BRISTOL, Tenn. – Experience is never a bad thing when a driver unloads at a race track. For Brandon Sheppard and the Rocket1 racing team, it may be the key to a good weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The three-time and defending champion was fastest in Thursday’s practice session during the opening night of the World of Outlaws Bristol Bash, April 8-10. He ran a 14.955-second lap, with an average speed of 128 mph. Sheppard was the only driver to run a lap in less than 15 seconds.
The New Berlin, Ill., driver ran 54 laps Thursday night, more than any other driver – much like when he ran 156 laps during the March test. He’s run a total of 210 laps between two practice sessions.
Sheppard said the team made little changes throughout the night, trying to get the car to turn better.
“Last time we were here, we didn’t have the chance to lay back our spoiler anymore, so we have that laid back a little bit better,” Sheppard said. “It’s just little stuff we were missing last time that we didn’t have time to figure out.”
While Sheppard was trying to free up his car, Chris Madden only needed to make a few adjustments throughout the night.
“We were pretty good when we got here, we’ve been more or less fine tuning on [the car] because we were consistent every time we went out,” Madden said.
Even though the Grey Court, S.C., driver didn’t change a lot, he knows how important it is to have a quick lap out of the gate.
“The track is super-fast and getting qualified and getting a good starting spot for the Heat Race is going to be very critical,” Madden said.
Third quickest on the night was Series point leader Kyle Strickler in a brand new car. His last lap of the night turned out to be his fastest.
“This is the first laps we ran on [the car] so to bring it out to [Bristol] and be fast out of the box, that’s what we look to do,” Strickler said.
While Strickler got faster as the night went on, setting his best time in his 19th and final lap, four-time Series champion Josh Richards and his Clint Bowyer Racing team found themselves tinkering with adjustments. He ran 41 laps in total and set his best time on Lap 18.
“We were fortunate we were free early, and we didn’t struggle turning that much, it was more turning a little bit later when the track got blacker,” Richards said.
The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series hits the track Friday for a 40-lap, $10,000-to-win feature. They’ll then run another 40 laps on Saturday with $25,000 on the line for the winner.