9 for the 9s: Matt Sheppard Romps from 12th to Win Ninth Utica-Rome Feature

Written by Chris Moore

VERNON, NY – 9 for the 9s.

For the ninth time this season, Matt Sheppard invaded Victory Lane at Utica-Rome Speedway with the Sunoco Modifieds.

Sheppard raced from his 12th starting spot to take the lead away on the fourth circuit of the 30-lap main, leading the remaining 26 laps for a dominant victory and the $2,400 top prize.

“The seas don’t always part like that but when they do, we’ll definitely take it,” proclaimed Sheppard of his rapid charge to the lead.

“We were able to get out front and I don’t think there were any more cautions, things definitely went our way tonight,” Sheppard said of his dominant performance.

York, N.Y.’s Justin Wright and Nick Heywood, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., led the field to the green flag for the 30-lap main event. Wright quickly raced out to the top spot, while Heywood was under fire from Genoa, N.Y.’s Pat Ward for the runner-up spot.

Ward slid by Heywood just prior to the completion of lap two before a yellow flag fell for Richie Price, who had spun in the first and second corner.

Sheppard used the opening two laps to dice through the field, working his way into the fifth position before the caution came out. Sheppard used the inside line race by the likes of Billy Decker, Alex Yankowski, and Alan Barker to crack the top five just prior to the caution.

The ensuing restart, Sheppard found the bottom lane again forcing a three-wide fight for second down the backstretch with Ward and Binghamton, N.Y.’s Darren Smith.

Sheppard would muscle the spot away going into the third corner and set his sights on the leader Justin Wright.

Wright led the third lap, but that was the only challenge he could muster up. Sheppard raced to the bottom of the first turn and darted underneath Wright, taking the lead away when the field exited the second turn.

A yellow flew again on the sixth lap, as Brian Murphy was spun in the wrong direction over the third turn banking.

Sheppard, however, was too strong, quickly pulling out in front and driving away from the rest of the field.

Sheppard dominated the remainder of the feature, claiming the win by over seven-and-a-half seconds.

Unadilla, N.Y.’s Billy Decker raced into the runner-up spot aboard the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 91 machine. At one point it appeared as though Decker might have something to offer Sheppard for the win, but Decker was never able to get close enough to challenge the eventual victor.

Gloversville, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner continued his recent hot streak with a third-place finish in his Jason Simmons Racing No. 98. The podium run was Warner’s third consecutive finish inside the top three at Utica-Rome Speedway.

Sprakers, N.Y.’s Stewart Friesen battled in the back half of the top-10 for much of the 30-lap feature before a late race charge rewarded him with a fourth-place finish.

Darren Smith, Decker’s teammate, rounded out the top five piloting his Jeremy Smith-owned No. 12 machine.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively were: Pat Ward, who lost multiple positions on the lap-six restart before charging back forward to finish sixth; Middlesex, N.Y.’s Alan Johnson aboard his Mark Spoor-owned No. 14j; Justin Wright, who also lost multiple positions on the lap-six restart before climbing his way forward again; Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski, who was as high as fourth at one point; and Canandaigua, N.Y.’s Kyle Coffey in his Carl Myers Enterprises No. 23c.

Fonda, N.Y.’s Danny Varin remained perfect in 360 Sprint Car competition at Utica-Rome Speedway in 2022, claiming the 25-lap Lucas Oil Empire Sprint Series (ESS) A-Main.

After the yellow flag at the completion of lap two, Varin would restart fourth with Kelly Hebing and Jordan Poirier occupying the front row.

With a great restart however, Varin split the front row, and slid up in front of Hebing and charged off the second corner with the lead.

Despite Poirier beginning to close in on Varin during two longer green-flag runs, he was never able to seriously challenge for the lead.

Varin led the final 23-laps relatively uncontested to claim his third 360 Sprint Car win of the season at the ‘Home of Heroes,’ and his second ESS win at the speedway.

Quebec’s Jordan Poirier, the ESS point leader entering the night, came home with a runner-up finish and Shawn Donath, of Syracuse, N.Y., rounded out the podium finishers after starting in the sixth row.

Cicero, N.Y.’s Paulie Colagiovanni claimed the fourth position and Wantage, N.J.’s Davie Franek rounded out the top five.

Matt Janczuk continues his domination of the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman, claiming his seventh consecutive victory worth $1,000.

