Shirley breaks while leading, Sheppard drives off with back-to-back wins + weekly points bonus
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being around family and friends for a big 4th of July celebration. That was the scene Sunday night in Victory Lane, where Brandon Sheppard celebrated back-to-back DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature wins to a thunderous applause from the Lincoln Speedway crowd.
Piloting his family-owned #B5 Rocket Chassis that garnered him such a large fanbase around the bullrings of Illinois, Sheppard bagged his fifth career Hell Tour victory at the quarter-mile with a hefty payday, taking home $5,000 for the Feature win and an additional two-grand for topping the weekly points standings.
He led green-to-checkered in a non-stop Feature on Saturday night at Fayette County Speedway for his first win of the week, but Sunday night was a different scenario. Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, struggled in the opening laps to keep pace his strongest competitor, Brian Shirley.
Shirley jetted out to the lead from the pole and led the first 14 circuits, pulling away from Sheppard slightly each lap, before disaster struck his Bob Cullen Racing entry.
Shirley looked fine heading into Turn 1 on Lap 15 until he slowed dramatically at the exit of Turn 2 and immediately pulled to the infield. Broken components in the rear-end were reported as the culprit, forcing the four-time and defending Summer Nationals champion to watch Sheppard take charge of the race from the infield. He was left with a 20th-place finish.
“I was good in the middle at the beginning, but Brian was definitely better than I was,” Sheppard said of the situation in Victory Lane. “I hate to see that for him. I really would’ve liked for him to have been there at the end so we could have raced.”
Now in sudden control of the race, Sheppard maintained his pace through lapped traffic and kept it out front of Jason Feger and Frank Heckenast Jr. Bobby Pierce soon cracked the whip and began his march to the front, getting by Heckenast on Lap 22 and Feger seven laps later.
A caution with eight laps-to-go restacked the field and put Pierce right on Sheppard’s bumper for the restart.
“I saw the 32 was behind me after that caution, so I knew I was gonna have to work for it,” Sheppard said. “He’s been really tough.”
But the B5 got a great launch off of Turn 4, propelling him away from the rest of the field and across the finish line for his 26th career Summer Nationals Feature win.
“I was way too tight for the top. Man, I’m kinda wore out after that one. The cushion was big, and I was fighting this thing, but we were able to get it done,” Sheppard said.
Pierce drove it home in second for his fourth podium finish of the week, followed by Jason Feger, who notched his best finish of the season so far. Tanner English and Frank Heckenast Jr. completed the top-five.
The Hell Tour is off on Monday, but will return to action on Tuesday night, July 6, for its debut at the half-mile Knox County Fair Raceway. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps) 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 25-Jason Feger; 4. 81E-Tanner English; 5. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 6. 12-Ashton Winger; 7. 10J-Jordan Bauer; 8. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 9. 4G-Bob Gardner; 10. 15- Kolby Vandenbergh; 11. 38J-Jake Little; 12. 14G-Joe Godsey; 13. 26M-Brent McKinnon; 14. 14R-Jeff Roth; 15. 27-Greg Kimmons; 16. 38-Thomas Hunziker; 17. 16-Rusty Griffaw; 18. 30-Mark Voigt; 19. 1W- Donny Walden; 20. 3S-Brian Shirley; 21. 248-Brandon Lance; 22. 84-Myles Moos; 23. 74-Mitch McGrath; 24. (DNS) 148-Tim Lance Jr