Duane Howard Takes Home Wild Card Weekend
SWEDESBORO, NJ – It was the Wild Card Weekend with the final hands to be played in the 2016 Colonial Pipeline 8-1-1 Dig Safely Poker Series for all three divisions of Big Block Modifieds, Crate/Sportsman and Outlaw Stocks. The final race date of the 2016 season was sponsored by Spirit Auto Center and in spite of the unseasonable cold temperatures, the racing action was HOT – leaving the fans with some great memories to recall during the off-season.
The Spirit Auto Center Big Block Modifieds raced in the Gone But Not Forgotten 40 lap finale with the Poker Series Champion to be determined by the race’s outcome.
The race saw three different leaders and a half dozen lead changes that ended with a last lap pass, racing to the checkered win for Duane Howard in a race that was clearly dominated by Richie Pratt, Jr. Pratt was wheeling a second Pat Michael owned No. 51m as a team mate to Dominick Buffalino.
Howard jumped into the early lead by outgunning pole sitter Craig VonDohren on the start. After leading the first seven laps, Howard relinquished the race lead to Friday night winner, Ryan Godown and the Hewlett owned No. 901. Howard was back on top for two laps before Pratt raced into the lead like a man on a mission. Pratt not only took the lead but drove away from the field. Unfortunately, Pratt’s mount started to spew smoke through the corners at about the same time.
When Rick Laubach came to a stop on the backstretch, Pratt’s advantage was erased and the field lined up double file with ten laps to go. Pratt elected the outside for the restart but it was Howard who got to the green flag first. Pratt chased Howard through turns one and two and came away with the lead as they exited turn two and headed down the backstretch.
Pratt held the advantage over Howard as the leaders took the white flag but his lead was reduce to a car length or two. Howard shot to the inside as they came off of turn four. With the checkered flag waving, it was Howard who edged ahead of Pratt for the win.
It was a tough race to lose but Pratt had an outstanding outing that left many fans commenting about how it was the best race they had ever seen. Dominick Buffalino followed in third with the second 51m with Craig VonDohren charging through the top ten in the final laps to capture fourth. Neal Williams won the battle for fifth after racing with Ryan Watt and Danny Johnson late in the race.
The win gave Howard his third Ace of the Poker Series and the 2016 811 Dig Safely Poker Series Championship for the former track champion.
For additional news visit www.dirttrackdigest.com
Clanton Claims $10k Payday at the Showdown at Senoia
Shane Clanton from Zebulon ran flag to flag Saturday night to claim the $10,000 top prize at the inaugural running of the ‘Showdown at Senoia’ year end auto racing extravaganza at the 3/8ths mile bull ring in Senoia. Clanton jumped in front of polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN and then held off a late race scare provided by Winston’s Michael Page.
“It’s always good to win. It’s even better to win close to home,” said Clanton afterwards on the front stretch.
The 2015 Craftsman Tools World of Outlaws Late Model Tour champion, Shane Clanton, used the high side of the slick racing gumbo clay to sneak past Owens. Then he slowly made his way back to the bottom increasing his lead through the middle part of the 60-lap main event.
Michael Page emerged as his strongest contender near the halfway mark and then began to pressure Clanton as the two began to work lapped traffic. Clanton went low on the slower traffic entering turn three on lap 52 which allowed Page to sneak past on the highside. But, that tease at the lead was short lived as Clanton charged past the lapped car while Page had to slow slightly giving Clanton the lead back. That close call was enough for Clanton to turn it up a notch and he pulled away through the final few laps to claim the victory.
Michael Page settled for second place ahead of Evans’ Brandon Overton in third. Kansas hot shoe Chase Junghans was fourth followed by polesitter Jimmy Owens. Short track dirt racing ace Scott Bloomquist finished in sixth place while Mississippi’s David Breazeale was seventh. Acworth’s TJ Reaid was eighth, Tennessee’s Riley Hickman ninth and the race’s hard-charger was Cartersville teenager Zach Leonhardi rounding out the first ten. Leonhardi started eighteenth after making the field with a win in the second consolation race.
