For the first time since May, Brandon Sheppard strapped into the seat of his Dennis G. Woodworth Attorney at Law No. B5 Valvoline/ The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development/ Pro Power Racing Engines/ Rocket Chassis Super Late Model.
Taking advantage of a break from the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, Sheppard drove his family-owned No. B5 to four DIRTcar Summer Nationals victories and the weekly points championship title.
Sheppard made his first Summer Nationals start of 2020 Tuesday at Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill. After charging to a heat race win from fourth, Brandon drew the third starting position for the 40-lap feature.
It didn’t take long for Sheppard to make his move, taking second from Frank Heckenast Jr. on lap three, then overtaking Brian Shirley for lead one lap later. Pulling away to a more than six second advantage, Brandon crossed the finish line ahead of Jeremiah Hurst, Shirley, Heckenast, and Jason Feger to claim $5,000.
“(The car) was just so good. It was on a rail tonight for the feature,” said Sheppard. “I had to work my tail off on it all night long though. I kinda started off different from what I’ve been racing on the (Rocket Chassis) house car, just what I’ve been normally running on this car and we were just a little bit off.
“The racetrack’s a little bit different than what we’ve been good on this year with this car. We had to work on it all night long to get it to where it needed to be. Every change we did to it, I could tell a difference, even if it was just a minor change. Typical Rocket Chassis, you know, we were able to tune it right in and it was flawless in the feature there.”
On Wednesday night at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway, Sheppard rallied to another heat race victory and later drew the fourth spot on the $5,000-to-win feature grid.
Sheppard took command of the top spot on lap 11 from Heckenast. Heckenast fought back to gain the lead again on laps 22-23. Sheppard got a better run on the top side to take the lead back, which he held all the way until the final 10 laps.
On lap 31, Shirley capitalized on an opportunity in lapped traffic to take control. Brandon fought back but would ultimately come up a mere 0.090 seconds short at the finish line. Heckenast, Ryan Unzicker, and Allen Weisser completed the Top-5.
Macon (Ill.) Speedway was the destination for Thursday’s Summer Nationals stop. Sheppard once again put himself at the front of the starting field for the A-Main by virtue of a 10-lap heat race victory and the redraw.
Sheppard played the waiting game through the first 80 laps, trailing leader Shirley through heavy lapped traffic. With Shirley stuck behind a slower car, Sheppard stole the lead on lap 81 and pulled away to a more than three second gap until a caution with two laps remaining. Surviving the restart, Sheppard held on for the $5,000 payday and his first career victory in the annual Harold & Review 100 at the 1/5-mile oval.
“We’ve been getting our butt whooped here for a long time,” Sheppard said. “We could win a Heat Race and start up front, but we could never seal the deal. Tonight, I was just really patient. I didn’t knock the deck out, not that I know of, maybe a little bit…”
“I just bided my time there and didn’t use up my tires. I was really easy on them in the first part of the race, then I saw Brian [Shirley] starting to fade a little bit and I knew it was my chance to try and make something happen.”
On Friday night at Fayette County (Ill.) Speedway, Brandon raced to another heat race win to earn a spot in the redraw for the $10,000-to-win main event. Drawing the fourth spot on the grid, Sheppard was an early retiree from the 50-lap affair after suffering a broken right-front tie-rod while battling for the top spot.
Shifting to the Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. on Saturday, Sheppard once again found himself starting fourth in the $10,000-to-win A-Main by virtue of the redraw following a heat race win.
Sheppard had cracked the podium by lap 9 and rode there until lap 35. After trading sliders with then-leader Daryn Klein, Brandon took control and pulled away to nearly a five-second advantage at the checkers. Shirley finished second with Shannon Babb, Heckenast, and Billy Moyer rounding out the Top-5 finishers.
“It was just an awesome night. Summer Nationals in the B5 – it feels really good to come out here and get some wins. I know the [Rocket1] boys are back home watching, and they’re probably proud of me, and it means a lot to me a lot to me to win on the Summer Nationals and be competitive, night-in and night-out,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard capped off an impressive week with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Sunday at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway. As has been the headline all week, Brandon charged to a convincing heat race victory to lock into the redraw for the $5,000-to-win finale.
Starting the 40-lap feature from the pole, Sheppard jumped out to a comfortable lead in the early stages. Heckenast assumed command after Sheppard was slowed by a sizeable group of slower cars on lap 14.
Heckenast held the point until a caution flag on lap 27, erasing his lead. On lap 32, Sheppard threw a slider to reclaim the top spot. Once back out front, Brandon went unchallenged over the remaining laps to claim the win. Heckenast finish second while Babb, Feger, and Steven Roberts completed the Top-5.
“It was a lot of fun,” Sheppard said of the big six-day stretch he completed with the Summer Nationals. “I hope they do a streak like this again next year that I can do. These places that are all within two hours of my house – all some of my favorite racetracks, and they all produce really great racing.”
In addition to his $25,000 in first-place earnings, Sheppard took home an extra $2,000 as the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Week No. 4 Champion. To learn more about these events, please visit www.DIRTcarSummerNationals.com.
This week, Sheppard will return to the seat of Rocket1, rejoining the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series for a tripleheader in Pennsylvania. On the docket for that trip is Lincoln Speedway on Thursday, August 20, Williams Grove Speedway on Friday, August 21, and Eriez Speedway on Saturday, August 22.
To learn more about these events, please visit www.WoOLMS.com.
Brandon Sheppard would like to thank all of his marketing partners, which include Dennis G. Woodworth Attorney at Law, Valvoline, The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development, Keyser Manufacturing, 34 Raceway, Budda Dirt Cars Transmission Sales & Service, Mark Richards Racing, Inc., Print Worx, Sheppard Auto Sales, Speedwerx, Bill West Enterprises, Fromme Enterprises, Hoosier Racing Tire, Integra Racing Shocks, Performance Bodies & Parts, Peterson Fluid Systems, Pro Power Racing Engines, Rocket Chassis, Shepp’s Bar & Grill, Simpson, Strange Oval, Stealth Racing Carburetors, Sunoco Race Fuels by Corrigan, Waterman Racing Components, Weld Racing, Wiles Racing Driveshafts, Wilwood Brakes, XS Power, and MSR Mafia Marketing Services.