Matt Sheppard Wins Hard Clay Open at OCFS

Matt Sheppard has stamped his mark on numerous dirt-track racing facilities throughout the eastern United States and Canada.

Sheppard has been one of biggest winners in Modified competition for the past several seasons and has captured many championships in the process. But one thing has eluded the talented driver during his decorated career – a victory at the Orange County Fair Speedway.

Sheppard was on hand at OCFS Sunday evening with a throng of 60 talented competitors as this historic speedway was kicking off its 100th year of dirt-track racing with the sixth annual Hard Clay Open.

Sheppard, who saw victory within his grasp here in the past, wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip through his fingers again as he dominated a 30-car starting field to capture the Modified/Small Block Modified 50-lap main event to open the 2019 Super Short Track Series North Region title chase. The Waterloo driver earned the winner’s share of $11,919 behind his first OCFS career triumph.

“We’re going to savor this one,’’ said Sheppard. It’s a huge win for me and also a huge win for my fans. I’ve come close to getting the monkey off my back here before, but something happened to prevent it. I was just getting tired of finishing second. Finally, I’ve got one and this has really been a good start to our season.’’

Sheppard also picked up a $7,500 victory at Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

“What a weekend it has been for us.’’ said Sheppard. “The car was really fast at Grandview and what a rocket ship it was tonight. I really felt good after qualifying and knew I had a car capable of winning.

“I knew after the dash that it really felt good. I drew 12th spot in the redraw, but tonight there would be no excuses. I just hit my marks and what a relief it is to finally get that win at Orange County.’’

Stewart Friesen, who is the all-time winner of the Short Track Super Series, raced all the way back from 20th starting position to earn the hard charger award behind his second-place finish. Friesen, after looping his car in the fourth turn to his qualifying race, made the field by winning the second consolation event.

“It was a lot of fun out there,’’ said Friesen. “I was able to pass cars on both the inside and outside lines, and actually had a chance to win at the end. But Matt (Sheppard) was just too strong tonight.’’

Sheppard, who built a commanding lead after grabbing first place from Danny Varin on the 17th lap, watched his lead evaporate with two laps to go when Varin’s car stopped on the homestretch after making contact with Danny Creeden’s car.

Friesen started behind Sheppard for the single-file restart, but wasn’t able to make a serious challenge for the lead. Sheppard just stepped on the gas and took the checkered flag more than two seconds ahead of Friesen.

Defending OCFS Modified track champion Anthony Perrego, who started outside pole, finished in third place with OCFS’s all-time winner Brett Hearn in fourth. They were followed across the finish line by Mike Gular, Mike Mahaney, Brian Krummel, Danny Johnson, Andy Bachetti, and Billy Decker.

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