Sheppard claims Late Model feature victory at Lernerville
Brandon Sheppard's first stop at Lernerville Speedway was profitable as he scored a victory in the Late Model feature Friday night.
The current World of Outlaws Late Models Series points leader hopes it leads to much bigger things in a month when the series stops at the track for the three-day Firecracker 100.
“It was a fun night,” said Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill. “We learned some things that I think we can use next month and won the race, so it was good.”
Russell King finished second, Michael Norris was third, Alex Ferree was fourth and traveler Chase Junghans rounded out the top five.
Other winners Friday included Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, in V-8 Modifieds; Dylan Cisney, a Port Royal Speedway regular, in Sprint Cars; and Aaron Easler of Butler, in Stocks.
The victory is Easler's second at Lernerville. The first race to hit the track was the Stocks from the rained-out portion from April 28. The 20-lap feature was completed without a caution, and Tyler Dietz of Saxonburg picked up the victory, the fifth of his career at Lernerville.
King, the defending Lernerville champion and former WoO Rookie of the Year, started on the outside of the front row, next to WoO regular Chub Frank. King grabbed the lead on the start and held until lap 21 when Sheppard got him on a restart.
In between, there were numerous cautions that often don't help the race leader, and they didn't help King.
“Any time you are leading and in a flow, the cautions don't help,” King said. “But that's not the reason I lost the race, it's because I wasn't the best car out there. Mike Norris was probably the best car here tonight.”
There were five cautions during the feature and after each one King started on the outside. It worked until the final restart with five laps remaining when Sheppard got around coming out of Turn 2.
“The cautions obviously helped, but in (King's) position I think he did the right thing and started where he did,” Sheppard said. “But I was better on the bottom in Turns 1 and 2, and when some of the others carried too much speed up high I was able to get by.”
King thought about changing his position on the restarts.
“I thought about picking the bottom that last time on the restart, but I didn't,” King said. “(Sheppard) is leading the World of Outlaws right now. It's our fourth race of the year and probably his 40th so it's not terrible to lose a race to him.”
Sheppard is on his way to race in Kentucky Saturday. It is not a World of Outlaws race as the series is off until Friday's race at Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Norris had a good race after overcoming an early spin on the second restart. After a restart with 10 laps completed Norris jumped from 14th to fifth before two laps were completed.
“The car felt pretty good at the beginning,” Norris said. “I don't think I hit anyone, or was hit, on that restart. I think I just spun. Some of the other cautions helped me calm down a bit after that because I was pretty upset at myself.”
Williamson has won the first three features at Lernerville, and now has 22 career victories at the track.
“I've won three in a row before but never to start a season, anywhere,” said Williamson, the two-time defending Lernerville champion. “I've always said that when the track gets dry like it was tonight that it is hard for anyone to beat me, and that's how it was tonight.”
Like Sheppard, Friday was Cisney's first time at Lernerville, and it more than met his expectations.
“This was a track that required a lot of patience tonight,” Cisney said. “I've watched a lot of video of this place, and people always said it could go from one extreme to the other. With the cautions you really had to keep care of your tires.”
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.