Sunshine Thriller: Matt Sheppard Emerges from All-Tech Opener with $4,000 Payday
Written by Cody Manmiller
LAKE CITY, FL – In thrilling fashion, Matt Sheppard outlasted challenges from Billy Pauch Jr. and Michael Maresca to capture a $4,000 check, the first dirt Modified victory of 2022 and the opening leg of the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco ‘Sunshine Swing’ at All-Tech Raceway in Lake City, Fla.
The win is Sheppard’s 22nd in STSS competition – the second-most in series history – and All-Tech joins 15 other tracks that he’s conquered under the STSS umbrella.
“What a wild one,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “What a fun race track; smooth, wide and slick, just a heck of a place.”
On an incredible racing surface, Maresca launched out front to lead the opening lap ahead of Marc Johnson, Pauch Jr., Sheppard and Rick Laubach. Just two cautions interrupted the 30-lap feature, with the first coming only three circuits into the feature.
Sheppard, who capitalized on both yellow flags during the race, rocketed around the top from fourth to second on that lap-three restart, and began his hunt of Maresca. Shortly after, Pauch moved past Johnson for third.
On lap seven, with Sheppard stalking the leader’s every move, Maresca shifted lanes, shooting to the outside and blocking off Sheppard’s momentum. Meanwhile Stewart Friesen slipped around Tyler Siri for sixth and then Jeff Taylor for fifth.
On lap 10, a third of the way into the race, Maresca and Sheppard hit lapped cars, which initially favored the leader, aboard his family-owned No. 7mm. After Maresca put multiple cars between he and second-place Sheppard, he made contact with traffic, sliding up to the wall between turns three and four.
The door was open and Sheppard stepped through, leading lap 12. It wouldn’t come easy, though.
Maresca bunkered down and battled back, eventually snatching the lead away off the bottom of turn four on lap 16. The two swapped leads a few more times over the next handful of laps, but the battle of titans up front allowed Pauch and fourth-place running Johnson to close. With less than 10 to go, all four were running nose to tail and, coming to five to go, Pauch drove around Maresca for second.
With a head of steam down the backstretch, Pauch buried his No. 96 in on the bottom of turn three while Sheppard skated up the track in heavy lapped traffic. Just before they hit the line, though, the caution flag flew for Friesen in the wall, putting Sheppard out front on the single-file restart with five to go.
“Sometimes we end up on the bad end of a few cautions or lapped cars,” Sheppard said. “But tonight it went our way. Billy got by me but that caution saved me; I really wanted to see open race track.”
Sheppard fired off extremely well with five to go and immediately put distance between him and Pauch, driving to the first win of the 2022 season.
“I thought I had one tonight,” Pauch said on the homestretch. “My RF finally fired and we got really good, but on that final restart it took a bit to fire again.”
After Maresca pulled off before the restart with five to go, Johnson rounded out the podium in third.
“That was pretty fun,” he mentioned. “I was racing hard with Pauch and then we saw both of the leaders coming back to us, I thought we might’ve had something, but we’re happy with third.”
Erick Rudolph, who battled inside the top 10 all night, finished fourth with Larry Wight rounding out the top five; Wight went to the rear on that lap three caution, but came flying back through the field, advancing 18 positions over the final 27 laps with only one caution to bunch the field.
Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were: hard-charging Jordan Watson, who maneuvered from his 28th starting spot; the ‘Doctor’ Danny Johnson aboard his iconic No. 27J; Taylor, who captured a heat race victory; B-Main winner Peter Britten; and Billy Decker.
An apparent last-lap pass and ensuing victory by Vermont’s Kevin Chaffee was nixed in post-race technical inspection, handing Josh Allen of Milford, Pa., the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman 25-lap triumph worth $1,500.
Chaffee cleared Allen on the final lap of the main to streak under the Sunoco Race Fuels checkered flag. However, a carburetor infraction nixed the win.
Allen was then credited with the triumph over Steve Davis, Jeff Watson, Dylan Madsen and Brandon Watkins. Apparent fifth-place finisher Michael Ballestero was disqualified due to a tire infraction.
The Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Sunshine Swing continues tomorrow through Saturday night at the All-Tech Raceway with both the Modifieds and 602 Crates in action.
Thursday, February 10 – All-Tech Raceway/Lake City, Fla. – STSS Modifieds 35 laps, $5,000 to win & STSS Crate 602 Sportsman 25 laps, $1,500 to win
Friday, February 11 – All-Tech Raceway/Lake City, Fla. – STSS Modifieds 40 laps, $6,000 to win & STSS Crate 602 Sportsman 30 laps, $2,000 to win
Saturday, February 12 – All-Tech Raceway/Lake City, Fla. – STSS Modifieds 50 laps, $8,000 to win & STSS Crate 602 Sportsman 30 laps, $2,000 to win
To learn more about the Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com, e-mail email@example.com, check out ‘Short Track Super Series’ on Facebook or @ShortTrackSS on Twitter or Instagram.
