Defending Super DIRTcar Series Champion Matt Sheppard Makes his Mark on 2018 with a DIRTcar Nationals Victory
BARBERVILLE, FL – February 16, 2018 – Super Matt Sheppard started the third Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified DIRTcar Nationals Feature in third but wasted no time positioning himself in pole-sitter Danny Johnson’s tire tracks. Johnson lead the field for the first 17 laps until he caught up to lapped traffic. Johnson attempted to make a pass on the high-side. Unfortunately for the no. 27j, he slid up and Sheppard made the best of the opportunity and set sail en route to his first victory of 2018 season.
Matt Sheppard described the pass: “I saw [Danny Johnson] go to the top. I was just hoping I could get in there and fill the gap before he could get back to the bottom. He left a little bit of a gap going into one and when he slid up I said I gotta get through here. I just nailed that thing to the guardrail for the rest of the race; It performed flawlessly.”
Coming off a 40-win season, it only took three races in 2018 for Sheppard to park the 9s in Victory Lane. “I put my guys through hell coming down here. We had a bunch of stuff we wanted to give a try. We kind of abandoned ship and went back to the old stuff. This car hasn’t seen a race track since Charlotte at World Finals. It was pretty good in Charlotte and it was pretty good tonight.”
Sheppard was excited about the victory and gave credit to his fellow Gator wranglers on their wins in Thursday’s doubleheader. “It [a win at Volusia Speedway Park] means a lot. You know you travel all the way down here. It’s a long trip and you know we all do it for this Gator. Congrats on Tyler [Siri] and Timmy [McCreadie] for getting their Gators last night. This is what it’s all about.”
Danny Johnson: “Hats off to my crew for doing a fantastic job today getting the car ready. We probably should have won the race but didn’t. Just happy to be here with a podium finish. I tried passing the cars on top but that was a total mistake. It just didn’t work. He [Matt Sheppard] got underneath me and he was gone. It is what it is. It’s all good. We’ve got more to come.”
When the field first took the green flag, Max McLaughlin split Justin Haers and Matt Sheppard through the middle in a three-wide pass. Unfortunately for the Young Gun McLaughlin, J.R. Hefner suffered a flat tire and brought out the caution resulting in a complete restart.
“If we wouldn’t have had that caution after that first lap we were already in second. Who knows what would have happened after that. We picked the wrong tire tonight. We went soft and had to really take care of it. I’m pretty happy with third. T-Mac [Tim McCreadie] was all over me but I just tried to hit my marks every lap, stay on the bottom, and race my own race.
Saturday, February 17th is the 12th and final night of the Volusia Speedway Park’s 2018 DIRTcar Nationals. The Big-Block Modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series and the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Models will close out a fabulous 12 days of on-track festivities. If you can’t make it to Florida be sure to tune in for live coverage on www.dirtvision.com.