Pike County: Race report

Jeff Shepard wins Pike County Speedway feature. MAGNOLIA, MS (March 21) -- Jeff Shepard became the seventh driver in seven 2003 O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series events to win an "A" Feature Friday at Pike County Speedway. Seven different winners...

Jeff Shepard wins Pike County Speedway feature.

MAGNOLIA, MS (March 21) -- Jeff Shepard became the seventh driver in seven 2003 O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series events to win an "A" Feature Friday at Pike County Speedway. Seven different winners at the beginning of a season tied the record the series set in 2001.

Shepard, who last won an O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series race during his Rookie of the Year season in 2001, led the first five laps from the pole and regained first place when Joey Saldana's engine lost power with 11 laps remaining.

"I'd rather be lucky than good, and we were definitely lucky tonight," Shepard admitted. "We just had to keep this car in position to win. I tried Joey's line, and I wasn't any good there and Steve (Kinser) got by me, and then we kind of just hung out there in third for a while.

"This is what we needed with this team. I ran the World of Outlaws once before in the #5 car (owned by Guy Forbrook). It took us a while to get going, so whenever you can get a win this early in the season it's always a confidence builder. My guys did a great job tonight. Goodyear Tires, Charlie Garrett Engines, Maxim Chassis, and VRP Shocks, all of them got us here. Luck's always a big part of racing, and it was definitely on our side tonight."

Shepard, who joined Dave Helm's Vivarin team during the off-season, was the 11th-fastest qualifier -- .818 seconds off Jason Johnson's track-record pace. He earned the privilege of starting the 35-lap "A" Feature on the pole by winning the First Dash Race.

Shepard drove the #11H Vivarin Maxim into the lead as the green flag fell in the main event. He was opening a comfortable advantage when Craig Keel hit the berm in turn two and turned over early in the second lap.

Saldana, who started outside the front row, raced wheel-to-wheel with Shepard through the first and second corners as the green flag replaced the yellow, but was unable to surge ahead.

Defending and 17-time O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series champion Steve Kinser drove his #11 Quaker State Maxim past Daryn Pittman and Johnny Herrera during the third and fifth laps to take over third place.

Gary Wright, driving the #15 Parker Stores J&J while Donny Schatz raced in the Copper World Classic, spun in the fourth corner late in lap six and retired to the pit area. Saldana took the lead as the race resumed, steering his family's #17 Eagle Raceway MCI into the low groove between turns one and two to pass Shepard.

Saldana was a straightaway ahead of his closest pursuers when he entered lapped traffic early in the 12th lap. Kinser rode the rim through the third and fourth corners to pass Shepard several seconds later.

"B" Feature winner Curt Trainer's turn-two spin took the leaders out of lapped traffic early in lap 16. Saldana controlled the ensuing restart and was two car-lengths ahead of Kinser when he caught the back-markers five laps later.

Disaster struck for Kinser and Saldana during lap 25, however. "The King of the Outlaws" stopped in the second corner with a flat right rear tire and Saldana's engine suffered a broken rocker arm, allowing Shepard to restart ahead of the field.

Craig Dollansky, who started outside the seventh row, drove Karavan Racing's #7 VMAC Maxim past seven cars during the first 24 laps. The 2000 World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion passed Brooke Tatnell and Terry McCarl during laps 25 and 26 to claim fifth place.

Johnson and Second Heat Race winner Shane Stewart exchanged eighth place during the 27th and 29th laps, Stewart using an inside move through turns one and two and Johnson coming back with a high move in the same spot. Jason Sides, who started inside the ninth row, drove the Aramark Uniform Services Maxim past Stewart in the low groove between the first and second corners to claim ninth place.

Shepard was eight car-lengths ahead of Pittman when he took the checkered flag for the third "A" Feature victory of his O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series career.

Johnny Herrera's third-place finish was his fourth in the top four in five races. Mark Kinser, who leads the series with four "A" Feature victories at Pike County Speedway, finished in fourth place, ahead of Dollansky, McCarl, Tatnell, Johnson, Sides and Stewart.

Johnson sliced .086 seconds off the qualifying standard Mark Kinser set at Pike County Speedway on April 9, 2001, circling the high-banked, 3/8-mile oval in 13.391 seconds, an average speed of 100.814 M.P.H.

The $51,600 event served as a family reunion for four families. Steve and Mark Kinser are cousins, as are Jason and Todd Johnson. There were also two sets of brothers racing with the O'Reilly World of Outlaws Series at Pike County Speedway -- Jason and Paul Sides and Shane and Darren Stewart.

-WoO

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About this article
Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Mark Kinser , Darren Stewart , Donny Schatz , Steve Kinser , Craig Dollansky , Brooke Tatnell , Daryn Pittman , Jason Sides , Joey Saldana , Shane Stewart , Johnny Herrera