Sheppard Takes $6,100 Payday in Richie Evans Remembered 61 at Utica-Rome
Written by Chris Moore
VERNON, NY – Matt Sheppard overcame a night full of distractions and paparazzi to come home with the ‘Richie Evans Remembered 61’ on Thursday night.
The Savannah, N.Y., resident raced from the 10th starting position following the Beyea Custom Headers Redraw to take home the $6,100 with the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco invading his home turf.
“Can’t forget about Richie (Evans),” Sheppard said of the race in honor of one of Utica-Rome Speedway’s greatest drivers. “He was the master of this place and a true legend of our sport.”
“Winning this race two years in a row is really special.”
Sheppard – someone typically very focused on his racing program – spent much of his night helping NASCAR Cup star Ross Chastain along, who was running a Northeast Dirt Modified for the first time ever.
“It was cool to see Ross out there,” Sheppard said of his teammate for a night in Bicknell Racing Products Victory Lane. “He got better every time he went on the track, and I hope he had a blast.”
Chastain relished the experience.
“It was awesome,” Chastain said after the race. “I will definitely be back to do this again.”
The win for Sheppard was the 35th of his STSS big-block/small-block Modified career, and his fourth of the season on the River Valley Builders North Region tour.
With Sheppard coming from 10th, Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner and Duanesburg, N.Y.’s Ronnie Johnson occupied the front row.
Warner and Johnson traded the lead back and forth in the opening 11 laps, while Sheppard and 14th-starting Stewart Friesen were quickly knifing through traffic to the front.
Friesen worked to fifth in the opening six laps, while Sheppard followed Friesen setting up a battle to round out the top five.
At the completion of lap 11, Warner had taken the lead for good, while Johnson, Tim Fuller, Billy Decker, and Matt Sheppard rounded out the top five.
Rocky Warner had assumed command of the race, putting three lap cars between himself and the battle for second between Johnson, Sheppard, and Fuller with 16 laps complete.
Sheppard would eventually climb into second at the completion of lap 17 but was over three seconds behind the leader Warner.
The race’s first yellow flag came on lap 23, giving Sheppard a restart to go after Warner.
The restart was exactly what Sheppard needed, as the driver of the No. 9s used the outside groove to race around Warner and take the top spot.
The next yellow came one lap later, and this time it was Stewart Friesen taking advantage of the restart. The Sprakers, N.Y. native used the outside line to drive around Tim Fuller and Rocky Warner to take second.
While Friesen chased Sheppard up front, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada’s Mat Williamson was racing from the 12th starting position and was slowly working into contention for a top five.
A restart with 26 laps to go saw Williamson’s march take a leap into fourth. Williamson first went around Erick Rudolph for fifth, then quickly dove to the bottom underneath Warner.
While Williamson had charged to fourth, the race for the lead was heating up with 15 laps to go.
Sheppard was mired in traffic, allowing Friesen to cut heavily into Sheppard’s advantage.
Friesen’s charge, however, would go by the wayside with 13 laps remaining. The driver of the Halmar International No. 44 jumped the cushion and went over the turn-one embankment, ending his chance at a win.
Instead, it became Williamson who was closing in on Sheppard. Williamson had passed Fuller for third just prior to Friesen’s excursion, moving Williamson to second.
Williamson was catching Sheppard before a yellow flag flew with just eight laps to go.
The Canadian driver got a good restart but was unable to make a move for the lead. Sheppard, with clean air ahead of him, set sail and took home the victory.
“Stewie (Friesen) and Mat (Williamson) have been really good in the slick this season,” Sheppard said of his closest competitors and the conditions of Utica-Rome on Thursday night. “It was definitely nerve-wracking, but we had a really good car and got to the front first.”
Sheppard – in honor of his teammate Chastain for the night – would then smash a watermelon in Victory Lane.
Williamson settled for a runner-up finish.
“I think we were equally as good in traffic, maybe even a little better than him (Sheppard),” Williamson said post-race. “Once he got in clean air though he drove away from us.”
Edwards, N.Y.’s Tim Fuller rounded out the top three.
“I like this race. This a great race,” Fuller said of the ‘Richie Evans Remembered.’
“Ultimately the fastest guy did win it.”
Friesen settled for fourth and Ransomville, N.Y.’s Erick Rudolph rounded out the top five.
Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Vernon, N.Y.’s Willy Decker aboard the JSD Express No. 1x; Baldwinsville, N.Y.’s Jimmy Phelps, who came from the 21st starting position; Rocky Warner in the Jason Simmons Racing No. 98; Guilderland, N.Y.’s Marc Johnson, who started from 22nd; and 24th-place starting Alex Payne.
Heat winners, receiving $50 each courtesy of FloRacing, were Rudolph, Sheppard, Ronnie Johnson, and JaMike Sowle.
Consolation race winners were Phelps and Marc Johnson.
Forty-two STSS big-block/small-block Modifieds signed in to compete in the ‘Richie Evans Remembered 61.’
Durhamville, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk won his second career STSS in Round No. 5 of the Precision Hydraulic & Oil North Region.
The win was Janczuk’s second consecutive ‘Richie Evans Remembered’ victory with the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman.
Janczuk raced by Upper Makefield, Pa.’s Joe Toth just shy of the halfway mark and drove off into the sunset for the $2,061 victory.
Spencertown, N.Y.’s Dylan Madsen came home second, with Toth, Jim Nagle, who started 24th, and Willy Decker Jr. rounding out the top five.
