FULTON, NY - Rookie driver Matt Sheppard, 18, had plenty of reason to celebrate last weekend as he won his second DIRT 358-Modified feature on the clay high banks of Fulton Speedway and completed his freshman year at the Rochester Institute of ...
FULTON, NY - Rookie driver Matt Sheppard, 18, had plenty of reason to celebrate last weekend as he won his second DIRT 358-Modified feature on the clay high banks of Fulton Speedway and completed his freshman year at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Sheppard, a mechanical engineering student, is now two wins for three starts over the veterans at Fulton, and making more of an impact than any rookie driver in speedway history.
Just three weeks ago, he became the youngest driver ever at Fulton to win a 358-Modified feature, and made a statement that he will be tough for the rest of the season, and maybe even a championship contender. Sheppard proved any naysayers wrong with a 35-lap victory aboard his TEO Pro Car last Saturday, after coming from the ninth starting position and holding off point leader Jeff Rudalvage plus former track champions Jimmy Phelps, Alan Johnson, and John Barker for the popular win.
Sheppard steadily worked his way to the front of the pack in his Paine Motorsports/Terrell's Potato Chips No. 9s, and on a lap 9 restart went from third to first in one corner, taking the lead away from John Barker. He led the remainder of the Budweiser sponsored race, and held off several close charges from Rudalavage, who is having his best ever season at Fulton.
Sheppard is currently ranked third in Fulton 358-Modified track points with 140 points, with Jeff Rudalavage (156 points), and Jimmy Phelps (164 points) just ahead. In addition, he leads the 358-Modified point standings at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway in Weedsport, where he nearly scored an upset victory over the Big Blocks several weeks ago.
Nearly two weeks ago in the Sunoco Race Fuels 358-Modified Super DIRT Series opener at the Utica-Rome Speedway, Sheppard finished a very respectable sixth place in just his first series start. In addition, during time trials, Sheppard set the JE Pistons fast time, with a quick lap time of 20.167, a speed of 71.404 on the fast Utica-Rome 4/10-mile oval.
And just this past week, Area Auto Racing News placed Matt in their current top ten rankings for DIRT Modified drivers in the Northeastern United States. He now ranks tenth as of May 20, and hopefully can stay in the top ten rankings with the best names in Modified racing throughout the summer.
All eyes this Saturday May 26 at Fulton Speedway will be on young rookie sensation Matt Sheppard. Can the popular teenager win two in a row? Only time will tell, but you have to be there to find out. One thing is for sure, he continues to impress the veterans with his natural ability and could very well be one of the best newcomers to DIRT racing in several decades.
Racing at Fulton Speedway has never been better and this Saturday kicks off at 7pm with Starter Dick Sweet's green flag. Also in race action besides the DIRT 358-Modifieds will be the DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks. For more information, contact the speedway office at (315) 593-6531 or log onto www.fultonspeedway.com.