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Brandon Sheppard in victory lane at East Bay Raceway Park. (Mike Ruefer photo)

Sheppard Makes Good In Lucas LM Run

GIBSONTON, Fla. — Brandon Sheppard became the fourth and final leader of an exciting 30-lap feature on Thursday night at East Bay Raceway Park.

The New Berlin, Ill., native went to the Wieland Winternationals winner’s circle for the 10th time at the Clay by the Bay.

The race was originally scheduled for Monday night but was postponed to three segments during the week after rain wiped out the Monday program.

Sheppard battled with his fellow Illini state driver from lap 18 on until Sheppard was able to open some distance between himself and Brian Shirley. Shirley took second and Devin Moran rounded out the podium in third. Tyler Erb was fourth and Ross Robinson rounded out the top five drivers.

Garrett Smith paced the first two laps of the race until Moran took over the point. Moran then held the top spot until Shirley got by him using the bottom groove by the halfway mark.

Shirley would lead on two different occasions during the race as he finally relinquished the lead to Sheppard for good on lap 20. Sheppard went on to win by 1.491 seconds.

Sheppard earned his 32nd series victory and became the sixth different winner in Lucas Oil late model competition this season.

“Man, you just never know, the competition is so tough right now, all these guys do such a good job, and the race track is so much different each night. Hats off to everyone here at East Bay for giving us such a good racetrack again here tonight,” Sheppard said. “When you have highs and lows like this it takes a lot of good people being together to be able to stick it through. Man, I hate it that I had to pass my old buddy, Shirley for the win. I know he’s needed a good run this week too. It feels really good.” 

Sheppard, who started ninth, surged the lead for good on lap 20 after a back-and-forth battle between himself and Shirley.

“Honestly after the first feature tonight I knew we had a really good car and things just didn’t fall my way. I think we started 11th and came all the way sixth,” Sheppard said. “We raced with this car last night, but in the first feature we ran a different car and the guys wanted to run it in this feature, but I wanted to give this old girl a chance. It is one of our older cars from last year.”

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Brandon Sheppard (b5) races under Brian Shirley (3s) through traffic at Volusia Speedway Park. (Jim DenHamer photo)

Shirley, who has never won a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event, nor a Georgia-Florida Speedweeks race came agonizingly close to ending those streaks.

“That hole was there in one for the entire 40 laps in the first feature and 30 laps that race. I just hit it the wrong way with about five or six to go there,” Shirley said. “I tried my best to crowd him [Sheppard] to try and get by him. It just wasn’t good enough. That one stings, you only have two mores tries here this week. I would definitely like to put my name in the record books here.”

Moran, who led multiple laps until the halfway mark yielded the lead to Shirley on lap 15 and fell to third behind both Shirley and Sheppard. “I felt really good when I could run the top down in three and four and bottom on the other end of the track. The car was really good underneath me and I kind of migrated to the bottom and I just couldn’t run the bottom like those guys. We’ve been making progress on it, and we just need to keep on working on it and we will see what we can do for tomorrow and Saturday. It obviously had a lot more character that people wanted, but I know Al [Varnadore] will get it smoothed back out for tomorrow.”

The finish:

Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Devin Moran, Hudson O’Neal, Ross Robinson, Tyler Erb, Daulton Wilson, Jason Riggs, Ethan Dotson, Tanner English, Ashton Winger, Spencer Hughes, Wil Herrington, Blair Northdurft, R.J. Conley, Ross Bailles, Garrett Smith, Garrett Alberson, Kyle Bronson, Dennis Erb Jr., Matt Costner, Logan Zarin, Jonathan Davenport, Max Blair.