When the calendar rolls over to the month of June, there is one word that is sure to get everyone who cares about Dirt Late Model racing fired up… and that word is Eldora. This weekend will bring about the highly lucrative Dirt Late Model Dream at the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The winner of Saturday night’s feature will pocket $100,000 along with money earned during the Thursday and Friday sessions held on the famed track owned by former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.
One racer expected by many to be among the favorites going into the weekend is Rocket Chassis house car driver Brandon Sheppard. The defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion and former Dirt Track World Championship winner enters the weekend with seven feature victories already in 2018 and currently ranks third in the series standings. Both driver and team look forward to the challenge in front of them at Eldora and have high hopes for standing on the stage at the end of Saturday night’s main event to receive the winner’s accolades.
“I’m excited,” Sheppard declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Anytime you go to Eldora it’s going to be big. The goal is to go over there and have a good first two nights and get a good starting spot for the big race. We’ve got a really good piece here and we’ve trying a lot of new things here lately and we think we’re getting a lot better. Hopefully we can go there and have a consistent race car for the big race.”
Several years ago the format used for the Dirt Late Model Dream called for less racing leading up to the main event with no money on the line for drivers and teams. Now, there will be two separate events held on Thursday night with each winner receiving $5,000 followed by two Friday night races with each winner collecting $10,000 for his efforts. The finishing results from those features will play a roll in determining starting positions for the heat races held on Saturday night.
From a driver’s perspective, the added racing and additional opportunities to make money are preferable to the previous system which called for long qualifying sessions that could have race cars sitting on the grounds for two days to basically run two laps that actually mattered.
“It definitely is,” the 25-year-old driver agreed. “It splits up the competition a little bit and gives everybody a chance to get a lot of laps. It’s huge just being able to get laps and the way they do it determines how your Saturday night goes. Everybody has got to go in there and put 100% in it and try to have three good nights. It makes it a lot of fun, for sure.”
With so much racing going on and all of it important in regard to setting up for one of the most lucrative events of the year, preparation is key to success. It is vital that every component on the car be checked and double-checked before hitting the track.
“It’s all about preparation,” Sheppard confirmed. “It’s nice to have as good of a team as I’ve got. I only have to worry about the car and what I’m going to do driving it. I can concentrate on the track since the track changes a lot through the night because my guys have everything down pat with what they have to do. When everything goes real smooth it makes Eldora a lot more fun.”
For some teams who enter the Dirt Late Model Dream, that preparation takes on the form of simply having their car good enough to make the show. However, the Mark Richards Racing organization and its driver will pull through the gates of the famed Ohio track with loftier goals.
“Making the show is far from the goal for this team,” the native of New Berlin, Ill. insisted. “It’s all about the win. Mark Richards Racing hasn’t been on the winner’s stage at Eldora, not for the big races anyway, so the goal is to go over there and win. We’ve won seven races so far this year and we’ve had a really good year, but we’ve been a little off here lately. To go over there and win that race would be a huge confidence booster and turn around for this team. We just need to get all of our ducks in a row and go over there looking to win.”
But just because there are no World of Outlaws Late Model Series points on the line doesn’t mean the amount of preparation isn’t the same as for any other race weekend.
“No, we don’t really look at it any different,” Sheppard pointed out. “We look at it as we’re going there to win a race. That’s one of the biggest races of the year but these World of Outlaw races are leading up to a big payday at the end of the year so at the end of the day they’re all the same. We’re just going to try to win a race.”
While a $100,000 payday is certainly one any driver would love to earn, the Dream has also grown in prestige over its 24 years of existence. The trophy awarded to the winner on that famous stage will no doubt occupy a special place in the shop of the winning team following this Saturday night.
“Oh yeah, the money is huge but just winning at Eldora is a big thing too,” Sheppard said. “If you can win at Eldora you’ve got your stuff together. It’s tough because anybody who’s anything in Late Model racing is going to be there. It’s a huge race and you’ve got to have everything go your way. It should be fun.”