A Dozen: Matt Sheppard Claims Record-Setting 12th Utica-Rome Modified Victory Tuesday

Written by Chris Moore

VERNON, NY – Matt Sheppard claimed the season finale at Utica-Rome Speedway on Tuesday night, topping a stout 26-car field in the ‘Modern Day Outlaw 50’ worth $5,000.

The Savannah, N.Y., resident raced from his ninth starting position to take the lead at the completion of lap 26 and drove away with a dominant performance for his record-setting 12th victory of the season.

“I’m just really excited for my team, we had an unbelievable year here at Utica-Rome,” Sheppard explained. “It’s been storybook. We’ve been a roll lately and this is a great way to kick off a busy stretch.”

The 2022 Sunoco Modified champion’s 12th win of the campaign at Utica-Rome set a record for the most Modified wins in a season at the Route 5 oval.

“That’s pretty special,” Sheppard said of the record. “All the history in New York State at all these different tracks. Just to have a small part of it; until somebody knocks me off, we’ll have the bragging rights.”

With Sheppard firing from the inside of the fifth row, Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner and Genoa, N.Y.’s Will Shields occupied the front row following the redraw.

It was Shields who raced off the outside row to take the early advantage in the 50-lap affair.

The Modified rookie led the opening four laps before Warner used the inside groove to slide by and take the lead. Warner would race away with the lead while Sheppard was quickly attempting to march his way into the top five.

Sheppard began to battle with Queensbury, N.Y.’s Demetrios Drellos for the fifth spot while another pair of drivers were waging war for the final podium spot.

East Greenbush, N.Y.’s Bobby Hackel and Phoenix, N.Y.’s Larry Wight traded the third spot back-and-forth before Wight found speed on the outside lane.

Wight raced around both Hackel and Shields to move into the runner-up position on lap nine. Shields moved to the bottom groove allowing Hackel and Sheppard to follow in Wight’s path around the outside of Shields’ No. 82s machine.

With Warner opening his advantage in lap traffic, Sheppard rolled his way to the front with Hackel and Wight separating himself from the leader.

Sheppard cleared Hackel on the 15th circuit around the half-mile clay oval before locking in on Wight. Four laps later Sheppard raced underneath Wight to take the second spot away on lap 19.

Sheppard quickly ate into Warner’s advantage as the halfway mark neared. Warner would lead the halfway point before Sheppard raced underneath Warner and took the lead away.

The race’s only delay would come on lap 32 as Unadilla, N.Y.’s Billy Decker was on his roof in the fourth turn. Decker climbed out of the car unscathed.

When the race resumed Sheppard picked up where he left off, winning by over seven seconds over the rest of the field and claimed the $5,000 top prize.

‘Lightning’ Larry Wight took home the runner-up spot in his F.X. Caprara Honda No. 99L and Demetrios Drellos rounded out the podium in his family-owned No. 111.

Rocky Warner claimed fourth in his Jason Simmons Racing No. 98 and Bobby Hackel rounded out the top five in his Killer Crate-backed No. 97.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski in his family-owned No. 84y; East Greenbush, N.Y.’s David Schilling in the BDR Speed No. 20 after starting 14th; Middlesex, N.Y.’s Alan Johnson in the Mark Spoor Racing No. 14j; Will Shields aboard his No. 82s; and Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker in the JSD Express No. 1x.

Racin’ Jason Barney joined Stewart Friesen as the only two-time winners of the ‘Cole Cup’ as the A-Verdi Storage Containers Patriot Sprint Tour (PST) 360 Sprint Cars tackled Utica-Rome Speedway for the final time in 2022.

Barney used a late race restart in a caution-filled 30-lap affair to slide by Jonathan Preston and take the $5,000 victory.

“The money doesn’t mean anything. Cole Cup wins and wins at Utica-Rome are what makes this one special,” proclaimed an emotional Barney in Victory Lane.

Preston held on for second and Matt Farnham, who set a new track record in his heat race, rounded out the podium.

Danny Varin completed a late-race charge to come home fourth and Shawn Donath rounded out the top five.

West Winfield, N.Y.’s Jeremy Slosek claimed his first career Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman worth $1,000.

Slosek started on the pole and never relinquished the lead in a non-stop 25-lap affair. Slosek won by nearly six seconds over second-place Chip Constantino.

Slosek, like Farnham, set a new track record in his heat race for the Crate 602 Sportsman at 19.483 seconds.

Constantino finished second with Jim Nagle, David Hackett Jr., and Ed Lukas rounding out the top five.

That concludes the 2022 season at Utica-Rome Speedway. Stay tuned with the ‘Home of Heroes’ all off-season thru the speedway website or Facebook page for updates throughout the winter.

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.


Modern Day Outlaw Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Larry Wight, Demetrios Drellos, Rocky Warner, Bobby Hackel IV, Alex Yankowski, David Schilling, Alan Johnson, Will Shields, Willy Decker, Brian Gleason, Pat Ward, Danny Bouc, Jeff Trombley, Neil Stratton, Jeff Taylor, Cale Ross, Rusty Smith, Billy Decker, Alan Barker, JaMike Sowle, Brian Murphy, Andy Bachetti, Ronnie Johnson, Ryan Darcy, Aaron Jacobs.

A-Verdi Storage Containers Patriot Sprint Tour 360 Sprint Car ‘Cole Cup’ Feature Finish (25 laps): JASON BARNEY, Jonathan Preston, Matt Farnham, Danny Varin, Shawn Donath, Jordan Thomas, Davie Franek, Parker Evans, Larry Wight, Steve Glover, Tyler Trump, Chad Miller, Dave Axton, Dalton Rombough, Chase Moran, Paulie Colagiovanni, Joe Trenca, Jordan Poirier, Tommy Wickham, Adam Carberry, Jordan Hutton, Mike Kiser, Matt Tanner, Denny Peebles.

Did Not Start: Tyler Thompson

Did Not Qualify: Keith Granholm, Jessie Pruchnik, John Cunningham, Scott Holcomb, Sammy Reakes IV, Thomas Radivoy, Chuck Hebing.

Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): JEREMY SLOSEK, Chip Constantino, Jim Nagle, David Hackett Jr., Ed Lukas, Payton Talbot, A.J. Digsby, Blaine Klinger, Derrick McGrew Jr., Troy Palmer, Zack Welch, Matt Richardson, Ryan Barrett, Roger Hummer, George Dyer, E.J. Gallup.

Did Not Start: Willy Decker Jr.