Four & Counting: Sheppard Fends Off Challengers for Utica-Rome Sunoco Modified Victory
Written by Chris Moore
VERNON, NY – Four and counting.
The beat goes on for Savannah, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard, as he grabbed his fourth consecutive Sunoco Modified feature event on Friday night after an epic duel with Sprakers, N.Y.’s Stewart Friesen and Unadilla, N.Y.’s Billy Decker in the 30-lap event.
In the end, Sheppard continues to be the man to beat at the ‘Home of Heroes’ earning the $2,400 top prize.
A huge crowd filled the Utica-Rome grandstands on Fan Appreciation Night presented by Tom Cole’s Lexi LLC. A season-high 28 Sunoco Modifieds signed in for competition amongst 101 total race cars.
The green flag threw with Fultonville, N.Y.’s JaMike Sowle and Glenville, N.Y.’s Brian Gleason on the front row, while Sheppard began his quest from the 11th starting spot.
Gleason and Sowle battled for the lead allowing Whitney Point, N.Y.’s Marshall Hurd to sneak up the inside and taking the lead on lap two.
Sheppard, meanwhile, wasted no time, climbing to second in just three laps. ‘Super Matt’ reeled in Hurd and took the lead away on lap six.
From there, attention turned to Friesen, who was battling with Middlesex, N.Y.’s Alan Johnson and Brian Gleason for the third spot.
Friesen worked to third and like Sheppard, began reeling in Marshall Hurd before the first yellow of the race came on lap 11. Two laps later, another caution occurred as Sheffield, Mass., native Andy Bachetti slowed with a flat tire.
Friesen pulled up alongside Sheppard for the lap-13 restart, setting up what appeared to be a 17-lap war between the top two.
On the restart, Friesen snatched the lead away using the bottom lane and appeared to be setting sail before another yellow restacked the field five laps later.
Friesen chose the bottom lane on the restart, and Sheppard went to another gear in the outside lane. Sheppard rocketed around Friesen, taking the lead back from his counterpart.
Another restart appeared to give Friesen another opportunity, but it was ultimately Friesen’s last lap, as a mechanical failure caused the No. 44 to slow before pulling to the infield on the back straightaway.
With Friesen out of the picture, it was the invader Billy Decker’s turn to pressure Sheppard. Decker rode in the third position, watching Friesen and Sheppard battled for the lead. When Decker was handed the runner-up spot, he turned up the wick on Sheppard.
The two traded the lead five times in a five-lap green flag run, before another yellow came out on lap 23. Sheppard led the last lap before the caution flag flew, which appeared to be the deciding factor in the race.
On the ensuing restart, Sheppard used his lane choice to switch to the bottom and drive away from Decker and the rest of the field. One more late race restart gave the field one more chance, but ‘Super Matt’ was in command.
Sheppard’s lead continued to grow in the Sunoco Modified point standings with his 46th career Utica-Rome Speedway win.
Decker took home the runner-up spot in the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 91 and Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner battled back to third in his Jake Spraker-owned No. 1J.
Alan Johnson held on for fourth in the Friendly Ford No. 14j and Gleason rounded out the top-five in the BBL Companies no. 3G.
East Greenbush, N.Y.’s David Schilling drove the family-owned No. 20 to a sixth place run with Rusty Smith grabbing seventh in his first appearance of 2021.
Sprakers, N.Y., native Jessica Friesen returned to Utica-Rome with an eighth-place finish while Darren Smith brought the other Jeremy Smith Racing ride home ninth. Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker rounded out the top 10 in his JSD Express No. 1x.
Oneida, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk returned to Victory Lane in the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman division. After missing a week and a disqualification for a rev box infraction last week, Janczuk returned with a vengeance on Friday night in the 25-lap main.
Janczuk slowly crept into the top five on lap 10, before taking advantage of some mid-race restarts to pick his way through the top five and take the lead. Janczuk would ultimately pick up his fourth win of the season by a straightaway over the rest of the field.
Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker Jr. grabbed the runner-up spot and Genoa, N.Y.’s Will Shields rounded out the podium finishers.
Mexico, N.Y.’s Addison Bowman followed up last week’s win with a fourth-place run and Tucker O’Connor rounded out the top five.
Schenectady, N.Y.’s Nick Stone picked up his fifth win of the season and third consecutive Next Generation Pro Stock 20-lap triumph, racing to the front in the first five laps and never looking back.
