Drive for Five: Matt Sheppard Earns Fifth Utica-Rome Sunoco Modified Victory of 2022

Drive for Five: Matt Sheppard Earns Fifth Utica-Rome Sunoco Modified Victory of 2022

Written by Chris Moore

VERNON, NY – Drive for five.

For the fifth time this season, Savannah, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard claimed victory in the Sunoco Modified 30-lap feature at Utica-Rome Speedway on Broedel Fuel Group/A-Verdi Storage Containers Night.

The win was the 53rd of Sheppard’s Utica-Rome career, bringing him within six wins of the all-time lead at the ‘Home of Heroes’ half-mile.

“It’s just a pleasure to race here every Friday, the track is wide, smooth, and we can race all over. We love coming here on Friday nights,” explained a satisfied Sheppard.

Sheppard’s win extended his streak to seven consecutive races finishing in the top two, increasing his advantage in the Sunoco Modified point standings.

Sheppard took the green flag from the 12th starting position, while Norwich, N.Y.’s Alan Barker and East Greenbush, N.Y.’s Bobby Hackel IV occupied the front row.

Hackel quickly charged to the lead, while Barker faded in the early going. Gloversville, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner was on the move, challenging Shaun Walker for the final podium position behind Hackel and JaMike Sowle.

Sheppard, meanwhile, had already gained five positions in the opening three laps, moving himself to seventh with 27 circuits remaining.

While Warner continued to challenge Walker for the third spot, the pair reeled in Sowle, turning a two-car duel for third into a three-car battle for the runner-up spot.

The fight was short-lived, however, as Warner used the banking in turns three and four to launch around both Walker and Sowle, taking the runner-up spot.

With Warner firmly into second and locking in on Hackel for the lead, attention shifted to Sheppard’s No. 9S machine.

Sheppard worked by Middlesex, N.Y.’s Alan Johnson for sixth just as Rocky Warner had moved into the runner-up spot. Next on the list for Sheppard was Genoa, N.Y.’s Pat Ward.

The ‘Genoa Giant’ had moved into contention to battle with Sowle and Walker for the third spot, who continued to race in close quarters inside the top five.

With Sheppard joining the fray, the race became a four-car dogfight for third. Ward and Sheppard were working around the outside of the fast half-mile, with Walker and Sowle fighting for racing room around the bottom.

By the ninth lap Ward and Sheppard cleared Walker and Sowle, moving them into the third and fourth spots. Sheppard however wasn’t content to stay in the fourth. ‘Super Matt’ raced around Ward one lap later, moving himself into the third spot.

The race’s first yellow flag fell just prior to the field completing lap 12, as Plattsburgh, N.Y.’s Nick Heywood was facing the wrong direction over the turns one and two embankment.

The restart appeared to be all Sheppard needed, erasing Hackel’s advantage over Warner and Sheppard. Unadilla, N.Y.’s Billy Decker had begun a charge as well prior to the yellow, moving into the top five when green replaced yellow.

On the restart Warner used the outside groove to take the lead away, before another yellow flag fell one lap later, as Oneida, N.Y.’s Randy Shantel slowed to a stop in turn three.

Sheppard went to work on the ensuing restart, challenging Hackel and taking the runner-up spot on lap 14 and then driving underneath Warner for the lead just before the field received the halfway signal.

The rest of the race spun off caution-free and Sheppard cruised to the $2,400 payday, despite driving off the turns one and two embankment on lap 20.

Decker climbed to the runner-up spot, following last week’s win with another solid performance aboard the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 91. Warner rounded out the podium cars.

Alan Johnson took home the fourth spot in the Mark Spoor-owned No. 14J and Andy Bachetti earned a top-five finish after an up-and-down night for the Sheffield, Mass., native.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Alex Yankowski, who got to the top-five late before getting passed by Bachetti; Ward, who faded late after being up as high as third; Bobby Hackel, who slowly lost the handling on his racecar after the two yellows; with Shaun Walker and JaMike Sowle rounding out the top-10.

Fonda, N.Y.’s Danny Varin was victorious for the second time this season in Sprint Car competition at Utica-Rome Speedway. This time, Varin led all 25 laps of the first Patriot Sprint Tour (PST) 360 Sprint Car A-Main of the season at the Route 5 oval.

After a yellow on lap two, the final 24 laps fired off without a problem, and Varin coasted to his second Utica-Rome win of the season.

Canadian Jordan Poirier took home and runner-up finish and South Onondaga, N.Y.’s Shawn Donath rounded out the podium cars. Wantage, N.J.’s Davie Franek claimed the fourth spot and Harding, Pa.’s Jordan Thomas was the top five.

The PST Sprint Cars return to Utica-Rome Speedway on Oct. 4 for the return of the Cole Cup.