For addiional news visit www.senoiaraceway.com
Richards Crowned Champion for the Fourth Time
CONCORD, N.C. – Nov. 1, 2016 – After Shane Clanton’s son, Gunnar, helped add the final sparkle to Josh Richards' No. 1 Valvoline/ Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car, Richards knew it was his time to shine – for the fourth time. Clanton, the defending series champion, passed the torch to Richards Sunday night at the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series Night of Champions Banquet.
“I was the little kid playing in the dirt,” said Richards in front of his peers. “You just dream that someday, at the end of the day, you’re the guy at the top winning the championship. I never thought this season would be possible. It just means so much to me, to be able to do what I love to do. This is our fourth time, and it’s [still] overwhelming. It wouldn’t have been possible without everyone who put their faith and support in me.”
Richards’ dream season was a culmination of his consistent performances and the solid work ethic of his team. The Mark Richards Racing driver went home with some serious hardware: a trophy, ring, a Craftsman® toolbox, and a $100,000 check. He was last crowned champion in 2013.
But Richards wasn’t the only member of his team to earn recognition. Team owner and Rocket Chassis founder Mark Richards was honored with the Chassis Builder of the Year Award, and Crew Chief Danny White received the Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Year Award.
“I don’t know if I really deserve it, but it’s neat,” said White, who joined the tour in 2011. “Rick Eckert took a big leap of faith with me [in 2011]. I sent him a resume, and he called me the next day saying, ‘Yeah, we’d like to try you out.’ He kept the faith in me and got me to where I am today. I think Mark [Richards] has more confidence in me than I have in me. That builds me up and lets me do my job, and I’m doing things I would have never dreamed of.”
Andy Durham, the owner of Durham Engines, took home the Engine Builder of the Year Award. Durham manufactured Richards’ power plants for the year, and as a token of his appreciation, Josh Richards gave the Craftsman toolbox to him so, “he can keep the hard work up.”
“Josh, what can I say,” Durham said. “You went to Florida, started winning and never stopped. I’m just very blessed to be a part of it."
In 39 starts, Richards and company compiled 18 wins, 31 top-five and 36 top-10 performances. The No. 1 team won a heat race in all but 10 shows, and recorded a fast time in nearly 31 percent of the season’s races. Moreover, Richards broke the series’ season wins and career wins records, 18 and 75 respectively.
“My crew back at the shop all dug in when we were a little behind last year,” said Mark Richards, remembering last year’s hiccups. “We were on a swing out West [last year], we came home from Cedar Lake [Speedway] – kind of a long trip because we didn’t run well – and I told the guys at the shop, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go to work.’ I knew we had to develop a new car [for this year]. It took some time to get that done, but we got it done. I can’t thank all the guys enough who made it happen.”
For additional news visit www.woolms.com
Sheppard Breaks Out The Broom
By Mandee Pauch
CONCORD, N.C. – October 29, 2016 – Matt Sheppard, the driver of the FX Caprara No. 9s Big Block Modified, made a mark in history this weekend as he broke a record and won his fifth Super DIRTcar Series Championship. Sheppard proved once again that he was the man to beat Saturday night during the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“This place was so racy tonight,” said Sheppard in victory lane. “These big blocks put on a heck of a show tonight. We were racing two, three, four wide there. Last time we started on the pole and led the whole race. I was happy to get that win and tonight was even more satisfying. Starting in the back a little bit further and driving through the field. I just can’t say enough about this racecar. It was just fantastic.”
Pat Ward and Justin Haers led the 29-car field to the initial green flag. On the drop of the green, a four-car battle for the lead emerged as Ward, Hears, Brett Hearn and Billy Decker all ran wire-to-wire – until Haers took the lead and pulled away from the field on lap two.
Decker, who started fifth, slid his way into third as he began to chase down Ward.
