The Rocket1 Racing team rolled into Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, Ohio) over the weekend, where Brandon Sheppard piloted the Valvoline No. 1 Seubert Calf Ranches/ Durham Racing Engines-powered Rocket Chassis to a pair of Top-5 finishes.
However, it was a very different atmosphere at one of the dirt track racing’s grandest venues. For the first time in it’s 67-year history, the famed half-mile oval hosted an event without fans.
Traditionally, the annual Dirt Late Model Dream, which was scheduled to pay $126,000-to-win, would have been contested on this weekend. With the 26th running of the lucrative event pushed to June 2021, the Dirt Late Model Stream Invitational was introduced.
A select group of 48 drivers, competed for over $200,000 in total purses in two $10,000-to-win preliminary programs and a 67-lap finale boasting a $50,000 top prize. Sheppard recorded a third-place finish in Thursday’s preliminary, followed by a sixth-place outing on Friday, and wrapped up the weekend with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s main event.
“Overall we had a solid consistent weekend, I can’t say that’s always been the case at Eldora,” said Sheppard.” “I’m happy with our team and the way everything went this weekend. Obviously, we wanted to win, but the consistency is definitely an improvement from some of the previous events here and we got some good notes for the next time. I’m looking forward to coming back for the World 100, and hopefully the return of fans in the grandstands.”
On Thursday, Sheppard advanced to a third-place finish in his heat race after starting fifth, which positioned him 12th on the starting grid for the preliminary night feature. Charging forward, Brandon improved nine spots to record a third-place finish behind race winner Kyle Strickler, and Shane Clanton. Ricky Thornton Jr. and Bobby Pierce rounded out the Top-5.
Returning on Friday evening for another preliminary program, Sheppard once again grabbed a third-place finish in his heat race. Starting the 30-lapper in 12th, Brandon advanced six spots to a sixth-place finish in the final rundown.
For the final night of the Dirt Late Model Stream Invitational on Saturday, Sheppard started the night with a heat race victory to lock into the 67-lap finale. Brandon was slated to start third but inherited the pole position when scheduled polesitter Chris Madden suffered terminal issues on his entry in staging.
At the start, Sheppard jumped out to the early lead, setting the pace for the first 17 circuits. On lap 18, Jonathan Davenport took control before Sheppard fought back to regain the top spot on lap 36.
From lap 36-63, Sheppard held off a hard-charging Bobby Pierce on the high side. On lap 64, Tim McCreadie drove to the inside of Sheppard and Pierce to take the lead and pulled away.
A caution on the final circuit setup a green-white-checkered sprint to the finish. McCreadie beat both Sheppard and Pierce into turn one and again darted away. As Pierce floated up the track ahead of Sheppard, Dale McDowell turned under them to make a bid for the runner-up spot.
After leading a race-high 45 circuits, Sheppard settled for a fourth-place finish behind McCreadie, Pierce, and McDowell. Chris Ferguson completed the Top-5.
“Thanks to my crew for all their hard work this weekend,” Sheppard added. “I had the spoiler knocked off about every night and they kept putting it back together and telling me to get up there and do it again. You can’t ask for much more than that out of your team.”
This weekend, June 12-13, Rocket1 Racing will purse the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) to South Carolina and Tennessee. Action opens on Friday night with the 22nd Annual Grassy Smith Memorial at Cherokee Speedway (Gaffney, S.C.), which pays $12,000-to-win. The action moves to Smoky Mountain Speedway (Maryville, Tenn.) on Saturday night for a $15,000-to-win program, dubbed the Mountain Moonshine Classic.
For more information on these upcoming events, please visit www.LucasDirt.com. Truckers are our unsung heroes, leaving their homes and families every day to deliver supplies that American’s need and count on. These men and women are driving long hours, and facing challenges on the road due to restaurant and rest stop closures. Valvoline is saying Thank You to truckers by delivering care packages to drivers across the country. You can say Thank You, too, by simply posting a #ThanksToTruckers message on your social media.
Rocket1 Racing would like to thank all of their marketing partners, which include Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Rocket Chassis, Ace Metal Works, Durham Racing Engines, FiveStar RaceCar Bodies, Gunters Honey, Hoosier Racing Tire, Integra Racing Shocks, Keyser Manufacturing, Petroff Towing, Slavic Custom Racing Shirts & Decals, Sweet Manufacturing, Sunoco Race Fuels, Accu-Force Shock Service, ATL Fuel Cells, Aurora Rod Ends, Barnes Dry Sump Oil Systems, Bazell Race Fuels, Beyea Custom Headers, Brown & Miller Racing Solutions, Brinn Transmissions, Cometic Gasket, COMP Cams, CP Carrillo, Dohm Cycles, Edelbrock, Fibreworks Composites, Hardrock Powder Coating, Howe Racing Enterprises, Jones Racing Products, Kenny’s Components, Maxima Racing Oils, MSD, NGK Spark Plugs, Tel Tac, Performance Bodies, Peterson Fluid Systems, Powers Performance, Performance Rod & Custom, Quarter Master, QuickCar Racing Products, Rocket Pre-Owned Motors, Safecraft, Show Trucks Unlimited, Simpson, Stealth Carburetors, Strange Oval, Suave Talk, Total Power Valvoline Pro-V Racing, Walker Performance Filtration, Weld Racing, Wiles Driveshafts, Wilwood Brakes, Winters Performance Products, Wrisco Aluminum, Xceldyne Valvetrain, and MSR Mafia Marketing Services.
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.