Brandon Sheppard Captures ‘Photobilly 50′
Sheppard Scores First-Ever World of Outlaws Late Model Series Victory In ‘Photobilly 50′ At Belle-Clair Speedway
Fast-Rising Teenage Star Sweeps Program In Front Of Home-State Fans
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
BELLEVILLE, IL – Sept. 14, 2012 – Brandon Sheppard earned his first-ever World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main victory with a picture-perfect performance on Friday night at Belle-Clair Speedway.
Racing in front of his home-state fans, the fast-rising 19-year-old star from New Berlin, Ill., emerged triumphant in the ‘Photobilly 50′ to complete a sweep of the national tour’s inaugural program at the one-fifth-mile fairgrounds bullring.
Sheppard established a new track record in time trials, led every lap of his heat race and paced the evening’s headliner from start-to-finish behind the wheel of Mark Richards’s high-profile Rocket Chassis house car. He even ‘won’ hot laps, turning the quickest circuit of the program’s practice session to signal his ultimate supremacy.
“This is just an amazing feeling,” said Sheppard, who pocketed $12,550 for the biggest win of his young career. “It’s a huge confidence booster for me to get my first (World of Outlaws) win off my back. We had a close one a couple weeks ago (on Aug. 18 at Merritt Raceway in Lake City, Mich.) when Josh (Richards) won and we ran second, so it feels really good to know that I can do it.”
Sheppard, who started from outside of the front row, outgunned polesitter Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., for the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back. But he had to survive five caution flags and a late-race threat from dirt Late Model legend Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., to preserve the victory.
Moyer, who turns 55 next month, moved his Victory Circle machine into the runner-up spot on lap 25 when Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., was penalized two positions, to fourth place, by WoO LMS officials for firing early on a restart. The three-time WoO LMS champion fought off a brief challenge from Babb following a lap-39 caution period and drew close to Sheppard on the final lap but settled for a second-place finish, 0.675 of a second behind the winner.
Babb, 38, faded after crunching the right-rear corner of his Victory Circle car against the outside wall on lap 42, leaving him over three seconds behind Moyer in third place at the checkered flag. He started the race on a roll – advancing from the sixth starting spot to second in just 11 laps – but never seriously challenged Sheppard before absorbing his mid-race penalty.
WoO LMS points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., finished fourth in his Rocket mount, breaking into the top five late in the distance after starting 14th. Kyle Logue of Cisco, Ill., registered a career-best WoO LMS finish of fifth in his Pierce car after overtaking Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., on the last circuit.
Sheppard credited his success to his previous experience at the tricky Belle-Clair oval – specifically, his run to a third-place finish with the Rocket No. 1 in the track’s DIRTcar Summer Nationals event on June 25.
“I think a big advantage for us over these Outlaw guys was that we were able to come here for the Summer Nationals,” said Sheppard, noting that none of the WoO LMS regulars had ever raced a dirt Late Model at Belle-Clair before Friday night’s show. “We got a little bit of an idea (of how to set the car up). Especially for feature time, we had a pretty good idea of where we needed to be at.”
Sheppard ended up with a virtually flawless car that he was able to expertly steer around the track’s cushion. But he did have some anxious moments in the final laps when he found himself stuck in heavy lapped traffic, which allowed Moyer to close in.
“I knew there weren’t no slouches behind me,” said Sheppard, “so I knew every lap the lapped cars were holding me up, that was time I was losing. I was just thankful to see the white flag come out because I could hear (Moyer) getting on me.”
Sheppard became the 47th driver to win a WoO LMS A-Main since 2004. He’s the tour’s fourth first-time winner this season and the third-youngest driver in history to win on the circuit, behind Josh Richards (17 years old when he won his first race in 2005) and Austin Hubbard (age 18 in ’10).
In addition, Sheppard is the third driver to put Mark Richards’s blue dirt Late Model in Victory Lane on the WoO LMS, joining Bart Hartman and Richards’s son Josh. Sheppard was tapped in May to replace Josh in the seat of the championship-winning No. 1 after the younger Richards decided to leave the World of Outlaws trail to pursue a NASCAR career on the Nationwide Series.
With Sheppard’s triumph, the elder Richards had reason to feel good about his driver choice.
“Brandon’s a great kid,” said Mark Richards. “We couldn’t ask for a better guy to be in here driving for Josh while Josh is off doing what he wants to do with the Nationwide deal.
“We came out and ran the Summer Nationals with Brandon and came here for a race. We got to learn Brandon a little bit and he got to learn us a little bit, and it paid off tonight.”
Sheppard broke through for his first WoO LMS win in his 16th career A-Main start. He has started 11 A-Mains this season, including his last five in the Rocket Chassis house car.
Clint Smith was the race’s sixth-place finisher after climbing as high as fourth from the 12th starting spot. Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., placed seventh; Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., was eighth after using a provisional to start 24th; Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., salvaged a ninth-place finish after a turn-three tangle with Shirley on lap 10 – as they were battling for third – forced him to the rear of the field; and defending WoO LMS champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., was 10th after relying on a provisional to start 23rd because a broken driveshaft knocked him from the lead in his heat race.
A banner field of 52 dirt Late Models were signed in for the ‘Photobilly 50,’ which was run in memory of late Belle-Clair Speedway photographer Charlie Haffer Jr. (aka ‘Photobilly’), who lost his life on Aug. 7 at the age of 44 in a tragic Iowa highway accident while traveling to a race.
Sheppard’s lap of 11.195 seconds in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials topped the previous track record held by Rodney Melvin of Logan, Ill. It was Sheppard’s first-ever fast-time honor on the WoO LMS.
Heat winners were Sheppard, Brent Kreke of O’Fallon, Ill., Clanton, Shirley, Babb and Moyer. The B-Mains were captured by Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., and Matt Taylor of Springfield, Ill.
The WoO LMS will complete its St. Louis-area doubleheader on Saturday night (Sept. 15) with the running of the 55-lap Pepsi Nationals at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Photobilly 50′ at Belle-Clair Speedway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (2) Brandon Sheppard/50 $12,550
2. (3) Billy Moyer/50 $5,150
3. (6) Shannon Babb/50 $3,050
4. (14) Darrell Lanigan/50 $3,150
5. (7) Kyle Logue/50 $2,000
6. (12) Clint Smith/50 $2,250
7. (9) Tim Fuller/50 $1,950
8. (24) Tim McCreadie/50 $1,950
9. (5) Shane Clanton/50 $1,750
10. (23) Rick Eckert/50 $1,750
11. (11) Bub McCool/50 $1,900
12. (20) Matt Taylor/50 $1,000
13. (19) Billy Moyer Jr./50 $1,100
14. (15) Ryan Unzicker/50 $1,550
15. (18) Chub Frank/50 $1,550
16. (25) Vic Coffey/50 $550
17. (10) Dennis Erb Jr./50 $1,000
18. (8) Bobby Pierce/50 $1,050
19. (13) Brian Diveley/49 $1,000
20. (21) Mike Spatola/49 $1,000
21. (17) Mark Voigt/38 $1,000
22. (16) Ryan Little/38 $1,000
23. (1) Brian Shirley/24 $1,000
24. (22) Ed Dixon/24 $1,025
25. (4) Brent Kreke/9 $1,000
* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 33 Mins., 43.538 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.675 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 5 (Laps 10, 10, 25, 25, 39)
Lap Leaders: Sheppard (1-50)
Provisional Starters: Eckert, McCreadie (WoO points); Coffey (WoO emergency)
Rookie of the Race: McCool ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Sheppard ($500)
‘Gut It Out Award’: Unzicker ($500)