For the fifth time this season – and the third week in a row – South New Berlin, N.Y.’s Payton Talbot claimed the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman main event. He earned $1,000.

Talbot, like Sheppard, fired from the 12th position at the start of the feature. Talbot wrestled the lead away on lap 12 from Vernon Center, N.Y.’s Willy Decker Jr. and led the final 13 laps for the win.

Rome, N.Y.’s Chris Mackey had his best finish of the season, claiming the runner-up spot and Durhamville, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk placed third. Vernon, N.Y.’s Mike Richmond also had his strongest outing of the season, claiming the fourth spot, and Clay, N.Y.’s Rocco Leone rounded out the top five.

Fort Johnson, N.Y.’s Josh Coonradt won his first Next Generation Graphix Pro Stock feature of the 2022 season, worth $800. Coonradt was involved in an early yellow, spinning off the turns one and two embankment trying to miss another car.

The race was halted on lap three due to a pop-up shower. After approximately 10 minutes of moderate rainfall, the precipitation stopped and the Pro Stocks returned to the racetrack to finish their 20-lap feature.

Coonradt got by the current point leader Beau Ballard on lap 16 and led from there to claim the victory. Bret Belden took home the runner-up spot and Ivan Joslin rounded out the top three.

Ballard sustained front end damage to racecar, causing him to fall back to fourth in the waning laps. Jay Corbin rounded out the top five.

Teenager Zack Welch got his first career Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman win at Utica-Rome Speedway on Friday night. The young hot shoe led all 20 laps in an extended feature for his first career win.

Welch topped Seth Martin, who raced within five car-lengths of the leader throughout the feature, but never could muster up enough to seriously challenge Welch. Eric Jensen rounded out the podium.

Corey Valade (DOHC) spoiled reigning champion Justin Pope’s return to Utica-Rome Speedway with the Fonda Fair Four Cylinders, holding off his teammate for the win. Jacob Kimball won the Single Cam portion of the affair.

Racing resumes Friday, June 24 at Utica-Rome Speedway as the CRSA 305 Sprint Cars make their first appearance of the season. All the weekly divisions will join the Sprint Cars for a full night of racing at the ‘Home of Heroes.’

Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is and can be reached by phone at 315.953.4097.  Like Utica-Rome Speedway on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @UR_Speedway.


Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Billy Decker, Rocky Warner, Alan Johnson, Andy Bachetti, Alex Yankowski, Pat Ward, Bobby Hackel IV, Shaun Walker, JaMike Sowle, Darren Smith, Ronnie Johnson, Justin Wright, Nick Heywood, Claude Hutchings Jr., Jeff Lawrence, Aaron Jacobs, Randy Shantel, Alan Barker, Ted Starr.

A-Verdi Storage Containers Patriot Sprint Tour 360 Sprint Cars (25 laps): DANNY VARIN, Jordan Poirier, Shawn Donath, Davie Franek, Jordan Thomas, Jason Barney, Dylan Swiernik, Chuck Hebing, Sammy Reakes IV, Paulie Colagiovanni, Matt Tanner, Josh Pieniazek, Mike Kiser, Jonathan Preston, Dalton Rombough, Denny Peebles, Dave Axton, Tyler Cartier, Cory Sparks, Brett Wright, Jordan Hutton, Chase Moran, Blake Warner, Steve Glover.

Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): PAYTON TALBOT, Chris Mackey, Matt Janczuk, Mike Richmond, Rocco Leone, Dave Richer, Dave Moyer, Brian Borst, A.J. Miller, Addison Bowman, Matt Richardson, Jimmy Moyer, Stephen Gray, Ed Lukas, David Dickey, Ed Downing, Brent Joy, Willy Decker Jr., Kyle DeMetro, Brad Alger, David Hackett Jr., Steve Kotary, Shawn Frost, Stephen Denton, Tanner Warner, Jeremy Slosek.

Did Not Start: Allan Hodge

Next Generation Grafix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): JOSH COONRADT, Bret Belden, Ivan Joslin, Beau Ballard, Jay Corbin, Randy Cosselman, Jason Morrison, Tim Wood, Ken Griffen, Mike Kazlauskas, John Holmes, Bill Knapp, Jerry Streeter, Dan Slosek, A.J. Walters, Jim Normoyle, Ed Kotary.

Did Not Start: Aaron Page

Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): ZACK WELCH, Seth Martin, Eric Jensen, Alex Hughes, Matt Backus, Ernie Staelens, Dylan Piersall, E.J. Gallup, Mike Haman.

Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Cruiser Feature Finish (15 laps): COREY VALADE (DOHC), Justin Pope, David DeNova, Matt Bukovan, Austin Vanderhoof, Jacob Kimball, Rudy King Jr., Kyle Coley, T.J. Marlitt, Sophia DeNova, Dan Valade, Wayne Russell Jr.

Did Not Start: Hank Wedgren