Pick and Roll: Sheppard Clears Decker Late for Utica-Rome Victory Friday Night

Written by Chris Moore

VERNON, NY – The pick and roll.

Matt Sheppard passed Billy Decker in traffic with just three laps to go to claim his second 3 Bastards Brewing Modifieds victory of the season.

With Decker rolling the bottom groove, mired in lap traffic, Sheppard used the outside groove to race around Decker and drive away with the victory.

“I didn’t think we had a chance for a while,” the Savannah, N.Y. native proclaimed. “It seemed like I could gain a little bit and then he got through the first bit of lap cars better than I did.

“I made big gains though when he struggled on the top,” he continued. “I had just enough room and momentum to get around him going into three and four.”

Sheppard started from the sixth position at the drop of the green flag with Decker rolling from the outside of the front row.

Decker quickly raced to the lead over Norwich, N.Y.’s Alan Barker while Sheppard was plotting his way after falling to eighth on the opening lap.

The race’s first yellow fell on lap five, with Decker setting the pace over Alan Barker, Jessica Friesen, Bobby Hackel IV, and Sheppard.

That all would change on the restart as both Friesen and Hackel slipped up on the track on the restart, allowing Sheppard to roll underneath both cars for third.

In the ensuing corner, Sheppard used a crossover move on Barker to snag the runner-up spot, completing his fifth to second run on the restart.

While the chase was on for the lead, both Alex Yankowski and Rocky Warner were marching towards the final podium position. Yankowski slid around Barker at the completion of lap 11 for third.

Three laps later, Warner used the outside lane to drive around Barker to take the fourth spot away.

Meanwhile up front, slower traffic had become a factor and Decker was cutting the path with Sheppard in tow.

Decker continued to outpace Sheppard until there were four laps to go. Suddenly Decker couldn’t roll the top around the lapped cars and Sheppard was quickly there to pounce.

With Decker struggling to get around traffic, Sheppard went all the way to the top in three and four and had enough momentum to take the top spot.

Decker came back after Sheppard one lap later but was unable to complete the pass and ultimately came up short.

Sheppard raced to his second victory of the season at Utica-Rome Speedway to start 2024.

Unadilla, N.Y.’s Decker settled for second in the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 91 and Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski rounded out the podium in his family-owned No. 84y.

Potsdam, N.Y.’s Michael Maresca got his second consecutive top five of the season, coming home fourth in his St. Lawrence Radiology No. 7MM and Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner completed the top five piloting the Jason Simmons Racing No. 98.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Sprakers, N.Y.’s Stewart Friesen in his Halmar International No. 44; East Greenbush, N.Y.’s Bobby Hackel IV who started and finished seventh in the Godgart Motorsports No. 97; York, N.Y.’s Justin Wright in his family-owned No. 19w; Alan Barker wheeling the Christian Fabrication No. 77; and Sprakers, N.Y.’s Jessica Friesen completed the top-10 in her family-owned No. 1Z.

Twenty-eight 3 Bastards Brewing Modifieds signed in for competition with heat race wins going to Barker, Addison Bowman, Sheppard.

Oneida, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk outdueled South New Berlin, N.Y., native Payton Talbot for the Taylor’s Trailers Crate 602 Sportsman.

Janczuk – piloting the Mike Richmond owned No. 22x – shared the front row with Talbot, as the only two drivers to win Crate 602 Sportsman features in ’23.

Talbot led the opening two laps before Janczuk slid by and raced away with the 81st win of his Utica-Rome Speedway career.

Talbot settled for second with Zack Sobotka, David Hackett Jr. and Nick Root rounding out the top five.

Newport, N.Y.’s A.J. Walters raced from the fifth starting position for his first Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks win of the new year.

Walters quickly worked to the front, leading from lap seven on in the 20-lap affair.

Bret Belden came home second with Johnny Holmes, Tim Wood, and Jim Normoyle rounding out the top five.

Edmeston, N.Y.’s Eric Jensen topped the 15-lap Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman feature event, taking the lead on lap six and never looking back for the triumph.

Andrew MacFadden, Josh Coonradt, Maddy Broedel, and Lance Hill rounded out the top five.

Following a post-race disqualification, Rudy King Jr. was awarded the Dual Cam Fonda Fair Four Cylinders victory, his first of the season.

Wayne Russell Jr., who crossed the line fourth, topped the Single Cam portion of the 12-lap feature.

Brett Putnam topped the Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshots feature event and Richmond, Mass. native Addisyn Roger was the Junior Slingshots winner.

Racing continues at Utica-Rome Speedway next Friday, May 3 with all five weekly divisions in action, plus the M2 Metals Crate Late Models. The 3 Bastards Brewing Modifieds, Taylor’s Trailers Crate 602 Sportsman, Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks, Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman, and Fonda Fair Four Cylinders all return for another week of points racing action. The M2 Metals Crate Late Models make their first of two appearances at the ‘Home of Heroes.’

The event will be broadcast live on FloRacing (www.floracing.tv).

