VERNON, N.Y. – Matt Sheppard called victory lane all his own on championship night at Utica-Rome Speedway, picking up his 11th win of the season and his second consecutive Sunoco Modified championship.
“I’m really proud of this team. What a great season… never would’ve dreamed we would’ve got rolling the way we did,” proclaimed Sheppard on his 2022 season.
Sheppard’s 11th win of the season brings him to 59 total wins at the ‘Home of Heroes,’ second on the all-time win list and within three of the all-time lead held by Stewart Friesen.
“I missed racing here, I’m thankful Brett (Deyo) got this place going again,” proclaimed Sheppard of his gratitude to have Utica-Rome Speedway back.
“It’s really been a true Friday night home for us.”
Sheppard fired off from his customary 12th starting position following the handicap, while Will Shields and Shaun Walker held the front row starting positions.
While Walker faded in the early going, Shields quickly raced out to a healthy lead while Ronnie Johnson attempted to run him down.
The race’s first yellow came out on lap six, as David Schilling clipped an infield yuke tire, causing front end damage that ended his night.
The restart was great news for both Sheppard and Ronnie Johnson. Sheppard, who restarted in eight, was up to fifth by the completion of lap eight.
Johnson, meanwhile, was turning up the pressure on Shields up front for the lead. Johnson and Shields raced side-by-side for three laps, allowing the trio behind them to reel them in.
Alan Barker and Billy Decker were joined by Sheppard, making it a five-car duel for the lead spot on lap 11.
Johnson emerged from the pack with the lead as the field completed the 12th circuit, while Decker and Sheppard both raced by Alan Barker for the third and fourth spots.
Decker, however, wasn’t done.
One lap later the “Franklin Flyer” raced underneath Will Shields for the runner-up spot. Sheppard followed Decker in the following set of corners, driving underneath Shields for third.
Sheppard kicked it into high gear after getting to third. Both Johnson and Decker moved up off the bottom, leaving it open for Sheppard. “Super Matt” raced by the lead duo and took the lead away for good.
Multiple yellows plagued the remainder of the race, giving two other drivers opportunities to climb through the field.
Alex Yankowski – who started 16th – raced to sixth before a lap-20 restart. “Kid Rocket” used an excellent restart to race around three cars on the inside row, then dive underneath Alan Barker to take the runner-up spot.
Stewart Friesen would have a successful restart two laps later, taking the fourth position that he would hold onto.
Despite the numerous late race restarts, Sheppard was unchallenged up front, taking home the $2,400 victory on championship night.
Yankowski – powered by his excellent restart – would come home as the runner-up and Billy Decker rounded out the top three.
Friesen claimed the fourth position and Alan Barker rounded out the top five.
Dave Richer was the man dubbed to snap Matt Janczuk’s ten race win streak with the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman.
Richer fired off from the fifth position but wasted no time getting to the front and driving away from the field following early yellows.
Richer won in dominant fashion by nearly four seconds over Willy Decker Jr. Allan Hodge rounded out the podium. Payton Talbot came home fourth and A.J. Miller rounded out the top five.
Janczuk finished in 10th place, good enough to secure the championship, the ninth of his career.
“We were points racing tonight. I was just trying to survive because it was pretty wild there in the mid-pack,” Janczuk explained of his championship night performance.
Bret Belden raced to his first Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks feature win in over eight years at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Belden’s victory was a popular one, as the 62-year-old claimed his 36th career win in the division at the “Home of Heroes.”
Belden was victorious over Jay Corbin in a battle to the finish line. A.J. Walters, Jason Morrison, and Beau Ballard rounded out the top five.
Ballard was crowned the champion of the Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks for the second consecutive year.
Alex Hughes claimed his fourth win of the season with the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman with a last lap pass of Dylan Piersall for the win. Piersall was the runner-up followed by E.J. Gallup, Eric Jensen, and Ernie Staelens.
Seth Martin, who came home sixth, clinched the championship by taking the green flag to start the race.
Jay Ingersoll invaded Utica-Rome Speedway for the first time and claimed the Dual Cam portion of the Fonda Fair Four Cylinder feature event. Wayne Russell Jr. was victorious for the third time this season in the Single Cam portion of the event.
Matt Bukovan (DOHC) and Hunter Tarbania (SOHC) were crowned Four Cylinder champions.
Brett Putnam was victorious with the Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshots, clinching the win and his second consecutive championship to boot.
Corky Warner meanwhile took home his second win of the season with the D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshots while Blake Banek earned the championship.