Sheppard Tops East Bay’s Monday Makeup

Sheppard

Brandon Sheppard in victory lane at East Bay Raceway Park. (Heath Lawson photo)

GIBSONTON, Fla. – Brandon Sheppard cracked the winner’s circle with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for the first time this year Thursday night at East Bay Raceway Park.

Sheppard became the fourth and final leader of an exciting 30-lap feature that was originally scheduled for Monday night and then postponed after rain wiped out the Monday program.

The New Berlin, Ill., native then held off all comers to visit the winner’s circle at East Bay for the 10th time in his career during the final Wieland Winternationals presented by Lucas Oil.

The Monday events were made up in three segments throughout the week, with Thursday’s nightcap feature concluding the postponed festivities.

Sheppard battled with fellow Illini state driver Brian Shirley from lap 18 on, until he was able to open some distance between himself and Shirley as the laps wound down.

Shirley ultimately took second and Devin Moran crossed third, followed by Tyler Erb in fourth and Ross Robinson in fifth.

Former Dirt Track World Championship winner Garrett Smith paced the first two laps of the race until Moran took over the point. Moran then held the top spot until Shirley got by him using the bottom groove by the halfway mark.

Shirley led on two different occasions during the race, but finally relinquished the lead to Sheppard for good on lap 20. Sheppard went on to win by 1.491 seconds.

Sheppard became the sixth different series winner this year, claiming his first victory of the season and the 32nd of his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series career.

“Man, you just never know [if you’ll be able to win], because the competition is so tough right now and all these guys do such a good job,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “The racetrack is so different each night. Hats off to everyone here at East Bay for giving us such a good racetrack again here. When you have highs and lows like we have, it takes a lot of good people to be able to stick it through.

“I hate it that I had to pass my old buddy [Brian] Shirley for the win. I know he’s needed a good run this week too,” Sheppard added. “It feels really good to be back in victory lane, though.”

Sheppard, who started ninth, took the lead for good with 11 to go after a back-and-forth battle between himself and Shirley.

“Honestly, after the first feature tonight, I knew we had a really good car,” Sheppard tipped. “Things just didn’t fall my way in that one. I think we started 11th and came all the way [to] sixth.

“We raced with this car last night, but in the first feature, we ran a different car. The guys wanted to run this one in this feature, and I wanted to give the old girl a chance. It’s one of our older cars from last year.”

Shirley, who has never won a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event or a Georgia-Florida Speedweeks race, came agonizingly close to ending those streaks Thursday night.

“That hole was there in one for the entire 40 laps in the first feature and 30 laps that race. I just hit it the wrong way with about five or six to go there,” tipped Shirley of what cost him a chance at the win. “I tried my best to crowd him [Sheppard] to try and get by him. It just wasn’t good enough.

“That one stings, because we only have two more tries here this week,” Shirley added, referencing the rapidly approaching conclusion to East Bay’s final Winternationals event. “I would definitely like to put my name in the record books here.”

Moran, who led multiple laps before the halfway mark, yielded the lead to Shirley on lap 15 and fell to third at the end.

“I felt really good when I could run the top down in [turns] three and four and the bottom on the other end of the track,” explained Moran. “The car was really good underneath me, and I kind of migrated to the bottom and just couldn’t run the bottom like those front two guys could. We’ve been making progress on it, and we just need to keep on working and see what we can do for tomorrow and Saturday.

“[The track] obviously had a lot more character that people wanted tonight, but I know Al [Varnadore] will get it smoothed back out for tomorrow.”

Completing the top 10 in the Monday makeup event were Tyler Erb, Daulton Wilson, Jason Riggs, Ethan Dotson, and Tanner English.

The finish:

Lucas Oil Makeup A-Main (30 laps): 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard [9]; 2. 3S-Brian Shirley [5]; 3. 99-Devin Moran [3]; 4. 1-Hudson O'Neal [6]; 5. 7-Ross Robinson [11]; 6. 1T-Tyler Erb [2]; 7. 18D-Daulton Wilson [10]; 8. 81-Jason Riggs [7]; 9. 174-Ethan Dotson [4]; 10. 96V-Tanner English [16]; 11. 12-Ashton Winger [24]; 12. 19M-Spencer Hughes [12]; 13. 14X-Wil Herrington [19]; 14. 76N-Blair Nothdurft [8]; 15. 71C-RJ Conley [13]; 16. 6H-Ross Bailes [14]; 17. 10-Garrett Smith [1]; 18. 58-Garrett Alberson [18]; 19. 40B-Kyle Bronson [21]; 20. 28-Dennis Erb Jr. [17]; 21. 66C-Matt Cosner [22]; 22. 1Z-Logan Zarin [23]; 23. 49-Jonathan Davenport [15]; 24. 111-Max Blair [20].

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