SALINA, OK- September 24, 2017-For the second night in a row and the second of three nights during the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series Great Plains swing, Brandon Sheppard walked away with the checkers. Sheppard battled Chris Madden for several laps of the 50-lap event but pulled away from the grasp of the No. 44 midway through the feature.
“The championship is what’s on our mind right now,” said Sheppard on his 16th win with the Series. “The ultimate goal when we come here is just to win the race. I have a hard-working team behind me. If I mess up they have my back, and if I win a race they have my back, but just a good group of guys. We have a good thing going so I hope we can keep it going for quite a few years.”
Sheppard is steadily creeping up on the Series single-season win record of 18 wins set in 2016 by his predecessor in the Rocket Chassis house car, Josh Richards. Yet, with six races left in the season, Sheppard and his Rocket 1 team keep their focus on the race ahead of them.
“Right now, we’re just riding a big wave,” said Danny White, Crew Chief of the Rocket 1 Racing Machine. “It will crash down at some point but right now you just ride it and enjoy every moment you get. Yeah, maybe we don’t celebrate like some other teams, but we’ll be happy tonight and tomorrow is a new day with a new race to win. That’s our goal. We’ll celebrate a little bit tonight and we’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Sheppard has had an undeniably extraordinary season in 2017 and as he keeps pushing the limits on records across the nation, some may credit his car for his success. White said that everything is just “clicking”.
“I know everyone says ‘this is the house car. They have all this trick stuff’ but this is as standard as you get,” explained White. “They can say that we just out-budget everybody but this car has its second year on it. It has 125 to 130 races on it which is like 1,550 laps. We push everything to the limit just like everybody else does. We just have the best wheelman there is right now and everything is just clicking. This is fun. This is the most fun season I have ever had. Even when we don’t win, it’s still fun.”
Sheppard is on his way to claiming the Series championship title as he sits a solid 284 points ahead of Madden in second. Fans saw the battle between the pair come to life on the 3/8-mile track on Saturday night as the two exchanged the lead position several times early in the race.
On lap 14 Sheppard took command over the lead position once and for all, only being challenged once more for his position due to a caution on lap 45 that reset the field. The caution, which came out for Austin Siebert who got turned around in turn four, erased Sheppard’s lead which had grown to a whopping 8-seconds over the rest of the field.
When the caution fell, Madden had fallen back to fifth after getting hung up in lapped traffic opening the door for Chase Junghans, Rick Eckert and Devin Moran to make their move up the chain.
“That lap traffic, it was just really hard to get around,” said Junghans. “Sheppy got out there a ways but we had that restart and I was hoping I could hang with him on that restart and drive down to the bottom and slide him, but he did a good job. Them guys are really hard to beat this year so we’ll take a second and move on. Hopefully tomorrow we just better this one spot tomorrow.”
Rick Eckert rounded out the podium during the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series first ever visit to Salina Highbanks Speedway.
“The track was really cool,” said Eckert. “They did a great job with the track here and thanks to all of the fans for coming out. It’s a pretty awesome place, it really is.”
The Series heads to 81 Speedway in Park City, KS on Sunday to wrap up the three-race Great Plains swing.
Salina Highbanks Speedway Abbreviated Results:
Craftsman Club Feature: 1. 1- Brandon Sheppard; 2. 18c- Chase Junghans; 3. 7- Rick Eckert; 4. 44- Chris Madden; 5. 9- Devin Moran; 6. 25- Shane Clanton; 7. 18- Eric Wells; 8. 36m- Logan Martin; 9. B1- Brent Larson; 10. 0- Jesse Stovall; 11. 1*- Chub Frank; 12. 99j- Frank Heckenast Jr; 13. 91- Tyler Erb; 14. 14m- Morgan Bagley; 15. 5T- Randy Timms; 16. 16- Austin Siebert; 17. 12M- Raymond Merrill; 18. 52- Dillon Rupe; 19. 7D- Jake Davis; 20. 9g- Joseph Gorby; 21. 36- Jason Redman; 22. 20- Rodney Sanders; 23. 10- Jacob Magee; 24. 26r- Joe Godsey; 25. 60- Kip Hughes
Qualifying: 1. 25- Shane Clanton, 14.291; 2. 1- Brandon Sheppard, 14.388; 3. 9- Devin Moran, 14.56; 4. 91- Tyler Erb, 14.682; 5. 16- Austin Siebert, 14.722; 6. B1- Brent Larson, 14.761; 7. 44- Chris Madden, 14.787; 8. 12M- Raymond Merrill, 14.834; 9. 20- Rodney Sanders, 14.883; 10. 99j- Frank Heckenast Jr, 14.884; 11. 7- Rick Eckert, 14.892; 12. 18c- Chase Junghans, 14.912; 13. 18- Eric Wells, 14.935; 14. 36m- Logan Martin, 14.957; 15. 26r- Joe Godsey, 14.983; 16. 1*- Chub Frank, 15.056; 17. 5T- Randy Timms, 15.206; 18. 0- Jesse Stovall, 15.238; 19. 14m- Morgan Bagley, 15.425; 20. 7D- Jake Davis, 15.761; 21. 9g- Joseph Gorby, 16.039; 22. 60- Kip Hughes, 16.223; 23. 52- Dillon Rupe, 16.308; 24. 36- Jason Redman, 16.48; DNS. 10- Jacob Magee, NT