By Dave Medler/Tom Skibinski
The 2009 Super DIRTcar Series has suddenly turned into the Ã¢â‚¬ËœSuper MattÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Series as Matt Sheppard dominated the Northeast premier Big-Block Modified tour for the second straight race, climbing to the top in the Ã¢â‚¬ËœSummit Motors 100Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Friday night at Brewerton Speedway. For the second time in five days for Sheppard it was a third-miler taking center stage and the second-generation star from Waterloo, N.Y. grabbing all the spotlight as he dusted the field en route to his latest $6,000 triumph at the Ã¢â‚¬ËœD-Shaped DIRT Demon.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Other winners on Summit Cars Night were Dale Caswell in the IMCA Modified Empire State Series 25-lap race and Doug Williams in the ESDCA Mod Lite Championship 25-lap event.
“We were real good at Merrittville and we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t touch the car this week, I mean didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t touch ONE thing on it,” remarked Sheppard, 27, following his second straight victory at Brewerton that gives him three on both the series and at his Friday home track. “Came here with the same exact deal and it was good again tonight, so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re definitely going to write it down and put that in the notebook for later.”
Veteran Alan Johnson remained in contention from the opening green flag before settling for runner-up laurels, with local favorite Jimmy Phelps, cousin Ryan Phelps and defending track and Mr. DIRTcar Champion Billy Decker rounding out the front-five. Danny Johnson crossed the line seventh to earn a guaranteed starting berth in the prestigious Rite Aid 200 Championship race on Oct. 11 of Super DIRT Week XXXVIII at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.
Despite drawing the pole to start the 100-lap finale, Sheppard dropped to second behind front row partner Dale Planck with Jimmy Phelps, Decker and Alan Johnson picking up chase further back. Just as Chris Hile looped his mount in turn to force out the first of only three yellow flags, Johnson unseated Decker in the fourth slot to move outside for the ensuing lap nine restart.
Only two more laps clicked off before third-place starter Gary Tomkins spun all alone in the first corner collecting Larry Wight in the aftermath. Sheppard hounded Planck back under green flag conditions until finally forging the first lead change as the top two crossed the stripe to complete lap 26.
The third and final caution period arrived on lap 30 when Sean Beardsley suffered a flat left-rear tire, giving Johnson, Planck, Decker and Jimmy Phelps another chance to keep pace with the speeding Sheppard. Decker was first to take advantage, jumping past Planck on the last restart, blasting out of turn four high around Johnson on lap 33, then completing the forward charge outside of Sheppard as the leaders crossed the line side-by-side the next time around.
Johnson grabbed second by lap 40 with Sheppard hanging tight just ahead of Jimmy Phelps and Planck, but Sheppard returned the favor almost immediately and the JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell entry disposed of Decker soonafter with half the race in the record book.
Sheppard wasted little time pulling away from the pack while Decker went in the opposite direction as the race wore on. Jimmy Phelps overtook Decker for third on lap 73 and just four circuits later Ryan Phelps dropped Decker to fifth where he would stay for the remainder.
With traffic stretched around the entire speedway, the leaders made three-wide maneuvers regularly although their lane choice differed as the laps dwindled. Sheppard swept around heavyweights Justin Haers and Vic Coffey to complete lap 80 while Johnson split lapped cars twice in the final 10 laps to stay in reach. In the end it never mattered as Sheppard opened up an eight-car margin under the final checkered flag.
Finishing out of the top-five for the first time in 11 events this season was current Super DIRTcar Series points leader Brett Hearn, followed by Danny Johnson, Pat Ward, and Canadians Stewart Friesen and Pat OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Brien, who was the last driver to complete the entire distance.
“The car was probably better than what I showed,” noted Sheppard, after increasing his DIRTcar Northeast Big-Block Modified-best feature win total to an even dozen with his first career series victory at Brewerton. “You never know with this place so I just tried to take it conservative and ride around the bottom, plugged away and was able to sneak back by. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure Alan was right there. We had a good car, mightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been a little better than what I showed but I definitely wanted to take it easy.”
“These Bicknell chassis have been awesome and the cars are really dialed in with these Integra Racing Shocks. Then when you get a dialed in car you need a motor. These CC Performance engines have just been awesome as well all year long. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thank enough my owner, Jeff Brownell, and all my guys. Especially Minnie, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the only guy to come with me tonight and was there when we won at Merrittville, too,” Sheppard added.
Tim Johnson was the main crew member for his cousin Alan, helping DIRTcar NortheastÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all-time Big-Block winner piece together the same Bully’s Truck Stop-CFF, Inc.-Raymond’s Car Care/Bicknell ride that lost its entire right side in a multi-car crash the previous Sunday while contending at Cayuga County Fair Speedway.
“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anybody that could get that no. 9 tonight,” declared Johnson, 51, who was looking to double up at the Wight family facility after collecting first-place honors in July at sister track Fulton Speedway. “Finishing second to (Matt) is really like a win nowadays. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a helluva race car and he can drive it.”
“The outside was pretty good early but it went away. After that you kinda had to stay on the bottom to keep position. It got that way where the low groove worked the best for just about everybody, fortunately I got there before most of the others,” Johnson added.
