Matt Sheppard battles late, comes .117 seconds short of second straight win
BARBERVILLE, FL – February 20, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Rick Laubach watched the feature win slip away late in Thursday night’s 30-lap Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified feature event at the Volusia Speedway Park. He gave up the lead in slower traffic and eventually finished in third behind Matt Sheppard and Larry Wight.
On Friday night of the DIRTcar Nationals, Laubach had a serious case of Deja Vu. He was leading late in the race with Sheppard closing fast as he battled heavy traffic. Unlike the night before, Laubach wasn’t tentative in traffic and he made the moves he had to in order to grab a Friday night win for the second year in a row. It’s his third career win in Florida and it came by mere feet over a hard charging Sheppard.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Laubauch said. “We almost got the win last night and tonight we got the win. My little boy (Matthew) loves these trophies. Now we get to take another one of these Gators back to Grammies house. I’m proud of my team. My owners Gary and Lori (Herrmann). We got everyone clicking here.”
Laubach redrew the outside of the front row while Tyler Dippel earned scored the pole. Laubach immediately went to the top at the green flag in turns one and two to procure the lead. The run was short lived as on lap two Vic Coffey became the first caution as he came to a stop in turn two.
Laubach wasted no time pulling away from the field when the racing action resumed as he put his Teo Pro Car right down to the bottom of the speedway. This allowed him to run away from Dippel and the rest of the competition. He opened up over a second gap.
The lead went away on lap nine when Brett Hearn slowed with a right rear flat. By this point Laubach remained the leader while Dippel flanked him for the restart. Sheppard now made his presence known as he had moved around Stewart Friesen and Alan Johnson to take over the third position.
Yet another caution flag came out on lap 13 as Jessey Mueller spun in turn two collecting Tim Fuller. Fuller, the night one winner, took his car to the pits after the incident. Laubach saw Dippel to his outside again and like the previous restarts he was able to hold him off. As Dippel attempted to make a move on Laubach he looked to his inside and watched Sheppard drive by him for second.
One final caution came on lap 16 for Eldon Payne. Payne got into Coffey as he checked up and it broke the front end on his mount. He came to a stop in turn one and was towed to the pit area ending his evening.
Laubach turned up the wick on the restart as he now knew that Sheppard was there to challenge. He quickly spread the gap back to Sheppard in open race track. At one point Laubach grew his lead to nearly two seconds.
That lead evaporated quickly as Labauch took the five to go sign. The Hellertown, Pa., found himself fighting through heavy lapped traffic. At times the traffic was two and three wide in front of him. Laubach was much more aggressive Friday and it paid off. He even made one three wide move with two laps to go that kept Sheppard at bay.
“That’s what I didn’t do last night,” said Laubach about the three-wide move. “I took it easier and tried keeping my tires under me. That was probably what cost me that race. The opportunity was there again tonight and I was getting through there.”
In the final corner of the race, Laubach went low under a lapped car while Sheppard rolled through the middle lane. It allowed Sheppard to get up alongside of Laubach as they exited turn four. Sheppard wasn’t able to finish the pass as they came to the line giving Laubach the victory.
“I just followed that guy and I didn’t feel pressure like last night, but son of a gun they don’t give up,” stated Laubach about Sheppard and company. “That’s the thing about these guys. I had trouble last night in traffic but that wasn’t going to happen again.”
Sheppard, of Waterloo, N.Y., was so close at the checkered flag, but he couldn’t get his Bicknell car up alongside him far enough at the line. He played it somewhat safe as he didn’t want to risk wrecking both cars at the end of the race.
“Rick (Laubach) had the best car tonight by far,” Sheppard said. “He got caught up behind that lapped car. I could see what was going on so I darted to top there and got a killer run off of four. He peeled out around the lapped car a little bit and I had to check up so I didn’t wreck both of us. If he didn’t peel out it would have been interesting.”
Sheppard admitted that he probably wouldn’t have been able to catch Laubach had it not been for the traffic slowing his pace. In clear track, Labuach had a dominant car.
“The only time I could see the back of him was when he got into lapped traffic,” joked Sheppard. “It got a little dicey there, but that goes to show you it’s never over until it’s over.”
Johnson was a surprise third place finisher. The Middlesex, N.Y., pilot had his best run of the week and was all smiles on the front straightaway at the conclusion of the night. Johnson had struggled in the first two nights of action before finally getting things rolling Friday.
“This feels great,” Johnson said. “The way we’ve been going I never expected this. We just kept working on it and we got it pretty good. I was really surprised. I’m kind of looking forward to tomorrow now. I thought it was going to be a long week but it’s starting to shorten up now.”
Erick Rudolph secured his second top five finish of the week as he brought his car home in fourth with Stewart Friesen rounding out the top five.
Billy Pauch turned the fastest lap of the week for the Modifieds in time trials with a lap of 17.433. Heats were won by Friesen, Laubach, Dippel and Pauch. Danny Johnson and Eldon Payne won their consolation races.
Racing returns Saturday night at Volusia Speedway Park for the 10th day of the DIRTcar Nationals. Gates open at 5 p.m. and racing begins at 7:30 p.m.
Follow the series on Twitter @SuperDIRTcar, or click www.SuperDIRTcarSeries.com.
DIRTcar Nationals Statistical Report; Feb. 19, 2016; Volusia Speedway Park; Barberville, Fla.
