CALISTOGA, CA (August 31) -- Jeff Shepard has been the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series' most consistent driver since the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. The Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year candidate has recorded nine straight top-11...
CALISTOGA, CA (August 31) -- Jeff Shepard has been the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series' most consistent driver since the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals. The Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year candidate has recorded nine straight top-11 finishes, including the first "A" Feature victory of his career and a Preliminary Feature victory in Friday's Harvest Classic opener at Calistoga Speedway.
Shepard, the third leader of the race, beat Paul McMahan down the back straightaway midway through the 18th lap to take the lead. The $5,000 victory pushed the Upperco, MD, driver past Joey Saldana and Andy Hillenburg into seventh place in the point standings.
"I'd never seen this place until yesterday, but the car was great, the Goodyear tires were great, and it was just an awesome night," Shepard said. "(Car owner and crew chief) Guy (Forbrook) knows just what to do to this car and, because of him, we've had a great western swing. I hope it just keeps going."
Shepard, the third-fastest qualifier in the 31-car field, won the Third O'Reilly Heat Race and earned the right to start the 25-lap feature inside the third row by finishing fifth in the Channellock Dash.
Hillenburg, who won his seventh Channellock Dash of the season, burst into the lead as the green flag fell in the Preliminary Feature. Outside pole-sitter Tim Shaffer won a back-stretch drag race with Hillenburg to take over first place several seconds later, however. Shaffer opened a 10-car-length advantage during the fifth lap, only to lose the lead three laps later. A broken rear end caused the #11H Vivarin Maxim to slow dramatically as Shaffer entered the second corner. Hillenburg, who was close behind, collided with Shaffer and spun, giving McMahan first place.
Craig Dollansky, who started outside the fifth row, exchanged fifth place with Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series points leader Mark Kinser during laps nine and 10. Steve Kinser and Stevie Smith also passed the defending World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion within the next two laps.
Shepard chased McMahan for 10 laps before taking the lead on the back straightaway during the 18th lap. The leaders were approaching lapped traffic the next time around when Saldana stopped in turn two with a flat right rear tire. Saldana, who was running third at the time, raced into 17th place in the final eight laps.
Steve Kinser, a five-time winner at Calistoga Speedway, steered his #11 Quaker State-NAPA Auto Parts Maxim into the low groove in the second corner to pass cousin Mark for fourth place as the green flag replaced the yellow.
Smith used an inside move between turns and two to pass Mark Kinser with 5 2/3 laps remaining, while Sammy Swindell challenged McMahan for second place.
Hillenburg battled Donny Schatz for two laps before steering his #2 Luxaire J&J high in the second corner to pass the 1997 Rookie of the Year early in lap 23. Schatz came back with a daring dive through the low groove between turns one and two to pass both Hillenburg and Dollansky and claim ninth place the next time around.
McMahan was seven car-lengths behind when Shepard took the checkered flag for his second Preliminary Feature victory of the year.
"I think the Hoosier tires fire a little quicker and Paul was able to get a better start, but once we ran a few laps he started to get a little loose and I was able to get by him," Shepard explained. "Then we caught a caution right after that and it gave us some clean air to run in and that was it."
Swindell, who has won three main events at Calistoga Speedway, held off "The King of the Outlaws" for third place. Smith finished fifth, ahead of Danny Lasoski, Mark Kinser, Randy Hannagan, Schatz and Dollansky.
Lasoski closed to within 16 points of Mark Kinser in their battle for the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship by driving NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart's #20L J.D. Byrider Eagle past nine cars to finish in sixth place. Kinser, who set Calistoga Speedway's single- lap record last September 1st, paced the qualifying session with a 110.926-m.p.h. lap around the semi-banked, 1/2-mile oval.
A driveline malfunction in 1995 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion Dave Blaney's #10 U.S. Print/MBNA/Mopar Maxim cost Dale Blaney the sixth row outside starting position in the evening's main event. Unable to take the green flag, Dale was scored 23rd.
Engine problems kept Australian Peter Murphy from starting the feature as well, so he received credit for 24th place.