BARBERVILLE, FL – In one of the most remarkable weeks in the history of the DIRTcar Nationals, Brandon Sheppard found a way to the front Saturday night at Volusia Speedway Park to win his fourth consecutive World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature.
It took Sheppard until Lap 8 of the finale to the 2019 event to find a way past early leader Chris Madden, who kept the pressure on Sheppard the entire 50-lap Feature. While Sheppard has made a living on the top side of the Volusia half-mile all week, he went low to slide past Madden entering Turn 3. The two raced all over the track through traffic, with Sheppard at one point making an evasive maneuver to avoid nearly plowing into a slower car entering the infield pits in Turn 4.
“I thought I saw him slowing down and the bottom is where I needed to be, it was too dirty across the middle and on top there, so I was just kind of hoping maybe he wasn’t there, but he was and I had to hang a right real quick and it slowed me up for sure,” said Sheppard, a third-generation racer from New Berlin, Ill. “I figured they would be right on me after that. It was just another phenomenal race.”
In the end, the Capital Racing teammates of Madden and two-time DIRTcar Nationals champion Shane Clanton gave it everything, but they couldn’t prevent Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis from his fourth World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series victory in a row, one short of the record set by Billy Moyer in 1988 and equaled by Moyer in 1989. Tim Fuller in 2009 and Rick Eckert in 2006 also won four in a row. It marked the first time in DIRTcar Nationals history one driver won four consecutive Dirt Late Model Features.
From Sheppard’s standpoint, it almost seemed as if he was in disbelief of his DIRTcar Nationals success at Volusia.
“It’s unbelievable, really,” said Sheppard, the 2017 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series champion. “There’s a lot of tough competition out here so for me to up here four nights in a row is unbelievable.”
Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds: Stewart Friesen and Danny Johnson waged an epic dirt racing duel through lapped traffic over the first 30 laps of Saturday night’s Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds finale before a couple of cautions allowed everybody from fans to racers catch their breath for a 20-lap shootout to the checkers.
Friesen, who on Friday night nearly won the NASCAR Truck Series event at Daytona International Speedway if not for being collected in a late crash, blasted to the lead on Lap 31, but Johnson wasn’t giving in even with Larry Wight breathing down his neck in a quest to win his second DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship. Then with 10-to-go Johnson drifted up so high he scraped the wall, Wight surged to second and tried to run down Friesen, who had extended his advantage until caution on the final lap set up a green-white-checkered finish with Wight restarting next to Friesen.
Friesen tried to hook up on the top side, but unbelievably jumped the cushion, put his right side into the Turn 1 and 2 wall with Wight charging to the front in a split second, then disaster struck for Wight as another car spun in Turn 2 to set up a second green-white-checkered scenario. This time Friesen stayed well away from the wall and kept Wight at bay over the final two laps to win. Still, Wight’s charge from eighth to second was enough for him to clinch his second DIRTcar Nationals overall title and first since 2015.
“With a guy like Larry running second who has Chili Bowl experience and everything else and on a track that’s like a big Chili Bowl for slide jobs, I didn’t know what to do,” said Friesen, a Canadian native and five-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion who now resides in Sprakers, N.Y. “I picked the top and made a mistake, luckily I got a mulligan and got to go again. I’m just speechless. We ran second here so many times the last couple of years and gave them up and I was like, ‘Oh, no, not again.’”
The thriller on the final night of the event capped off one of the most remarkable DIRTcar Nationals in memory, with side-by-side, back-and-forth battles for victory every night.
“This has turned into one of the marquee events in the nation and I’m just happy for Big-Block Modified racing,” Friesen said.
DIRTcar Nationals Race Report; Volusia Speedway Park; Feb. 16, 2019
World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series (50 laps): 1. Brandon Sheppard ($10,000); 2. Chris Madden; 3. Shane Clanton; 4. Dennis Erb Jr.; 5. Scott Bloomquist; 6. Ricky Weiss; 7. Darrell Lanigan; 8. Mike Marlar; 9. Kent Robinson; 10. Morgan Bagley; 11. Chase Junghans; 12. Brian Shirley; 13. Tyler Erb; 14. Josh Richards; 15. Kyle Hardy; 16. Boom Briggs; 17. Brent Larson; 18. Chub Frank; 19. Kyle Bronson; 20. Ivedent Lloyd Jr.; 21. Brandon Overton; 22. Mike Norris; 23. Tim McCreadie; 24. Dale McDowell; 25. Jimmy Owens; 26. Frank Heckenast Jr.; 27. Blake Spencer; 28. Don O’Neal; 29. Mike Hammerle.
Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds (50 laps): 1. Stewart Friesen ($5,000); 2. Larry Wight; 3. Billy Decker; 4. Justin Haers; 5. Danny Johnson; 6. Anthony Perrego; 7. Matt Sheppard; 8. Peter Britten; 9. Pat Ward; 10. Brett Hearn; 11. Jack Lehner; 12. Jessey Mueller; 13. Mat Williamson; 14. Demetrios Drellos; 15. Kyle Coffey; 16. Rich Scagliotta; 17. Jim Britt; 18. Kyle Sheldon; 19. Ryan Godown; 20. Tyler Thompson; 21. Yan Bussiere; 22. Will Thomas; 23. Billy Pauch; 24. Erick Rudolph; 25. Jo Jo Watson; 26. Tim Fuller; 27. Scott Hitchens; 28. Tyler Siri.