By Alli Collis
PLYMOUTH, Ind. (June 29) — Barely hanging on at the checkers to complete a flag-to-flag victory, polesitter Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., nipped fellow front-row starter Scott Bloomquist at the checkers for a $5,000 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory at Plymouth Speedway.
“I’ve run the tour numerous times,” Sheppard said after winning a battle between former tour champions. “It definitely means a lot to me to come out here and get this win. I think I’ve got a win every year in the Summernationals since 2011, so it feels good to keep that streak going, for sure.”
Winning Thursday’s third heat race and redrawing to start on the pole of the main event, Sheppard shot out to an early lead in the 40-lapper. But as the leaders caught the rear of the field at the lap-10 mark, second-running Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, cut down the Rocket Chassis house car driver’s lead.
Just as Erb prepared to challenge Sheppard for the lead, Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., slowed to draw a caution on lap 13. It was Bloomquist who used the restart to his advantage, slipping past Erb to grab second.
Sheppard maintained his lead through the middle stages of the race, as Bloomquist and Erb continued their battle for the runner-up spot. In the waning laps, Bloomquist pulled away from Erb and began reeling in Sheppard. The Hall of Famer’s last-ditch attempt to overtake Sheppard with an outside move fell short as Sheppard notched his 12th career Summernationals victory.
“The lapped car was holding me up there a little bit,” Sheppard said. “I couldn’t really get going on the bottom like I needed to to get going down the straightaway. I was kind of waiting on the gas too much. I never seen (Bloomquist) out there and I knew as long as I hit that brown before he did that I could probably beat him to the line. He definitely made it tough on me.
“Tyler Erb set a really good pace there at the beginning of the race and had me up there on top overheating my tires a little bit. Once Scott got to second, I had to move down to the bottom and my left-rear tire, I’m sure it was blazing hot. We had a good car … we’re just really fortunate right now. We’ve got a really consistent race car.”
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., improving from his sixth starting spot to finish third. Erb finished fourth, with Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., rounding out the top five.
“We were working the middle and just running right in the slick,” Bloomquist said. “I thought we were going to have him there and then all of a sudden he abruptly turned to the bottom. We had to regroup and change our lane and move up a little and just try to find something. I didn’t see the white. I saw the checkered, but I didn’t realize that was the last lap. But I know it was pretty close.”
It was a solid night for third-running Shirley, who was pleased with his podium finish after a lackluster performance in the June 22 Hell Tour stop at Spoon River Speedway in Banner, Ill.
“It was a good run for us tonight,” Shirley said. “We come out of the box the other day at Spoon River and got this new car out and didn’t perform the way we felt like we should. So we went back home … made sure the car was right. Luckily it paid dividends tonight, putting in a solid finish.”
Notes: Sheppard’s previous series victory came June 25, 2016, at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway. … Sheppard, who was making his first tour start of 2017, has won a UMP tour event every year since 2011. … Feature cars took the track at 7:40 p.m. … The race was slowed by two cautions. … The first yellow flag flew on the opening lap when Rusty Schlenk spun on the fronstretch, bringing the race to a complete restart. … A smoking Shannon Babb came to a stop in turn four to draw a caution on lap 13. … Eric Spangler of Lake City, Mich., scratched after hot laps after twisting an axle. … The series made its first-ever visit to Plymouth. … According to records provided by DirtonDirt.com’s Todd Turner, the last time Hall of Famers Scott Bloomquist and Billy Moyer entered a Hell Tour event together was July 16, 2003, at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, Minn. Bloomquist was the winner of the event, while Moyer was crowned the series champion that night.
FEATURE: 1. Brandon Sheppard; 2. Scott Bloomquist; 3. Brian Shirley; 4. Tyler Erb; 5. Billy Moyer; 6. Kyle Bronson; 7. Bobby Pierce; 8. Brent Larson; 9. Billy Moyer Jr.; 10. Chase Junghans; 11. Gordy Gundaker; 12. Bob Gardner; 13. Rusty Schlenk; 14. Curt Spalding; 15. Paul Stubber; 16. Zeke McKenzie; 17. Jose Parga; 18. Dan Gehring; 19. Dustin Nobbe; 20. Shannon Babb; 21. Brandon Williams.