It didn’t take long for eighth place starter, Sheppard, to make his way into the picture as he slipped his way under Tim Fuller and advanced into fifth on lap ten.
The first caution of the night was brought out due to a slow moving Mike Mahaney.
Racing once again resumed but not for long as Ryan Watt made hard contact with the turn one wall on lap 12.
Keith Flach, Erick Rudolph and Mike Maresca made contact going into turn three, sending Flach flipping on lap 14.
The third restart of the night saw Hearn running the outside line as Sheppard tried to sneak up underneath him. Hearn didn’t give up that easily as he managed to close the door on Sheppard.
Justin Haers held a steady lead at the halfway mark over Ward, Decker, Hearn and Sheppard.
The battle for third began to heat up as Hearn and Sheppard started closing in on Decker on lap 24.
Wight soon made his way into the picture as four cars began to battle side-by-side for the third position.
As the battle for third continued, Haers caught the back end of the pack with just eight laps remaining.
Sheppard was a man on the move as he moved his way into third on lap 32 then soon began to close in on Ward.
Sheppard charged hard into one and slid up out of two to pass Ward for second on lap 35.
Haers got out of shape coming out of turn four and Sheppard was there to take advantage. Sheppard blew by Hears on the front stretch and went on to take the lead on lap 36.
Another yellow was thrown with two laps to go due to a slowing Tyler Dippel.
Ward took advantage of the lap 38 restart as he drove by Haers for second, setting his sights on Sheppard.
Ward ran out of time and fell one spot short as Sheppard crossed the line first over Ward, Haers, Hearn and Wight to sweep the weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and to capture his fifth Super DIRTcar Series Championship.
“It’s like we flipped a light switch there about halfway and that thing just took off like a missile,” Sheppard said. “When I could see Justin and Pat there I wanted to win this race again. I didn’t want to settle for third. Thankfully this car was good enough that we could do it.”
Ward had a competitive car as it showed this weekend during World Finals by placing his No. 42p Big Block Modified in the top five in both features.
“Sheppard has had a very dominant car. You can’t say enough about the way he’s been running,” Ward said. “Justin bobbled one time and it just happened to be when Matt was up under me and I was just kind of hoping Justin did that sooner so I could get by. It was a heck of a race between the three of us.”
Friday nights second place finisher was looking to get the job done and move one spot forward but ended up closing out the season with a third place finish.
“We’ll take it. We were on a little bit different tire than Pat and Matt,” Haers said. “I wanted to move down because the top was getting so far out there, my right front was harder than both of these guys. I just couldn’t turn anymore, then I’d get lose up off.
A true podium finish in Charlotte, we can’t complain.”
“I honestly didn’t know how many laps were left,” laughed Sheppard. “I knew there couldn’t be a ton. I was running just as hard as I could and luckily we were able to get to the lead. When we got the lead it was kind of a sigh of relief. Again, I didn’t want to see that yellow at the end but just like last night this car is so good. It felt good to win the race last night but to do it the way we did it tonight felt even better.”
Sheppard proved early on in the season that his new team combination was a force to reckoned with. “It’s kind of funny, we started off good in Florida and came out strong. Then the first series race at Fulton I think I finished seventeenth or something, it was awful. Then after that it was like we just really got rolling. I mean twelve series wins in one year, wow, that’s unbelievable. I think we even had four or five seconds too. When you can finish first or second in 17 of the races that’s pretty impressive. It just goes to show we built a potent team this winter. We had all the right parts, crew, car, engines, the whole deal. Everybody and everything did its job. It’s just a dream season.”
Matt Sheppard was no stranger to doing the confetti dance in victory lane this year as he broke the record for the most wins in a season and clinched the Super DIRTcar Series championship, for the fifth time.
Follow the series on Twitter @SuperDIRTcar, or click www.SuperDIRTcarSeries.com.
Weekly Winners 10/11/16 - 10/17/16