Imagine doubting the talents of a Dirt Late Model driver who, at only the age of 30, is a four-time World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series champion and is the all-time leader in feature wins on that series with 81. Well, some followers of the sport were apparently doing exactly that after Brandon Sheppard left the Rocket Chassis house car team to become partners in what is now known as Sheppard Riggs Racing.
Not only did Sheppard move to a new team but he made news during the off-season when it became known that he would move from the chassis brand he had driven for much of his career to a Longhorn Chassis.
The new pairing got off to hot start in the Wild West Shootout at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park with four consecutive top-5 finishes. From there, however, inconsistency began to plague the team with a few solid results while others were not what might be expected. According to the four-time Dirt Track World Championship victor, there were whispers in the pit area that there was more to the story than just the changes in teams and cars.
Did New Berlin, Illinois driver’s confidence ever waver during those times of inconsistency and doubt.
“Not necessarily,” Sheppard stated in a media appearance set up by the World of Outlaws. “I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a process and it was going to take time. There’s not one thing on this Sheppard Riggs Racing team that’s the same as what I’ve had in the past ten years. Truck, trailer, cars, shocks, motors, crew, I mean you name it, it’s different. I knew it was going to be a process. You hear all the rumors and what-not about ‘Shepp’s losing his touch’.”
Following a string of rainouts that affected virtually all of dirt racing during the month of March and even into April, Sheppard has begun to show signs of his old self. Since April 28th, the No. B5 car has scored three feature wins and a total of seven podium finishes.
Patience was the key for this driver and crew.
“I knew it was going to take some time,” he declared. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. These cars are a lot different, I had been in them other cars for, probably, twelve years so I have all those habits that I had, and the program that I had there. I couldn’t really use any of it when I came here. I knew it was going to be a process even when other people were starting to not believe in me, but that’s their problem. We’re starting to show some consistency and get a little bit better here. It won’t take too much longer and we should have it pretty close.”
Being that some questioned his decision to leave one of the most successful teams in Dirt Late Model racing, does Sheppard feel any sense of vindication now that he is running well?
“I do, yeah,” he acknowledged. “Like I say, you hear the rumors with everybody talking crap – for lack of better terminology. You hear all that so to run good and get some wins under my belt here definitely makes me feel good. Our team has been working really hard and it definitely hasn’t been for lack of effort and the Longhorn guys and the Bilstein(Shocks) guys have been very helpful in the whole process. Everybody probably knows that I’ve got a lot of bad habits myself and that’s the reason why it’s taken us this long to get some wins and start showing some consistency because I’ve got a lot of habits to break from the Rocket deal.”
After serving in the primary role as a driver for years, Sheppard is now having to adjust to the situations related to things that happen outside of the driver’s seat. Previously Rocket 1 Racing team owner Mark Richards and former Best Performance Motorsports crew chief Randall Edwards handled those types of issues
“Honestly Scott Riggs and all of them have been so good to work with and to work for,” he insisted. “There’s no lack of equipment on our team, that’s for sure. They’ve given me everything I need to be able to get the job done. I think the biggest thing is, my biggest issue right now is finding crew help that will work together and play nice together. That’s a tough deal because I haven’t had to run that side of it myself in the past, that was always Mark or Randall or whoever I was driving for at the time.”
Running that aspect of a team isn’t easy.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had to be in charge of everybody along with everything else that I’ve got going on,” Sheppard added. “That part of it has been difficult for me, just managing the whole crew side of things. It’s tough on that side because you’ve got to find guys that are willing to live together and deal with each other for long periods of time and that’s hard to find. That’s part of it though, we’re in tight quarters travelling up and down the road together. Stuff happens sometimes and it’s stuff we’ve got to power through and keep digging on.”
Sheppard currently sits fifth in the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series standings as that tour looks forward to a run of six events over nine days in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.
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