The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series sanctioned the most lucrative Dirt Late Model race held to this point in 2020 on Saturday night at the I-80 Speedway. Brandon Sheppard came away as the winner of the prestigious Silver Dollar Nationals in a race broadcast by Lucas Oil Racing TV. The New Berlin, IL driver left the Greenwood, NE facility with a paycheck worth $53,000.
Heat races that doled out passing points were held on Friday night to set the first nine rows of the starting lineup for the feature event.
Ricky Thornton Jr. accumulated the most points through those heat races and would start from the pole with Jimmy Owens alongside on the front row. Devin Moran, Brandon Sheppard, Kyle Bronson, Chad Simpson, Tim McCreadie, Tyler Erb, Scott Bloomquist and Josh Richards rounded out the top-10 on the starting grid.
Billy Moyer Jr., Jonathan Davenport, Chase Junghans, Ricky Weiss, Earl Pearson Jr., Shanon Buckingham, Mason Zeigler and Justin Zeitner made up positions 11-18 when the main event took the green flag.
Chris Ferguson won the first B-main race ahead of Tad Pospisil, Bill Leighton and Tyler Bruening.
It was Kyle Strickler who took the second preliminary on Saturday night over Tanner English, Shane Clanton and Jake Neal.
At the start of the 101-lap feature it was Owens taking the early lead with Thornton, Sheppard, Moran and Bronson trailing. As Owens broke away Sheppard took to the highest line the track would allow while Thornton ran on the very bottom as those two drivers fought for second.
In the meantime, Simpson swept into the fourth spot and looked to climb even higher in the running order. Further back, former series champions Davenport and Bloomquist contested the ninth and tenth spots on the track.
Owens maintained control of the event throughout much of the first 40 laps leading fellow top-5 runners Sheppard, Thornton, Erb and Simpson around the speedway.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series officials called for a planned caution on lap 40 of the race to allow teams to add more fuel to their cars to be certain everyone could make it to the end.
The restarts proved to be highly contentious as cars would fan out all over the wide racing surface to battle for position.
Erb took a turn leading the race on lap 44 as he used a slide job pass to go to the front. Just past halfway a furious battle was being waged in the back half of the top-10 as drivers Bronson, Moran, Weiss, McCreadie and Richards fought it out for position.
Defending race winner Bobby Pierce, who used a provisional to start the race, had climbed all the way to the top-10 only to have his night end early on lap 61 with a mechanical failure. And just a few laps later series points leader Owens would also suffer mechanical issues that would knock him from contention.
Simpson went to the race lead on a lap 65 restart with Thornton also moving up to grab third.
Over the final twenty laps Sheppard seemed to find his groove as he continued to run the very top lane and close on those in front. On lap 82 he took second from Thornton then set off in pursuit of Simpson.
On lap 88 the Rocket Chassis house car assumed the lead of the race leaving Simpson and Thornton to battle for the runner-up position which Thornton would take on lap 97.
But in the end it was the driver who in 2019 won three features that paid $100,000 or more who grabbed the biggest payday to date in 2020.
Feature Finish: 1. Brandon Sheppard, 2. Ricky Thornton Jr., 3. Chad Simpson, 4. Tim McCreadie, 5. Ricky Weiss, 6. Josh Richards, 7. Tyler Erb, 8. Jonthan Davenport, 9. Chris Ferguson, 10. Tanner English, 11. Scott Bloomquist, 12. Billy Moyer Jr., 13. Kyle Strickler, 14. Shanon Buckingham, 15. Shane Clanton, 16. Tyler Bruening, 17. Devin Moran, 18. Stormy Scott, 19. Justin Zeitner, 20. Ben Schaller, 21. Kyle Bronson, 22. Colton Horner, 23. Jimmy Owens, 24. Mason Zeigler, 25. Bobby Pierce, 26. Tad Popisil, 27. Jake Neal, 28. Andrew Kosiski, 29. Bill Leighton, 30. Earl Pearson Jr., 31. Chase Junghans