WEEDSPORT — Matt Sheppard needed all of his power and green flag laps to seal his sixth Super DIRTcar Series win of the 2019 season at the annual Hall of Fame 100 on Sunday at Weedsport Speedway.
Having secured a guaranteed start for NAPA Super DIRT Week earlier this year at Can-Am Speedway, Sheppard passed the guarantee to runner-up Erick Rudolph.
Rudolph started 11th and worked his way by all of the best Big-Block Modified drivers around except for Sheppard. Mat Williamson finished third to cap the podium finishes. Jimmy Phelps and Larry Wight rounded out the top five.
Sheppard shined in the feature, but didn’t roll off the hauler fast. The team had to put some work in after time trials and heat races.
“This car was unreal tonight,” Sheppard said. “We didn’t (handle) time trials very well. Probably our worst time trial all season. We were fifth in our group. I think this car was faster on lap 100 than it was in time trials.”
Sheppard started in the fourth position and quickly began showing a wheel to the runners ahead of him. Billy Whittaker and Williamson dueled for the lead while Sheppard watched from his lead.
“Good starting spot, a lot of green flag laps in a really good race car. It was a lot of fun,” Sheppard said. “With the dynamic racetrack, it took a lot of driver skill to find the right lines.”
Sheppard continued, “The car was stuck. I could get the left rear in that moisture. But I think the key to this place is moving around when you catch lapped cars. I could roll the middle really well too and just not get jammed up. That’s what it takes to win at this place.”
Rudolph started in 11th and needed just a few more laps to track down Sheppard. After passing nine cars, Rudolph went hunting for one more. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find him.
“I looked for (Sheppard) but I couldn’t see him,” he said. “I didn’t even know he was on the same track. A caution might have helped the cause, but that’s neither here nor there.”
There is no denying Rudolph’s dominance at Weedsport. He won the last series event there and backed that up with a nine-position advancement to grab second place.
“It was a great run for us from 11th and to come up with second shows how good our car was,” he said.
Rudolph added, “It seemed like the car wanted to be on the bottom and that’s where I put it. Every time I moved from the bottom it really did not like to be there, but it was turn and burn on the bottom for sure.”
Most observers agreed that Rudolph needed a few more laps and he would have been on Sheppard’s bumper.
Williamson picked the outside pole, took the fight and passed Whittaker.
“We struggled at the start and dropped back a little bit,” he said. “That restart really helped us. I felt like we had something for Matt (Sheppard) on that one run, but I think he was just caught up in lapped traffic and kind of playing with us. Congrats to those guys, they had a good car. It’s a solid third place for us tonight.”
Williamson has vocalized frustration with his performances at Weedsport Speedway. His rough showing in the last series race at Weedsport seemed to motivate him and his team to buckle down and get it right.
“We had a good car in the black slick stuff,” he said. “We thought it was going to get slicker. I can’t thank the guys who were on the car enough tonight. We’ve struggled at Weedsport time and time again so to be up here at the end of the night is pretty cool.”
Feature finish: 1. Matt Sheppard (9S), 2. Erick Rudolph (25), 3. Mat Williamson (88), 4. Jimmy Phelps (98H), 5. Larry Wight (99L), 6. Ronnie Davis (32R), 7. Billy Decker (91), 8. Chris Hile (5H), 9. Danny Johnson (21J), 10. Mike Mahaney (35), 11. Billy Whittaker (109), 12. Peter Britten (21A ), 13. Ryan Godown (26), 14. Dave Marcuccilli (M1), 15. Chad Brachmann (3B), 16. Pat Ward (42P), 17. Demetrios Drellos (111), 18. Ryan Arbuthnot (R70), 19. Jack Lehner (2L), 20. Paul St. Sauveur (37), 21. Rusty Smith (R2), 22. Billy Dunn (49), 23. Kyle Coffey (23), 24. Tim Sears (83X), 25. Adam Roberts (83X), 26. Alan Johnson (14j).