Super Matt Flies At Rolling Wheels
ELBRIDGE, N.Y. – At lap 99 it could have been anyone’s race, but faster than any bird or plane, “Super” Matt Sheppard charged through the turns at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park to win over Brett Hearn by a margin of .527 second.
Sheppard, who won the annual Stars and Stripes 100 at Rolling Wheels two years in a row, grabbed the lead in lap 67 and seemed to be rocketing toward another victory until the yellow flag flew with one lap to go, putting a suspenseful pause to the racing.
Hearn in hot pursuit from second revved his engine and doggedly chased Sheppard’s JB Motorsports 9s FX Caprara Car Co./Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell machine through the green-white-checkered finish, but came up short.
Celebrating his second 2012 Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series win at Rolling Wheels Raceway, his third series victory of the 2012 season, and just coming off of receiving the track championship at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, the Super DIRTcar Series point leader has yet to encounter his kryptonite.
“It’s always good when you win,” Sheppard said. “Our car was good. We just worked it wherever we needed to.”
From his eighth starting spot, Sheppard worked forward and took the lead in lap 67, just barely passing Hearn in second and then-leader Johnson when the caution lights flashed. He maintained the lead off the double-file restart, and would not relinquish it despite Hearn’s many efforts.
“The restarts were good for me, that’s how I got the lead, but we also had to pass the cars in traffic,” Sheppard said.
If cautions defined the second half of the 100-lapper – particularly the lap-75 caution that brought former leader for 20 laps, then in second to the pits – lapped traffic defined the first half of the race, which saw its only yellow flag in lap 1. Sheppard blasted off after that initial restart, breaking the top five within one lap, and when leaders reached lapped cars in lap 13, he skillfully maneuvered between and around them to fourth place in lap 14.
Hearn also worked his way up from through the traffic of the first half and the restarts of the second, looking to repeat his stunning performance during “Mr. DIRT Track USA” at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Starting ninth, he broke the top five in lap nine, and challenging Sheppard, then in fourth.
Hearn flew ahead as the 100-lapper reached its halfway point, usurping the second spot from Haers in lap 49. The next 18 laps saw Hearn battling then-leader Johnson for first until Sheppard passed both. Unwilling to slip, Hearn kept his hold on the second spot and continued to challenge the new leader.
“We took off towards the lead, challenged for the lead when Danny was still in the lead and we put a lot of pressure on him,” Hearn said. “I worked my way to second, put a couple challenges on Matt, but in the end he just had that preferred line on the outside with the momentum.”
After having spent 50 laps in second place, doggedly pursuing not one, but two different race leaders, Hearn saw opportunity in the final single-file restart but could not beat out Sheppard.
“I thought we had one last shot – we almost did, we almost got a nose ahead of him coming on the back straightawya, but he had that line on the outside with that momentum coming off the corners,” Hearn said.
Finishing in third was Gary Tomkins, who started in fifth, fell out of the top five in the first lap, but regained ground later in the race. After drawing the pole but getting sent to the rear at the lap one caution, Billy Decker stunned discerning onlookers with a dramatic comeback, finishing fourth. Jimmy Phelps started tenth, but was only able to break the top five in the last few laps, finishing fifth.
Rounding out the top ten are early leader Justin Haers in sixth, Tim McCreadie in seventh, Pete Britten in eighth, Tom Sears, Jr., in ninth, and Rich Scagliotta in tenth.