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


3 Bastards Brewing Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): 1. 9S-MATT SHEPPARD[6]; 2. 91-Billy Decker[2]; 3. 84Y-Alex Yankowski[8]; 4. 7MM-Michael Maresca[13]; 5. JS98-Rocky Warner[10]; 6. 44-Stewart Friesen[14]; 7. 97-Bobby Hackel IV[7]; 8. 19W-Justin Wright[3]; 9. 77-Alan Barker[1]; 10. 1Z-Jessica Friesen[5]; 11. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[20]; 12. 42P-Pat Ward[12]; 13. 28T-Michael Trautschold[4]; 14. 34-Kevin Root[9]; 15. 12B-Addison Bowman[11]; 16. 23-Brandon Loucks[16]; 17. 16S-Jeremy Slosek[18]; 18. 76-Jamike Sowle[15]; 19. 11-Matt Caprara[21]; 20. 9J-Jim Becker[19]; 21. 8M-Tim Mayne[27]; 22. 96-Andy Graves[24]; 23. 16-Aaron Jacobs[26]; 24. 1X-Willy Decker[25]; 25. 97S-Randy Shantel[23]; 26. 7S-Torrey Stoughtenger[28]; 27. 28G-Jim Gould[22]; 28. 22W-Brandon Walters[17]

Taylor’s Trailers Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): 1. 22X-MATT JANCZUK[2]; 2. 14T-Payton Talbot[1]; 3. 38-Zach Sobotka[6]; 4. 82H-David Hackett[4]; 5. 30R-Nicholas Root[8]; 6. 9K-Blaine Klinger[11]; 7. 15-Shawn Frost[14]; 8. 262-Matthew Richardson[13]; 9. 5EJ-EJ Gallup[17]; 10. 2K-Josh Amodio[5]; 11. 40D-Butchie Irwin[7]; 12. 7H-Allan Hodge[20]; 13. 63-Chip Constantino[12]; 14. 11Z-Nick Zielinski[27]; 15. 621-Seth Martin[26]; 16. 23-David Dickey[16]; 17. 314-Clayton Dumond[23]; 18. 74-Matt Perry[15]; 19. 55-Jonny Feagles[10]; 20. 67W-Zack Welch[9]; 21. 77L-Ed Lukas[18]; 22. 12P-Connor Prokop[24]; 23. 12B-Tyler Bobar[19]; 24. 10A-AJ Digsby[30]; 25. 01-Dylan Nichols[25]; 26. 31J-John Dumond[21]; 27. 44CD-Stephen Denton[29]; 28. 69-Blake Sarpriacone[3]; 29. 44C-Ed Downing[22]

Did Not Start: 318-Dave Richer

Next Generation Graphix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): 1. 22W-AJ WALTERS[5]; 2. 81-Bret Belden[6]; 3. 28H-Johnny Holmes[4]; 4. 74N-Jim Normoyle[1]; 5. 13-George Cushman[8]; 6. 28G-Gus Gould[3]; 7. 15K-Mike Kazluaskas[11]; 8. 4C-Toby Cooper[12]; 9. 14H-Hunter Keith[13]; 10. 5B-Ian Bressette[9]; 11. 14K-Mike Keith[14]; 12. 81A-Michael Achzet[2]; 13. 101-Ed Kotary[10]

Disqualified: 22-Tim Wood

Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman (15 laps): 1. 57-ERIC JENSEN[4]; 2. 10-Andrew MacFadden[1]; 3. 00X-Josh Coonradt[13]; 4. 26-Maddy Broedel[7]; 5. 92C-Lance Hill[5]; 6. 43J-Jayden Wust[10]; 7. 5-Eymarah Bowman[6]; 8. 4-Carson Rothwell[3]; 9. 17S-Ernie Staelens[8]; 10. 17-Mike Haman[15]; 11. 44D-Kadyn Depasquale[12]; 12. 36-Matt Bukovan[11]; 13. 60-Brad Poppleton[14]; 14. 24-Kirsten Swartz[2]; 15. 77N-Bobby Newman[9]

Did Not Start: 12C-Hayden Coons

Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Feature Finish (12 laps): 1. 666D-RUDY KING JR[8]; 2. 21D-Dan Valade[13]; 3. 0D-Kyle Coley[1]; 4. 54S-WAYNE RUSSELL JR[3]; 5. 78D-Jacob Kimball[9]; 6. 26S-Len St Andrews[5]; 7. 212S-TJ Marlitt[12]; 8. 35S-Hank Wedgren[10]; 9. 44D-Zach McSpirit[4]; 10. H35S-Hank Wedgren Jr[11]

Disqualified: 21VD-Corey Valade

Did Not Start: 8WD-Jeff Weeks; 18WD-Austin Weeks; 83S-Bob Lovine

All-Star Slingshot Feature Finish (20 laps): 1. 6B-BRETT PUTNAM[2]; 2. 33Z-Justin House[4]; 3. 85X-Jason Dufel[5]; 4. 54-Sullivan Dickey[7]; 5. 7J-Nicholas Jenkins[9]; 6. 115-Paul Holic[3]; 7. 42-Kevin Loveless[8]; 8. 56-Ayden Goodier[1]; 9. 8-Tadd Granger[6]

Junior Slingshot Feature Finish (15 laps): 1. 28RS-ADDISYN ROGER[1]; 2. 20-Preston Trautschold[3]; 3. 33X-Brody Janczuk[5]; 4. 27-Blake Banek[8]; 5. 22-Parker Fowler[7]; 6. 10-Trevor Houghton[2]; 7. 99-Ayna Sarpriacone[6]; 8. 67X-Jaxx Welch[9]

Did Not Start: 11J-Jakoby Thompson