprakers, N.Y., earned $5,000 as the race’s runner-up plus $400 from Rock Fantasy Concert Shop in Middletown, N.Y., as the race’s Hard Charger for his 18-position ascent.
Middletown, N.Y.’s Perrego placed third in the Superior Remodeling No. 44 ($4,000), followed by Sussex, N.J.’s Brett Hearn, who survived a 360-degree spin in turn one to place fourth ($2,600 including heat win money) and Boyertown, Pa.’s Mike Gular, who drove forward from 16th to finish fifth in the Terry Fasnacht-owned No. 2A ($1,800).
Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Mike Mahaney of King Ferry, N.Y., in the Olum’s No. 33 ($1,600); Brian Krummel of Middletown, N.Y., who started 13th aboard the Zubi’s Racing No 17z ($1,400); Danny Johnson of Rochester, N.Y., driving the Petruska family No. 66 ($1,300) up from 21st on the grid; three-time STSS North Region champion Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass. ($1,300); and 15th-starter Billy Decker of Sidney, N.Y., the defending North Region champion, driving Jeremy Smith’s No. 91 ($1,150).
Rob Sherlock Roofing $100 heat winners were Varin, Mahaney, Bachetti, Hearn, Craig Hanson and Sheppard. Billy Pauch Jr., Friesen and Johnson topped the consolations. Jerry Higbie took the 3-lap Last Chance Qualifier.
A split 6-lap Precision Hydraulic & Oil Cash Dash rewarded winners of two 3-lap segments. Varin and Sheppard each collected $150.
Grant Hilfiger rim-rode to victory in the accompanying 20-lap Crate 602 Sportsman feature. Hilfiger, of Canadensis, Pa., powered past longtime OCFS competitor Jimmy Johnson in the final laps to take home a $1,000 top prize.
“I’ve always been intimidated by this place,” Hilfiger said. “But I took a different approach tonight.”
Hilfiger completed his pass of Johnson with three laps to go. Johnson settled for second, followed by Leiby, Pat Reiser and Sammy Martz Jr.
The Crate 602 Sportsman event was a non-points program run under OCFS weekly rules.
HARD CLAY HAPPENINGS: Despite a huge turnout of 106 total race cars, series and track officials completed pre-race and safety inspections quickly and the event rolled off on time….
The outstanding night for Danny Varin ended two laps from the finish when he was clipped and spun in turn four. The Fonda, N.Y., driver went off on the business end of the wrecker….
Andy Bachetti caught the inside wall in the Precision Hydraulic & Oil Cash Dash, requiring his race team to scramble to make repairs in time for the main event….
Stewart Friesen was a consolation qualifier after spinning while challenging for the lead in his heat race….
Pennsylvania driver Mike Gular continued his affinity for Orange County, driving from 16th to finish fifth in the 50-lap feature….
The WELD Racing Wheels Hard Luck Award went to J.R. Hurlburt who was eliminated in a heat-race tangle before reaching the starter’s stand….
Next up for the STSS: Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., presents the ‘Diamond State 50’ for the Velocita-USA South Region paying $5,000 to win for 50-laps plus STSS Crate 602 Sportsman, Delaware Super Trucks and Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Cars.
To learn more about the 2019 Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com, e-mail 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, 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.
ESCAPE RV ‘HARD CLAY OPEN’ RACE SUMMARY – ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY APRIL 7, 2019
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Halmar International North Region Event No. 1 Modified Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Stewart Friesen, Anthony Perrego, Brett Hearn, Mike Gular, Mike Mahaney, Brian Krummel, Danny Johnson, Andy Bachetti, Billy Decker, Jimmy Horton, Danny Creeden, Chris Whitehead, Mat Williamson, Allison Ricci, Ryan Watt, Tommy Meier, Brian Gleason, Craig Hanson, Brett Tonkin, Danny Varin, Tyler Dippel, Brandon Grosso, Jeremy Smith, Willy Decker, Rick Laubach, Tyler Boniface, Jerry Higbie, Billy Pauch Jr., Matt Janiak.
Did Not Qualify: Dominic Roselli, Michael Storms, Ryan Krachun, Billy Van Pelt, Bob McGannon, Sam Martz, Roger Henion Jr., C.G. Morey, Donnie Wilson, Mike Kolka Jr., Kenny Tremont Jr., Joey Bruning, Danny Tyler, Billy Van Inwegen, Joe Falanga, Rich Eurich, Tyler Treacy, Gary Edwards, Kurt Hundeland, Joe Judge, Stan Frankenfield, Leo Fotopoulos Jr., Danny Cronk, Tim Hindley, John Ferrier, Craig Mitchell, J.R. Hurlburt, Corey Lowitt, Jeff Heotzler, Rich Eggers.
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire): Brian Krummel (seventh) & Chris Whitehead (13th)
ATL Fuel Cell Bonus ($200 Certificate): Mike Gular (fifth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Brett Hearn (fourth) & Andy Bachetti (ninth)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Mike Mahaney (sixth)
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Jimmy Horton (11th)
MJK Home Maintenance Heat-Race Hard Charger ($150): Mat Williamson (ninth to second)
Racing Optics Bonus (Tear-Off Sleeve): Anthony Perrego (third)
Rob Sherlock Roofing Heat Winners ($100 each): Danny Varin, Mike Mahaney, Andy Bachetti, Brett Hearn, Craig Hanson & Matt Sheppard
Rock Fantasy Hard Charger Award ($400 cash): Stewart Friesen (20th to second)
Sunoco Race Fuels Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Stewart Friesen(second), Danny Creeden (12th) & Tyler Dippel (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader ($200): Matt Sheppard
WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award (FREE 5XL Wheel): J.R. Hurlburt
Wilwood ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($50 Certificate): Brian Krummel (seventh)
Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): GRANT HILFIGER,Jimmy Johnson, Jesse Leiby, Pat Reiser, Sammy Martz, Matt Schultz, Jimmy Leiby, Daniel Morgiewicz, Kenny Ferrier, Will Shields, Tyler Thompson, Brian Neiger, Nick Plumstead, Jordan Lawrence, Ryan Macartney, Greg Sleight, Austin Smith, Danny Carlough, Joe Toth, Jake Mason, Bobby Flood, Jeffery Lapalme, Jared Labagh, Scott Zehnacker.
Did Not Qualify: Rich Ricci III, John Aumick, John Brown, Charles Loiodice, Brian Jones, Howie Finch, Kenny Ryder, Winter Mead, Mel Schrufer, Tighe Sherlock, Travis Billington, Eric Avenengo, Kyle Redner, Mike Talmadge, Billy Eggers, Troy Arnold, Bob Jashembowski, Aaron Doolittle, Anthony Falanga, Pat Mann, Michael Sabia, Willis Mann.