Durhamville, N.Y. native used multiple restarts, taking advantage of each one to pick off more cars. Janczuk climbed from his 17th starting position to get to second. It appeared Janczuk would settle for second, as Willy Decker Jr. was setting the pace by a healthy advantage.

A lap-21 restart gave Janczuk the opening he needed, racing to the outside of Decker Jr. to take the lead and the win.

Rome, N.Y.’s Chris Mackey would claim the runner-up position and

South New Berlin, N.Y.’s Payton Talbot used a late race charge to round out the podium.

Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker Jr. faded to fourth in the late stages and Morrisville, N.Y.’s Matt Richardson rounded out the top five.

Fort Johnson, N.Y.’s Josh Coonradt claimed his second consecutive Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks victory, the second time this season Coonradt has gone back-to-back.

Coonradt raced by Bret Belden and Bill Knapp just shy of the halfway mark and went on to win by over seven seconds over the rest of the field.

Newport, N.Y.’s A.J. Walters had his best run of the season, coming home second, and Bret Belden rounded out the top three.

E.J. Gallup joined Coonradt in the back-to-back department, claiming his second consecutive Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman 15-lap victory. Gallup used a last-lap pass to get Eric Jensen for the win.

Jensen held on for the runner-up position and point leader Seth Martin rounded out the top three.

The Fonda Fair Four Cylinders saw two first-time winners in 2022 on Friday night. David DeNova (DOHC) started on the front row and led all 12-laps to claim the victory.

T.J. Marlitt outdueled Wayne Russell Jr. for the Single Cam win.

Racing resumes Friday, August 12 at Utica-Rome Speedway with the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ program. The Sunoco Modifieds will race for a boosted $3,500 winners share. A full program is on tap plus the slingshots on the inner oval.

Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is www.uticaromespeedway.com 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, Stewart Friesen, Darren Smith, Pat Ward, Alan Johnson, Justin Wright, Alex Yankowski, Kyle Coffey, Willy Decker, Shaun Walker, Jessica Friesen, JaMike Sowle, Alan Barker, Will Shields, Randy Shantel, Brian Murphy, Loren Lincoln, Tim Mayne, Nick Heywood, Rich Price, Aaron Jacobs, Ronnie Johnson, Brad Poppleton.

Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints 360 Sprint Car Feature Finish (25 laps): DANNY VARIN, Jordan Poirier, Shawn Donath, Paulie Colagiovanni, Davie Franek, Chuck Hebing, Dylan Swiernik, Matt Billings, Jason Barney, Dalton Rombough, Sammy Reakes IV, Jonathan Preston, Scott Holcomb, Scott Kruetter, Chris Jones, Lacey Hanson, Tyler Cartier, Kelly Hebing, Matt Tanner, Billy Van Inwegen, Steve Glover, Blake Warner, Josh Pieniazek, Chad Miller.

Did Not Start: Jeff Cook, Joe Trenca

Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): MATT JANCZUK, Chris Mackey, Payton Talbot, Willy Decker Jr., Matt Richardson, Rocco Leone, Allan Hodge, Ed Lukas, Jeremy Slosek, Kyle DeMetro, Mike Richmond, David Hackett Jr., Stephen Denton, A.J. Miller, Addison Bowman, Gordon Smith, Josh Fellows, Brent Cross, Steve Kotary, Dave Richer, Brad Alger, Josh Amodio, Ed Downing, David Dickey, Jim Nagle, Brent Joy.

Next Generation Graphix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): JOSH COONRADT, A.J. Walters, Bret Belden, Beau Ballard, Bill Knapp, Jay Corbin, Jason Morrison, Tim Wood, John Holmes, Ed Kotary, Jim Normoyle, Ken Griffen.

Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): E.J. GALLUP, Eric Jensen, Seth Martin, Zack Welch, Connor Prokop, Alex Hughes, Dylan Piersall, Bobby Newman, Mike Haman, Ernie Staelens.

Did Not Start: Jason Lopes

Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Cruiser Feature Finish (12 laps): DAVID DENOVA (DOHC), Rudy King Jr., Matt Bukovan, Sophia DeNova, Heather King, T.J. Marlitt (SOHC), Wayne Russell Jr., Hunter Tarbania, Donald Kimball, Hank Wedgren, Jacob Kimball, Kyle Coley.