A-Main (30 Laps)
1. 7-Rick Laubach, 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 3. 14J-Alan Johnson, 4. 25R-Erick Rudolph, 5. 44-Stewart Freisen, 6. 1-Billy Pauch, 7. 1T-Tyler Dippel, 8. 27J-Danny Johnson, 9. 54-Steve Bernard, 10. 74-J.R Heffner, 11. 49-Billy Dunn, 12. 32c-Vic Coffey, 13. 99L-Larry Wight, 14. 21a-Pete Britten, 15. 30-Jamie Mills, 16. 1G-Darwin Green, 17. 19m-Jessey Mueller, 18. OBs-Jeremy Markle, 19. 323-Neal Williams, 20. 20-Brett Hearn, 21. 6m-Mat Williamson, 22. 5*-Tyler Siri, 23. 28p-Eldon Payne, 24. 19-Tim Fuller, 25. 7-Tim Kerr, 26. 83-Brian Swartzlander
Last Chance Showdown 1 (10-laps – Top 3 Finishers Transfer)
1. 27J-Danny Johnson, 2. 1G-Darwin Green, 3. 32c-Vic Coffey, 4. 85-H.J. Bunting, 5. 21k-Randy Chrysler, 6. 64-Daniel Nadeau, 7. 48T-Dave Rauscher, 8. 29e-Erik Martin
Last Chance Showdown 2 (10-laps – Top 3 Finishers Transfer)
1. 28p-Eldon Payne, 2. 19m-Jessey Mueller, 3. 83-Brian Swartzlander, 4. 14-C.G. Morey, 5. 5-Billy VanInwegen, 6. 8-Rich Scagliotta, 7. 29J-Chris Ostrowsky
Heat 1 (8 Laps – Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature)
1. 44-Stewart Freisen, 2. 54-Steve Bernard, 3. 20-Brett Hearn, 4. 323-Neal Williams, 5. OBs-Jeremy Markle, 6. 1G-Darwin Green, 7. 85-H.J. Bunting, 8. 21k-Randy Chrysler, 9. 29e-Erik Martin
Heat 2 (8 Laps – Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature)
1. 7-Rick Laubach, 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 3. 14J-Alan Johnson, 4. 21a-Pete Britten, 5. 7-Tim Kerr, 6. 27J-Danny Johnson , 7. 32c-Vic Coffey, 8. 48T-Dave Rauscher, 9. 64-Daniel Nadeau
Heat 3 (8 Laps – Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature)
1. 1T-Tyler Dippel, 2. 25R-Erick Rudolph, 3. 49-Billy Dunn, 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 5. 99L-Larry Wight, 6. 14-C.G. Morey, 7. 28p-Eldon Payne, 8. 8-Rich Scagliotta, 9. 5-Billy VanInwegen
Heat 4 (8 Laps – Top 5 finishers transfer to the A-feature)
1. 1-Billy Pauch, 2. 74-J.R Heffner, 3. 30-Jamie Mills, 4. 6m-Mat Williamson, 5. 5*-Tyler Siri, 6. 83-Brian Swartzlander, 7. 29J-Chris Ostrowsky, 8. 19m-Jessey Mueller
Qualifying Group 1
1. 44-Stewart Freisen, 17.495; 2. 323-Neal Williams, 17.871; 3. OBs-Jeremy Markle, 17.976; 4. 20-Brett Hearn, 18.138; 5. 54-Steve Bernard, 18.266; 6. 85-H.J. Bunting, 18.298; 7. 1G-Darwin Green, 18.352; 8. 21k-Randy Chrysler, 18.505; 9. 29e-Erik Martin, 19.939
Qualifying Group 2
1. 7-Rick Laubach, 17.435; 2. 21a-Pete Britten, 17.535; 3. 14J-Alan Johnson, 17.809; 4. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 17.916; 5. 27J-Danny Johnson, 18.131; 6. 7-Tim Kerr, 18.2; 7. 32c-Vic Coffey, 18.302; 8. 48T-Dave Rauscher, 18.545; 9. 64-Daniel Nadeau, 18.813
Qualifying Group 3
1. 1T-Tyler Dippel, 17.793; 2. 49-Billy Dunn, 17.851; 3. 19-Tim Fuller, 17.926; 4. 99L-Larry Wight, 17.962; 5. 25R-Erick Rudolph, 17.989; 6. 28p-Eldon Payne, 18.129; 7. 14-C.G. Morey, 18.254; 8. 8-Rich Scagliotta, 18.725; 9. 5-Billy VanInwegen, 18.798
Qualifying Group 4
1. 1-Billy Pauch, 17.433; 2. 74-J.R Heffner, 17.776; 3. 5*-Tyler Siri, 17.909; 4. 6m-Mat Williamson, 18.028; 5. 83-Brian Swartzlander, 18.367; 6. 30-Jamie Mills, 18.421; 7. 29J-Chris Ostrowsky, 18.533; 8. 19m-Jessey Mueller, 18.714
DIRTcar Nationals Big-Block Modified Week Points Standings; Feb. 19, 2016; Volusia Speedway Park; Barberville, Fla.
The Super DIRTcar Series and DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast is brought to fans by many important sponsors and partners, including: Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Tire), VP Racing Fuels (Official Racing Fuel), Chevy Performance Parts and NAPA Auto Parts; in addition to contingency sponsors, including: ASI Race Wear, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Fox Shocks, Intercomp, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, KSE Racing Products, Mike’s Racing Heads, Motorsports Safety Systems, MSD, Mobil 1, Pole Position Raceway, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum; along with manufacturer sponsors, including: Beyea Headers, Racing Electronics and TNT Rescue.