VERNON, NY- Matt Sheppard completed his sweep of the $10,000 to win Modified shows at Utica-Rome Speedway last Monday, September 7th, as he held off Billy Decker to win the New Yorker 100, presented by Stampede Steakhouse. Sheppard also won the Victoria event back on Memorial Day weekend in May. Victory lane was shared by James Michael Friesen, who won an exciting race in the Upstate Sportsman Alliance/Grit Series after a late race pass of Rocky Warner.  The win by Sheppard was his 10th win of the season while it was Friesen’s first career win at the Vernon oval.

The New Yorker 100 rolled onto the racing surface with the previous night’s feature winner sitting on the pole, as Vic Coffey drew the top spot in the redraw. He was accompanied on the front row by Alan Johnson. When the green came out for the first time, Coffey slipped into the line he used to win the night before, just above the very bottom of the racing surface. Johnson stuck with him for the first handful of laps, but his spot became under siege as Matt Sheppard was looking to continue his climb up the podium after starting in fourth. Further behind them, Larry Wight was sniffing out the front, using the moisture on the top side to break into the top five and then the top three and on the hunt for Sheppard. He was starting to close in when the first caution of the race on lap 15 stalled the action.

The restart allowed Wight to use the top side again to take second away from Sheppard before starting his search for Coffey. He was closing in on lap 20, and was on the rear bumper a lap later, sliding to cushion and powering off the top. They went side by side into the turns, but Coffey continued to get strong runs off of the bottom and held off Wight down the backstretch. In the west end of the speedway, Wight pounded the tire off the top and was able to slip a tire in front to take the lead. Going back into the first two turns, Coffey stuck to his line and battled back to the top spot. As the two reached lap traffic, Coffey used the slower cars to his advantage and made some breathing room as he tried to run away from Wight.

Wight started to fade back as Coffey navigated his way through slower traffic. Meanwhile, Sheppard was starting to turn faster and faster laps from third; slowly tracking down Wight as they battled with lapped cars. Behind them, just outside of the top five, Billy Decker started to pick up the pace and was inching closer to Johnson, who was running in fifth. With the race reaching the halfway mark, Sheppard had caught Wight and Decker had moved into the top five. Sheppard, who had primarily used the bottom for most of the race, had shifted lines and was now going to the top, while Wight started diving to the lowest groove. The battled lasted for a handful of laps, but Sheppard completed the pass off of the fourth corner and took sole possession of second.

As Sheppard was closing in on Coffey with 40 laps remaining, the leader was getting caught up in traffic, with slower cars running his lane on the bottom, forcing Coffey to search for a groove higher up. Sheppard took advantage, closing in and pulling even with Wight in tow. Coffey tried to hold onto his lead, but Sheppard stole his line and took the lead. Wight followed suit and took second. Sheppard began to pull away as he moved back to the top, even as Wight searched around for a line to catch him. The final podium spot belonged to Decker, driving through the middle and reeling in the top two. With 20 circuits left, Decker caught his teammate.

Wight continued his use of the bottom while Decker wheeled his machine in the middle groove. Decker pulled alongside Wight in the turns, but Wight pulled away on the straightaway. Changing his line just a little bit, Decker got a stronger run off of the turns and pulled alongside Wight, finally taking second with 12 to go. Two laps later, the second and final yellow flag came out for Wight, who lost his left front tire on the backstretch. The caution eliminated the sizable lead Sheppard had gained, putting Decker on his rear bumper.

The restart saw the top two stick together going into the first two turns, Sheppard clinging to the bottom this time and Decker sticking to his guns with the middle groove. It seemed that Decker was faster at first, closing in on the bumper of Sheppard, but the leader found some momentum and started to pull away, pulling out to three car lengths in front with one to go and holding on for the win. For Sheppard, it was his tenth feature win on the season at the speedway, one shy of the record of most wins in a season. With Decker in second, Coffey, Rob Bellinger, and Johnson filled out the top five. Ryan Phelps, Stewart Friesen, Pat Ward, Jimmy Phelps, and Danny Varin trailed.