Joining Sheppard as one of four qualifying heat race winners, Phelps mustered a patented late race run before settling for a fourth top-five finish to remain behind only Hearn and Sheppard in the coveted Mr. DIRTcar points chase.
“We were pretty good I thought, we were up there in the mix all night,” figured Phelps, who rallied past Johnson at Brewerton to register his first career Super DIRTcar Series win in 2006, last year finishing second to Decker in the final overall point standings. “Its just one of those deals, we had good track position, started good but BrewertonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a place you gotta have a real good race car to keep it up front.”
“Lapped traffic got awful thick out there, just followed the guy in front of us trying to wait for a hole to open. Fortunately, my guys gave me a solid race car and we were able to stay up in the hunt all night. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to Canandaigua tomorrow and hopefully get the monkey off our back over there. CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t complain with a third-place out here, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tough company,” Phelps said.
Tony Buffa led the opening 2 laps of the 25-lap Xtreme Auto Recovery / Empire State IMCA Modified Series feature before a quick yellow would fly on lap 2 to tighten up the field. On the restart Buffa would continue to lead as he now had company at the front of field as former track champion Dale Caswell looked for a way around Buffa.
With 5 laps in the books Buffa and Caswell ran side by side for the lead. Chris Fleming, Mike Smith and Victor McNeal ran a distant third through fifth. Two laps later Caswell would be scored as the narrow leader. At the halfway point Caswell still showed the way at the front of the pack, Buffa and Kevan Cook ran side by side for second with Mike Smith right there in the fray.
Over the final laps Cook and Buffa couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mount a serious challenge as Caswell was the first under the checkers. Cook, Buffa, Mike Smith and Lyle Smith rounded out the top-five.
Rick Donovan led the opening laps of the 25-lap Beaver River Distribution ESDCA Mod Lite Championship. Donovan got constant pressure from Gary Jeffries for the top spot. While Donovan and Jeffries battled for the lead, Doug Williams who started mid-pack was quickly making his way to the front. Coming out of turn four using the top of the speedway Williams would get around Donovan to be the new leader on lap-eight.
At the halfway point Williams and Tim Devendorf broke away for a two car race at the front. Donovan, Clayton Brewer III and Rocco Leone showed in the top-five. With 5 laps to go Williams continued to show the way as Devendorf tried to run Williams down. Justin Crisafulli ran alone in 3rd and Brewer and Leone fought for a top five finish. Over the final laps nobody had a serious challenge for Williams as he took the checkers for his sixth win of the year. Devendorf, Crisafulli, Leone and Brewer rounded out the top-five.
Next Friday Night August 14 Commercial Roofing presents DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds, Xtreme Auto Recovery IMCA Modifieds, Beaver River Distribution ESDCA Mod Lites, Tired Iron Repair 4-Cylinder Super Stocks and Gladiators. Gates open at 5:30p.m with racing begining at 7:30p.m.
For more information please go on line to www.brewertonspeedway.com. The track office number is 315-668-6906 with the race line reached at 668-RACE. Free parking and overnight camping will be offered. Children nine years of age and under will be admitted free of charge.
BREWERTON SPEEDWAY RACE SUMMARY
SUMMIT MOTORS NIGHT
RACE DATE: AUGUST 7, 2009
Modified Super DIRTcar Series 100-laps – MATT SHEPPARD, Alan Johnson, Jimmy Phelps, Ryan Phelps, Billy Decker, Brett Hearn, Danny Johnson, Pat Ward, Stewart Friesen, Pat OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Brien, Tim Fuller, Justin Haers, Tom Sears Jr., Vic Coffey, Jeff Brownell Jr., Jim Witko Jr., Billy Dunn, Steve Paine, Chris Hile, Michael Storms, Dale Planck, Larry Wight, Kevin Bates, Mike Mahaney, Vinnie Vitale, Tim Sears, Gary Tomkins, Mike Bowman, Sean Beardsley, Rich Scagliotta. Did Not Qualify Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Roy Shields, Roy Bresnahan, Chuck Bower, Chad Phelps, Tommy Scheetz Jr.
Xtreme Auto Recovery / Empire State IMCA Modified Series 25-laps – DALE CASWELL, Kevan Cook, Tony Buffa Jr., Mike Smith, Lyle Smith, Jerry Lobdell Jr., Chris Fleming, Victor McNeal, Dave Talbot, Eddie Sites, Pete Anderson, Jerry Beck, Bob Banks, J.J Courcy, Howard Jones, Pete Neff, Tyler Stoddard, Jim Walsh, Brad Weaver, Ken Rogers, Mark Griffin, Ryan Scott, Rich McNeal, Calvin Painter.
Beaver River Distribution ESDCA Mod Lite Championship 25-laps – DOUG WILLIAMS, Tim Devendorf, Justin Crisafulli, Rocco Leone, Clayton Brewer III, Terry Lapham, Rick Donovan, Lowell Zehr, Jeff Barker, Ricky Yelle, Nick Graziano, Andrew Schartner, Gary Jeffries, Mike Mullen, Jeff Blackburn, Lisa Thomas, Kelly Skinner, Bruce Ackley, Tim Forrest, Sam Usborne, Mike Bruce, Frank Sobotka.