MENOMONIE, Wis. — Brandon Sheppard climbed from his car in victory lane with two thumbs up in the air, a smile, and a look in his eyes showing he’s back in championship form.
Sheppard mastered lap traffic and held off a hard-charging Cade Dillard to win Sunday night at Red Cedar Speedway.
The two drivers played a cat-and-mouse game for more than 20 laps, as Dillard tried to power past Sheppard on the inside multiple times. But Sheppard’s momentum carried him on top, keeping Dillard at bay for his fourth series win of 2021.
Sheppard knew Dillard could be a potential threat to keep him out of victory lane before the feature started.
“I watched [Dillard] in the heat race and I knew he was going to be tough on that top side,” Sheppard said. “He raced me really clean like he always does, and I try to do the same for him. He does a great job so congratulations to him on second place.”
Dillard wasn’t the only driver Sheppard dealt with. He was mired in lapped traffic, having to make quick decisions to stay one step ahead of “The Thriller.”
“[Lapped traffic] was really hairy because they were running the top and bottom, they weren’t really in a distinct line,” Sheppard said. “A couple of them I had to slide, a couple I had to hit the bottom just right in [turns] one and two and slide them in [turns] three and four, and a couple of them I had to squeeze around the top side of them.”
The win is Sheppard’s 73rd career World of Outlaws triumph. He’s one victory away from tying Darrell Lanigan for second on the all-time wins list.
The reigning champion also gained an advantage on his quest for a fourth Series title —extending his lead over Chris Madden to 88 points.
Dillard finished second — his seventh top five of the season.
“At one point I thought I might’ve been far enough I could’ve slid him, but I took the more conservative route there and made sure I left him room,” Dillard said. “We had a very good car, but track position was huge.”
That track position may have put Madden, who finished third, out of contention for the win.
The top-five finish is “Smokey’s” 18th of the season, continuing a trend of consistency this season.
“We were really good [Sunday] on the middle to the bottom of the track and [Sheppard and Dillard] were beating that wall and that cushion hard,” Madden said. “I started reeling them in there but when they got by the lap cars, all the lap cars just kind of lined up in my line I was running, so they kind of held me up.”
Feature (40 Laps)-1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 97-Cade Dillard [$6,000]; 3. 44-Chris Madden [$3,500]; 4. 28M-Jimmy Mars [$2,800]; 5. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,500]; 6. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$2,300]; 7. 10C-A.J. Diemel [$2,200]; 8. 16-Tyler Bruening [$2,100]; 9. 55C-Chad Mahder [$2,050]; 10. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,000]; 11. 45-Kyle Hammer [$1,600]; 12. 11G-James Giossi [$1,400]; 13. 85-John Kaanta [$1,200]; 14. 71-Rick Hanestad [$1,100]; 15. 22-Nick Panitzke [$1,050]; 16. B1-Brent Larson [$1,000]; 17. 12-Ashton Winger [$1,000]; 18. 22E-Kevin Eder [$1,000]; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 20. 3-Brett Swedberg [$1,000]; 21. 27-Jake Redetzke [$1,000]; 22. 6M-Jeff Massingill [$1,000]; 23. 519-Steve Laursen [$1,000]; 24. 99JR-Frank Heckenast [$1,000] Hard Charger: 19R-Ryan Gustin[+9]