Sheppard Crowned Summer Nationals Champ
WAUSEON, Ohio — Matt Miller looked virtually unstoppable on Saturday night as he charged from ninth to take the lead from Jeep Van Wormer on lap 23 en route to claiming the victory in the finale of the six-week-long DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour” at Oakshade Raceway.
Brandon Sheppard, a 20-year-old four-time winner this season, became the youngest DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion when he took the green flag.
Casey Noonan started the feature on the pole but outside-starting Van Wormer quickly shot to the lead. Miller, of Whitehouse, Ohio, powered from row five into a battle for the top spot.
Van Wormer was forced to fend off several early charges, including one by Sheppard, who was trying to clinch the championship in style with a victory but his car eventually slowed and he settled for a 19th-place finish.
Miller caught Van Wormer by lap 20 of the 60-lap event and finally maneuvered around him on lap 23. Miller quickly expanded his lead by up to a half-track advantage as the second half of the race ran caution free as he dominated his way to the $10,000 checkered flag.
“We’ve been good all year, especially when we get in slick conditions,” said Miller, who earned his first Hell Tour victory since 2008. “We came here last week and got tore up and had to take the car to Rocket and get it clipped. My guys busted their butts, especially (car owner) Rick (DeLong) and Rodney and those guys, working till 1 in the morning every night. It feels good to pay them back. The car couldn’t have been any better.”
A 19th-place finish was a minor disappointment for Sheppard. The 20-year-old claimed the $25,000 title over 16-year-old Bobby Pierce in the 27th season of the six-week-long tour. Pierce became the youngest driver to win a DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature during this year’s tour, accomplishing the feat four times.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and working really hard at it just trying to get to where we’re at now,” said Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill. “It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my family cause they’ve been doing it just as long.”
Matt Miller, Jon Henry, Bobby Pierce, Jeff Babcock, Devin Moran, Jeep Van Wormer, Dona Marcoullier, Dustin Griffin, Brian Ruhlman, Doug Drown, Chris Keller, Dusty Moore, Casey Noonan, Chris Ross, Rusty Schlenk, Steve Kester, Devin Shiels, Phil Ausra, Brandon Sheppard, Ryan Missler, Wayne Chinn, Herb Reich.