WEEDSPORT, NY - DIRT 358-Modified rookie sensation Matt Sheppard, 18, came just .383 seconds from a major upset victory in his TEO Pro Car Small Block Modified No. 9s over Big Block Modified driver Scott Prentice last Sunday at the Cayuga County...
WEEDSPORT, NY - DIRT 358-Modified rookie sensation Matt Sheppard, 18, came just .383 seconds from a major upset victory in his TEO Pro Car Small Block Modified No. 9s over Big Block Modified driver Scott Prentice last Sunday at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway.
Sheppard, who recently won his first career 358-Modified feature at Fulton Speedway in only his first start in the division, started eighth and steadily worked his way to the second position on the slick and dry 3/8-mile track. With only a few laps to go, Sheppard caught eventual winner Prentice and began a side by side duel for the victory that shook Cayuga County to its foundation. Prentice was on the high side and Matt down low, and as they came out of turn four on the final lap, Prentice nosed out Sheppard for the big win.
"It was great to run second and come close to winning, especially with the group of guys that race there," said an excited Sheppard.
By finishing second, Sheppard beat former track champions Alan Johnson, Danny Johnson, Billy Decker, and Steve Paine, who serves as a mentor and car owner for Matt.
Sheppard currently leads the 358-Modified point standings at Cayuga County and is considered a heavy favorite to win the coveted track crown. It has been two years since defending Mr. DIRT 358-Modified champion Danny Johnson won in a 358-Modified at Weedsport against the Big Block stars. Last year at Cayuga County, Sheppard won nine DIRT Sportsman features including the track championship, so he is no stranger to victory lane. Without a doubt, Sheppard has the knowledge, skills, and backing to pull off an upset at the flagship track of DIRT Motorsports.
"That's one of our goals this season," said the talented driver.
Last Saturday night at Fulton Speedway, Sheppard started eighteenth in his Paine Motorsports/Terrell's Potato Chips No. 9s, and steadily moved towards the front. However, near the halfway point of the 35-lap event, the magneto let loose, causing the TEO Pro Car to lose power and be slightly rear-ended in turn four. Matt was unfortunately done for the night, and because of the DNF, fell to eighth in Fulton track points, tied with defending track champion and rival Alan Johnson.
After the second place run at Cayuga County, the Sheppard team headed East on the New York State Thruway to the Utica-Rome Speedway. It was a surprise appearance at the Sunday night half-mile 358-Modified track to prepare for the Sunoco Race Fuels 358-Modified Super DIRT Series 100 set for this Sunday. Without any warm-ups, Sheppard finished a close second in his heat race to Steve Hulsizer. The heads up start would place Matt fourth on the feature starting grid for the 40-lap season opener.
Matt moved quickly moved into the second position by lap four, and set his sights on race leader and defending track champion Ron Holmes. Without a doubt, he was closing in on the race leader, with a quick caution slowing the fast pace of the race. However, Matt was having troubles on the restarts as a carburetor problem caused him to start slowly, losing second to racing legend Jack Johnson. But, Matt stayed right there, and the top three were bumper to bumper. They began to dice for the lead in an incredible battle for position. Another quick yellow slowed the going, and the ensuing restart also found Matt falling back once again, losing third to eventual race winner J.J. Michaels. The next yellow came out for Matt as the talented young driver slowed with a problem on his Paine Motorsports/Terrell's Potato Chips No. 9s, and he ventured pitside, knocking himself out of contention for victory in only his first career Utica-Rome 358-Modified start. However, he continued on and finished seventh in the tough event, his second race of the day!
"We learned some things at Utica-Rome on Sunday, and I think we know what we need to do to run up front at that track. We're excited about this Sunday's Super DIRT Series event."
Catch rising star Matt Sheppard this weekend at in regular weekly racing action this Saturday at Fulton Speedway and on Sunday at the Utica-Rome Speedway for the opening 100-lap race of the Sunoco Race Fuels 358-Modified Super DIRT Series. Can the popular driver win his second of the young season at Fulton and can he beat all the Utica-Rome home track regulars and invading DIRT circuit veterans in the Super DIRT Series special, which will be the longest of his short career? Only time will tell, but with Matt Sheppard, one thing is for sure. Expect the unexpected, he is amazing!