The Short Track Super Series is presented by American Racer/Lias Tire, Sunoco Race Fuel, Insinger Performance, FloSports, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Halmar International, River Valley Builders, Hurlock Auto & Speed, Velocita-USA, St. Lawrence Radiology, Design for Vision & Sunglass Central, Belmont’s Garage, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, Prime MAC Tools, F.X. Caprara Car Companies, Behrent’s Performance Warehouse, Beyea Custom Headers, Bicknell Racing Products, Dirt Track Digest, EIBACH, Elite Welder Testing & Training, Flach Performance Products, Henry’s Exhaust, Hig Fab, Penske Racing Shocks, Schultz Racing Fuel Cells, Spyder Filters, Superior Remodeling, Teo-Pro Car, VAHLCO & Wilwood.
‘SUNSHINE SWING’ NIGHT NO. 1 RESULTS SUMMARY – ALL-TECH RACEWAY PARK FEB. 9, 2022
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Modified Sunshine Swing Event No. 1 Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Billy Pauch Jr., Marc Johnson, Erick Rudolph, Larry Wight, Jordan Watson, Danny Johnson, Jeff Taylor, Peter Britten, Billy Decker, Mike Mahaney, Tyler Siri, Danny Bouc, David Schilling, Tim Buckwalter, J.R. Heffner, Alex Yankowski, Tanner VanDoren, L.J. Lombardo, Bobby Flood, Darren Smith, Nicholas Mady Jr., Michael Maresca, Stewart Friesen, Rick Laubach, Matt Stangle, Demetrios Drellos, Danny Creeden.
Did Not Qualify: Addison Bowman, Jeff Strunk, Rusty Smith, Matt Smith, Francois Bellemare, Corbin Millar, Brian Pessolano, Tommy Rascoe, Jacob Dgien, Carson Wright, J.R. Hurlburt, Michael Trautschold, Doug Snyder, Ryan Conrad
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificates): Jeff Taylor (eighth) & Danny Bouc (13th)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Erick Rudolph (fourth) & Peter Britten (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bucks ($50): David Schilling (redrew 12th)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jordan Watson (sixth)
ERK Steering Repair ($50 certificate): Marc Johnson (third) & Jordan Watson (sixth)
FloRacing Heat Winners ($50): Matt Stangle, Michael Maresca, Jeff Taylor & Billy Pauch Jr.
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Mike Mahaney (11th)
McAuliffe Bros. Motorsports Hard Luck Award ($50): Michael Maresca
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Matt Sheppard (winner – $150 certificate); Billy Pauch Jr. (second – $75 certificate); Marc Johnson (third – $50 certificate)
Russ King Racing Halfway Bonus ($250): Matt Sheppard
Schultz Racing Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Billy Decker(10th)
Spyder High Performance Filters Bonuses: Larry Wight (fifth – free certificate); Tim Buckwalter (15th – 50% off certificate)
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Billy Pauch Jr. (second), Tyler Siri (12th) & Nicholas Mady Jr. (22nd)
Wegner Automotive Hard Charger: Jordan Watson (28th to sixth)
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($75 Certificate): Danny Johnson (seventh)
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Crate 602 Sportsman Sunshine Swing Event No. 1 Feature Finish (25 laps): JOSH ALLEN, Steve Davis, Jeff Watson, Dylan Madsen, Brandon Watkins, Brian Calabrese, Craig Whitmoyer, Joe Toth, Blaine Klinger, Mike Nagel, Jr., Marty Kelly III, Jason Quenneville, Gary Smith, Josh Masterson, Bobby Watkins, Johnny Bruno, Anthony Warren, Kyle Smith, Addison Bowman, Eric Kormann, Scott Hitchens, John McPhee Jr., Alex Layn, Walter J Hammond, Alex Bell, Payton Talbot
Disqualified: Kevin Chaffee & Michael Ballestero
Did Not Qualify: Tyler Corcoran, Tom Princiotta, Richard Murtaugh III, Tim Millman, Dave Dickey, Kevin Stevens, Gordon Smith, Shawn McPhee, Seth Zacharias, Ryan Zelosko, Kenny Bock, James O’Hara, Jimmy Avery, Walter Hammond, Jr., Matthew Sobiech, Maverick Eldridge
Accurate Collision Halfway Leader ($100): Josh Allen
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificate): Brian Calabrese (sixth)
Angela Tolosky, Weichert Realtors Neighborhood One Worst Draw ($25): Kenny Bock
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bucks ($25): Dylan Madsen (redrew 10th)
ERK Steering Repair ($50 certificate): Jeff Watson (third) & Brian Calabrese (sixth)
Fastline Performance Bonuses ($100 Certificates): Steve Davis (second) & Jason Quenneville (12th)
Fastline Performance Heat Winners ($50 each): Brandon Watkins, Dylan Madsen, Bobby Watkins, Alex Bell & Craig Whitmoyer