Sheppard Nabs Finale Win And Wild West Shootout Championship
San Tan Valley, AZ — January 19, 2020
There’s a common saying that nearly everyone has heard at least once before; “the cream always rises to the top”. No words can more accurately describe how Sunday night’s Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts finale unfolded. Skeeter Estey of Kelly Lake, Minn., took care of business in the RHRSwag.com Barnett Harley-Davidson X-Mod feature, Dustin Strand of Grand Forks, N.D., finished third in the Mesilla Valley Transportation/Border Tire and Arizona Differential Modified race, while Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., dominated the Dirt Track Bank Super Late Models presented by Black Diamond Race Cars main event.
Sheppard’s night started out perfectly, claiming the $100 fast qualifier award, presented by SportTruck RV and Screven Motor Speedway, after speeding around FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in 15.299 seconds. Sheppard then backed that up by cruising to win his heat race by nearly two seconds. Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., Johnny Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., and Ricky Thornton Jr of Chandler, Ariz., also earned heat race victories and would join Sheppard in the redraw. Sheppard drew the outside front row starting position for Sunday’s Shaw Trucking 50-lap, feature and he would start alongside Thornton Jr, who collected the $100 Gorsuch Performance Pole Award.
“B-Shepp” wasted absolutely no time once the green flag dropped, utilizing the outside line and firing out to the early lead. He stretched his lead quickly, as Thornton Jr did everything he could to remain within striking distance. The first Midwest Sheet Metal caution flag was displayed on the second lap, when Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., spun in turn one with a flat left rear tire. This setup the first of many restarts throughout the long race and allowed deeper-starting drivers like Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba, and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., the opportunity to gain ground. Weiss did just that on the ensuing restart, charging up to fifth place, behind the top-four starters.
Lap 12 saw the next yellow flag, as Frank Heckenast Jr of Frankfort, Ill., suffered mechanical problems and slowed on the front straightaway, ending his night. Dillard and Weiss got busy on the next restart, with Weiss sliding higher than Dillard expected, running them both above the cushion in turn four and causing both of them to lose several positions. Dillard spun a few laps later, possibly from the earlier contact with Weiss and the caution flag was displayed once more.
Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., worked his way up to fourth position, with Shirley right behind him for the following restart. Shirley seemingly hit the afterburner on his Rocket Chassis, as he charged all the way up to second position on the next restart, bringing Weiss with him, who was now back in the top five. Shirley set his sights on Sheppard and tracked him down quickly, reaching his rear bumper just before the halfway point of the 50-lap race. Lap 27 saw Shirley dive underneath Sheppard at the entrance of turn one and execute a perfect slide job, briefly taking the lead. However, Sheppard had a crossover up his sleeve and executed that move perfectly, powering back underneath Shirley at the exit of turn two and carrying that momentum back into the lead, by the entrance of turn three. In hindsight, that was the largest challenge that Sheppard would face throughout the entire evening.
The final Midwest Sheet Metal caution flag of the night flew on lap 33, when John Cornell of Phoenix, Ariz., spun in the middle of turns one and two. Unfortunately for Shirley, he stumbled on the ensuing restart and dropped several positions. This allowed Johnny Scott to obtain the runner-up position and he would give everything he had to keep pace with Sheppard. Ricky Weiss was back up to the fourth spot on that same restart and quickly overtook Thornton Jr for third, as he lost the handle on his Black Diamond Chassis and began fading outside the top-five.
Johnny Scott closed within a half second of Sheppard with less than 10 laps remaining, nearly getting to B-Shepp’s back bumper, as he was delayed by lapped traffic. However, no one had anything for Sheppard on Sunday night, allowing the defending Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout champion to park in Hoker Trucking victory lane for the third time this week. Sheppard not only collected $15,000 for winning Sunday’s finale, he also collected a $10,000 bonus, courtesy of Keyser Manufacturing. In addition to that, Sheppard was also crowned the 2020 Dirt Track Bank Super Late Model Champion, presented by Black Diamond Race Cars, netting him another $3,000. For those who are counting, that’s a $28,000 payday for Sheppard and team, on Sunday.
Johnny Scott enjoyed his best run of the 2020 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, finishing second to Sheppard by just over half of a second. Ricky Weiss came home in third spot on Sunday, his fifth top-five finish of the week. Shirley also earned his fifth top-five finish of the event, charging from his 17th starting position, to finish fourth, while Pierce rounded out the top-five.
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