With the win, Stone pulled even with Grand Gorge, N.Y.’s Beau Ballard for the point lead. Ballard grabbed the runner-up spot and Johnstown, N.Y., native Jason Morrison rounded out the podium.
Hamilton, N.Y.’s Bill Knapp grabbed the fourth position and Little Falls, N.Y.’s Jim Normoyle rounded out the top five.
Rotterdam, N.Y.’s Clayton DuMond continued his stranglehold on the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman division, grabbing his fourth win this season in the 15-lap main. DuMond drove to second and took the lead after David Hacket Jr. slipped off the banking in turns three and four. DuMond never relinquished the lead after that.
West Winfield, N.Y.’s Jeremy Slosek rebounded from an early spin to grab second and Oxford, N.Y.’s Matt Backus were the top-three.
Justin Pope grabbed his fifth Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinders victory in six races this season. Wayne Russell Jr. returned in a new car to grab another win in the Single Cam portion of the Four Cylinder event.
Gordon Smith’s first appearance this season netted him a win in the Senior Services Insurance All-Star Slingshots division. Dustin Sehn grabbed his first career win in the D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshots victory.
Racing resumes Thursday, July 22, as Broedel Fuel Group presents the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco ‘Richie Evans Remembered 61.’ The STSS Modifieds will go 61-laps for $6,100-to-win and $610-to-start. The STSS Crate 602 Sportsman will go 25-laps for $1,561-to-win.
Grandstand admission will be $24 for Adults, and $22 for Seniors (ages 65 and over). Kids 11 and under get in FREE. Pit Admission is $40 (Non-Members) or $35 (Utica-Rome Speedway Members).
Pit Gates will open at 4 p.m. while Grandstand gates open at 5 p.m. Racing is set to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is www.uticaromespeedway.com. Like Utica-Rome Speedway on Facebook or @UR_Speedway.
TOM COLE’S LEXI LLC. NIGHT RESULTS SUMMARY – UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY JULY 16, 2021
Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Billy Decker, Rocky Warner, Alan Johnson, Brian Gleason, David Schilling, Rusty Smith, Jessica Friesen, Darren Smith, Willy Decker, Bob Henry Jr., Andy Bachetti, Randy Shantel, Ricky Davis, Shaun Walker, Adam Roberts, Claude Hutchings Jr., Marshall Hurd, JaMike Sowle, Ronnie Holmes, Jeff Taylor, Stewart Friesen, Sean Beardsley, Dave Constantino, Aaron Jacobs, John Lutes Jr., Tim Mayne.
Did Not Start: Jeff Rockafeller
Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): MATT JANCZUK, Willy Decker Jr., Will Shields, Addison Bowman, Tucker O’Connor, Dave Richer, Brian Calabrese, AJ Miller, Payton Talbot, Rocco Leone, Ed Lukas, Tanner Warner, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Alan Hodge, Nick Stone, Joe Williams, David Dickey, Mark Effner, Dana Camenga, Kevin Crave, Anthony Cardamone, Steve Kotary, Harry Murphy, Tim Falter, Kyle DeMetro, Chip Constantino, Shawn Frost, Mike Grover.
Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks (20 laps): NICK STONE, Beau Ballard, Jason Morrison, Bill Knapp, Jim Normoyle, Ivan Joslin, Aaron Page, John Roese, Jerry Streeter, AJ Walters, Brian Wesseldine, Ed Kotary, Mike Kazlauskas, John Holmes, Don Collins, Frank Hyatt.
Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (15 laps): CLAYTON DUMOND, Jeremy Slosek, Matt Backus, David Hacket Jr., Ed Downing, Mark Potter, Lance Hill, Jason Lopes, Ernie Staelens, Mark Haman, Amber Jacobs, Alexis Jacobs, Jonathan Feagles.
Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinder Feature Finish (15 laps): JUSTIN POPE (DOHC), Matt Buckovan, Corey Valade, Wayne Russell Jr. (SOHC), Donald Kimball, Jean Foster, TJ Marlitt.
Did Not Start: Rudy King Jr.
Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshots (20 laps): GORDON SMITH, Dan Slosek, Eymarah Bowman, Andrew Millard, Calvin Wheelock.
D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshots (15 laps): DUSTIN SEHN, Colt Kimball, Savannah Simmons, Brody Janczuk.