By virtue of the draw, Dave Marcuccilli started on the pole of the 30 lap Upstate Sportsman Alliance/Grit Sportsman Series main event and grabbed the early advantage at the drop of the green over fellow front row starter Tyler Singleton.  While Marcuccilli set a blistering pace in the early stage of the event it was James Michael Friesen, Matt Janczuk, and Rocky Warner that were making their moves towards to the front.  Friesen was the first to get there as he took second on lap seven from Singleton with Warner up to third by lap nine with Janczuk now up to fourth.  A great side by side battle ensued between Friesen and Warner for the next four circuits until Warner was finally able to wrestle the runner spot from Friesen on lap 13. At the halfway point, Marcuccilli had a straightaway lead with Warner, Friesen, Janczuk, and Singleton giving chase.

The first caution of the race came out on lap 18 which gave the field a chance to catch the leader Marcuccilli, and on the restart Warner took advantage. Diving to the bottom of the racing surface in turn one, Warner pulled even with Marcuccilli as the two entered the backstretch. Warner once again chose the low side and fought by the leader for the top spot. Behind him, however, Friesen was continuing his charge to the front and took the runner up spot away from Marcuccilli on the 23rd circuit. He then began the task of tracking down Warner, who was trying to run and hide at the front of the field.

The second and final caution came out with a pair of laps left, giving Friesen the opportunity he needed. With the reemergence of the green, Friesen used the same line he had used to get to the front: going into the turn on the top and then diving to the bottom on the exit. On the backstretch, Friesen got a full head of steam and powered past Warner as they drove into the west end of the speedway. Coming to the white, Friesen had the lead at the line. Friesen again took his line in the turns and was able to create a little distance, driving away to the win. Warner settled for second, followed by Janczuk, Marcuccilli, and Barker.

Next Saturday, September 12th, Utica-Rome Speedway hosts the third annual Cole Cup, a $10,000 to win race for 360 Sprint Cars, joined by the Stampede Steakhouse Modifieds for their last NASCAR Whelen All-American Series point event. Gates open at 4p.m. and racing begins at 7p.m. For further information, visit or call (315) 829-4557.


NEW YORKER MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (100 LAPS)-MATT SHEPPARD, Billy Decker, Vic Coffey, Rob Bellinger, Alan Johnson, Ryan Phelps, Stewart Friesen, Pat Ward, Jimmy Phelps, Danny Varin, Mike Mahaney, Erick Rudolph, Danny Johnson, Tim Fuller, Mike Bowman, Bobby Varin, Tim Schneider Jr., Larry Wight, Chris Mackey, Elmo Reckner, Chris Hile, Jimmy Davis, Adam Roberts, Eldon Payne Jr., and Vinnie Vitale. 

B MAIN FINISH (12 LAPS)-ADAM ROBERTS, Jeff Rockefeller, Jessey Mueller, Tim Mayne, Tom Tophoven, Steve Way, and CG Morey.  DNS-Ryan Arbuthnot, Ronnie Johnson, and Justin Boehler. 

USA SERIES/GRIT 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)-JAMES MICHAEL FRIESEN, Rocky Warner, Matt Janczuk, Dave Marcuccilli, Corey Barker, AJ Filbeck, Kyle Kiehn, Todd Root, Ronnie Davis III, Mike Button, Brent Joy, Glenn Forward, Tyler Meeks, Kevin Root, Chris Cunningham, Robert Bublak, Nick Krause, Casey Pavlick, Matt Guererri, Nick Guererri, Tony Finch II, Aaron Jacobs, Tyler Singleton, Daryl Nutting, Rocco Leone, and Jake Dgien.  DNQ-Beth Bellinger, Kyle Inman, Jack Miller, Tyler Trump, Casey Williams, Stephen Denton, Will Shields, Matt Steffenhagen, Justin Smith, and Carl Inman.