Turn 2 Blog: Is Brandon Sheppard “back”?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

The Prairie Dirt Classic paid $50,000 to win but also offered a bonus for every lap a driver led. Is this something we may see more often in the bigger races?

Richard: The Fairbury American Legion Speedway sold 100 tickets at $1,000/each for a chance to win $50,000 in a drawing. The remainder of the money would then be used to fund the lap leader bonus. As a result of that bonus and leading all 100 laps, Brandon Sheppard collected a cool $100,000 in total for his victory.

To me, this seemed like a great idea. Not only did it give someone a chance to win a great prize but it also offered a nice enticement for the drivers. In a way, it kind of reminded of the moves Cody Sommer made when he promoted the Dirt Million races a few years ago where fans bought into the event and helped to fund the purse.

Obviously, selling tickets for $1,000/each is not something that could be done in some areas but lesser amounts with the possibility of adding to the purse could become a regular happening. These contests could even be done apart from the usual 50/50 drawings held at most speedways.

The bigger races would be the most likely to pull something like this off because they already come with big, guaranteed purses and they are sure to draw large crowds. But yes, if an idea works in one place, it is almost certain to show up at another and another.

Michael: It’s an interesting idea. I don’t know if we’ll see any others like this, but we could see something different with the same premise.

As we have discussed before, purses need to go up. The cost of everything is going up and it’s no different in racing. Promoters can’t charge $60 and up for ticket. There has to be other ways to increase the purses and not affect the ticket-buying fan.

Brandon Sheppard collected $100,000 for his FALS win

After leading all 100 laps and earning $100,000 in the Prairie Dirt Classic, is Brandon Sheppard back?

Richard: Jonathan Davenport and Chris Madden have been the big stars of 2022 so far in the Dirt Late Model world with Sheppard and Tim McCreadie among those who have been a step or so behind the lead duo. While the Rocket Chassis house car has been consistently better over the past few weeks, I’m not quite prepared to say the No. 1 is completely back to the level we have grown used to seeing.

After all, Sheppard did recently surrender his lead in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings to McCreadie. If he comes storming back to challenge the 2021 champion, I will be more convinced.

Without doubt, this is a driver and team that could make a strong run through these big money races that will be coming up soon. I wouldn’t say that Sheppard is “back” to where we are used to seeing him but his PDC win was a great start in that direction. Ask this same question in a couple of weeks and my answer might be different.

Remember, “back” for Sheppard is at a much higher level than most other drivers.

Michael: I think it’s too early to say Sheppard and the Rocket house car are back. Sheppard is really good at Fairbury and his win shouldn’t be considered a surprise.

I’m assuming Sheppard will be racing at Cedar Lake this coming weekend. That’s another track he’s really good at. After that, the Lucas Oil series goes to Florence for the North/South 100 and to Batesville for the Topless 100. Those are two tracks Sheppard hasn’t raced a whole lot. If he can come away with a win in either of those two races, then we’ll talk about him being back.

Cory Hedgecock won the Southern Nationals opener at Beckley then went on to claim the title

Assess Cory Hedgecock’s Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals championship.

Richard: Although he has won championships in the Crate Late Model division, Hedgecock has not traditionally been a points chaser in the Super Late Model ranks as he typically tries to pile up feature wins after examining the situation on a week-to-week basis then deciding which race suits his team best. It is a formula that has worked well for him throughout his career.

I was a little surprised when I saw that he had entered the SoNats opener in Beckley, West Virginia but that race did offer a nice $10,053-to-win purse. Not only did the Loudon, Tennessee driver enter that race held well outside his usual stomping grounds, but he won it. From that point, the decision was likely made for him, if it hadn’t been decided already, that he would go ahead and run the remainder of the tour.

Hedgecock went on to win a second feature on his home track at I-75 Raceway in Sweetwater, Tennessee. Throughout the rest of the Southern Nationals, the No. 23 crew posted steady results that would ultimately result in a $10,053 payout for winning the title.

All in all, I would say it was a very solid effort by Hedgecock.

Michael: I was also a bit surprised Hedgecock decided to run for the title. Winning two of the first four races made that decision look good, especially since Dale McDowell decided not run for the title.

Hedgecock has really come a long way in a short amount of time. He started out as a drag racer, then made the move to Dirt Late Models not even 10 years ago. He’s had his share of run-ins with various drivers. He’s mostly avoided those over the past year or so. I think that’s allowed him to be more focused on being a better driver. And he’s doing it for a family-owned team.

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