Fifty STSS Crate 602 Sportsman signed in to compete on Thursday night.
Brett Putnam won his third Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshot feature of the season and Bodie Marks got his second Junior Slingshot victory on the inner-oval.
Next up for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco is the ‘Lumberjack Swing,’ as the STSS heads into Canada for the first time ever on July 25 & 26.
The STSS Modifieds race in Rounds No. 7 & 8 of the River Valley Builders North Region for two 60-lap, $10,000 paydays. Autodrome Granby (July 25) and Le RPM Speedway (July 26) play host to the STSS maiden voyage into Canada.
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, FloSports, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Rent Equip/Party Central, BDR Speed, Bicknell Racing Products, Ollie’s, Penske Racing Shocks, Wegner Automotive, River Valley Builders, Behrent’s Performance Warehouse, DIG Race Products, Velocita-USA, Franklin Products, Design for Vision & Sunglass Central, Belmont’s Garage, Quality Drywall, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, Prime MAC Tools, F.X. Caprara Car Companies, Algonkin Motel, Beyea Custom Headers, Dirt Track Digest, EIBACH, Electric Neon Custom Signs, Fastline Performance, Flach Performance Products, Henry’s Exhaust, Hig Fab, Schultz Racing Fuel Cells, Spyder Filters, Superior Remodeling, Teo-Pro Car, VAHLCO & Wilwood.
‘RICHIE EVANS REMEMBERED 61’ RESULTS SUMMARY – UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2023
‘Richie Evans Remembered 61’ Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 6 Feature Finish (61 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Mat Williamson, Tim Fuller, Stewart Friesen, Erick Rudolph, Willy Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Rocky Warner, Marc Johnson, Alex Payne, Max McLaughlin, Justin Wright, Ronnie Johnson, Pat Ward, Michael Trautschold, Alex Yankowski, JaMike Sowle, Dillon Steuer, Steve Bernier, Jeremy Slosek, Chris Curtis, Mike Mahaney, Francois Bernier, J.R. Hurlburt, Ross Chastain, Bobby Hackel, Billy Decker, Matt DeLorenzo, Addison Bowman, Alan Barker
Did Not Qualify: Tanner Van Doren, Brian Calabrese, Ron Holmes, Jeremy Hamilton, Dan Humes, Alan Johnson, Will Shields, Daniel Morgiewicz, Jeff Taylor, Brian Murphy, Daniel Johnson, Brad Poppleton
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificate): Alex Payne (10th) & Justin Wright (12th)
BDR Speed Hard Charger Bonus ($250): Jimmy Phelps (21st to seventh)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Stewart Friesen (fourth) & Marc Johnson (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Mat Williamson (Redrew 12th)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Willy Decker (sixth)
FloRacing Heat Race Winner ($50): Erick Rudolph, Max McLaughlin, Ronnie Johnson, JaMike Sowle
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Max McLaughlin (11th)
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Matt Sheppard (first – $150 certificate); Mat Williamson (second – $75 certificate); Tim Fuller (third – $50 certificate); Alex Payne (10th – $25 certificate)
Schultz Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Alex Payne (10th)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Matt Sheppard
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jimmy Phelps (seventh)
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Crate 602 Sportsman Precision Hydraulic & Oil North Region Round No. 5 Feature Finish (30 laps): MATT JANCZUK, Dylan Madsen, Joe Toth, Jim Nagle, Willy Decker, Jr., Blaine Klinger, Chip Constantino, Kreg Crooker, Tyler Peet, Allan Hodge, Michael Ballestero, David Hackett, Dalton Doyle, Roger Hummer, Josh Kane, Tanner Warner, Jeremy Slosek, Clayton DuMond, Derrick McGrew, Jr., Josh Allen, Travis Witbeck, Gordon Smith, Andrew Bohn, Alex Hughes, Connor Prokop, Greg Crooker, Ed Lukas, Dave Richer, Jim Ryan
Did Not Qualify: Josh Amodio, David Dickey, Jim Rothwell, Dale Welty, Stephen Denton, Ben Feldman, Dylan Nicholas, Ed Downing, Payton Talbot, Shawn Frost, Matt Richardson, Blake Sarpriacone, Seth Martin, Zack Welch, Daryl Nutting, Matt Smith, Tavien Blowers, Mike Nagel, Jr., Ernie Staelens, Mike Richmond
Accurate Collision of Pompano Halfway Leader ($100): Matt Janczuk
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonus (FREE Tire Certificate): Allan Hodge (10th)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($25): David Hackett (Redrew 10th)
Fastline Performance Bonuses ($100 Certificates): Dylan Madsen (second) & David Hackett (12th)
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Michael Ballestero (11th)
Reigel Promotions Bonus ($25): Clayton DuMond (18th)
Senior Services Inc. Allstar Slingshot Feature Finish (20 laps): BRETT PUTNAM, Chris Darrow, Justin House, Kirsten Swartz, Jason Dufel, Scott Sprague, Tadd Granger, Paul Holic, Kevin Loveless, Corbyn White, Tucker Jones, Nicholas Jenkins
Did Not Start: Caleb Still, Corky Warner
Junior Slingshot Feature Finish (15 laps): BODIE MARKS, Sullivan Dickey, Preston Trautschold, Chase Spoor, Trevor Houghton, Addisyn Roger, Lucas Cole, Brody Janczuk, Blake Banek, Jayden Wust, Ayna Sarpriacone, Logan Carter
Did Not Start: Reese Farrell