Brandon Sheppard proved he was every bit worthy of that nickname once he got the lead in the late model feature, flying to a relatively easy 1.494-second victory over runner-up and arch rival Bobby Pierce.
Sheppard, the 2013 UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour champion, has not been able to regain the form he demonstrated a year ago when he was one of the hottest names in all of dirt late model racing.
“We’ve struggled with our consistency this season,” said Sheppard, who finished fourth in this year’s Hell Tour points and is still looking for a signature 2014 win. “We’re still trying to get the car figured out like we had last year … but tonight felt pretty good.”
Quincy has been a good track for Sheppard, a resident of New Berlin, Ill., since he started racing at 8000 Broadway on a part-time basis in 2012. His five feature wins are tied for the second most in that span, and he’s cashed $15,600 worth of checks, including one for $1,200 for Sunday night’s victory. Sunday was only his second appearance of the season in Quincy.
“We weren’t really coming here for (UMP national) points or anything like that,” Sheppard said. “We just figured we’d come here and try and put on a good show. We’ll probably be here a few more times this season.”
Sheppard led the final 25 laps of the 30-lap feature, becoming the seventh different winner of a late model main event this season. Pierce ran a strong second, but could never quite get close enough to Sheppard to make a legitimate run at him.
Sheppard turned in the fastest feature lap (77.093 mph) of the season. Pierce recorded the fastest qualifying time (77.980 mph) of the year.
“It was a heavy track, but still smooth,” Pierce said of the somewhat tacky surface of the .29-mile semi-banked oval that had endured a number of showers in the days leading up to Sunday’s racing.
Pierce made the long haul from near Danville, Ill., in search of UMP national points. He is in the running for the UMP national championship.
“This is the only UMP track (in the region) that races on Sundays,” he said. “We have to keep going, keep plugging away.”
Track points leader Denny Woodworth finished third, followed by Clint Kirkham and Justin Reed. Woodworth was able to build his points leader to 29 (558-529) over Burgtorf, who suffered through a third straight DNF.
LONG BLOWS AWAY MODIFIED FIELD
Other feature winners were Michael Long in the modifieds, Tony Dunker in the sport mods, Brandon Savage in the stock cars and Austen Becerra in the sport compacts.
Long all but blew away the rest of the modified field with a whopping 5.64-second victory over closest challenger and points leader Steven DeLonjay. Long led by more than a straightaway at times.
Long’s victory was his fourth of the season and first since June 29. The two-time track champ tried to downplay his dominance.
“The draw helped me a lot, starting on the front row,” he said. “That made things easier.”
True, there’s nothing like starting on the front row with an already dominant power plant, but Long’s performance was also next to flawless.
“The car wasn’t perfect, but things were pretty good,” he said.
Craig Spegal’s third-place finish was his finest of the season. Jared Schlipman and Keith Pratt filled out the top five. Both Schilpman and Pratt rebounded from some recent on-track woes with quality runs.
Long passed Dave Wietholder in the points pursuit, moving into second behind DeLonjay. Wietholder missed his first night of racing in well over a decade. His streak of (at least) 270 consecutive feature starts ended Sunday night due to a hip injury.
DeLonjay (785), Long (720) and Wietholder (681) are the only drivers with a realistic shot at the championship.
DUNKER’S HOT STREAK CONTINUES
Dunker shot past Jim Gillenwater with one of his familiar high-line runs late in the sport mod finale. Dunker overtook Gillenwater on the next-to-last lap and then held on for a 0.33-of-a-second win.
Dunker has taken control of the sport mods in the second half and looks well on his way to a third straight track championship. He has won four of the last five main events.
“We got the No. 3 (car) back where it belongs,” said Dunker moments after the race in victory lane. “I was able to take a chance a late in the race (with some daring moves) because I knew the guys ahead of me were all good, clean drivers.”
Tanner Klingele ended up third, Brad Holtmeyer fourth and Bobby Anders fifth. Dunker (505) is 28 points up on Anders (477), his closest challenger.
SAVAGE, BECERRA PAD VICTORY TOTALS
Savage continued his late-season charge in the stock cars, winning his second straight feature and fourth of the year. He has pulled within seven points (479-472) of Abe Huls, who finished second. Terry Houston was third, followed by Beau Taylor and Nathan Hayes.
Becerra won his 10th sport compact feature at Quincy and 32nd overall of the season. He leads all drivers at the track in feature and total (15) victories and is 23 points ahead (511-488) of Kim Abbott in pursuit of his second straight track title.
SUNDAY NIGHT RECAP
Late models: Bobby Pierce (3rd), Jason Perry (3rd).
Modifieds: Keith pratt (1st), Steven DeLonjay (8th).
Sport mods: Tanner Klingele (6th), Joey Gower (3rd).
Stock cars: Brandon Savage (6th).
Sport compacts: Brandon Lambert (4th), Austen Becerra (5th).
Track points leaders (unofficial)
Late models: Denny Woodworth 558, Mark Burgtorf 529, Ricky Frankel 431.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay 785, Michael Long 720, Dave Wietholder 681.
Sport mods: Tony Dunker 505, Bobby Anders 477, Brad Holtmeyer 475, Tanner Klingele 473.
Stock cars: Abe Huls 479, Brandon Savage 472, Jake Powers 455.
Sport compacts: Austen Becerra 511, Kim Abbott 488, Brandon Lambert 467.
Late models: Bobby Pierce, 77.980 mph. (fastest of season)
– Overall track record: Will Vaught, Crane, Mo., 82.406 mph, 12.669 seconds, July 3, 2009. (UMP Hell Tour qualifying.)
– UMP weekly series record: Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill., 79.361 mph, July 28, 2013.
Modifieds: Michael Long, 69.291 mph. (fifth straight show Long has had fastest time)
– UMP weekly series record: Michael Long, Quincy, Ill., 70.650 mph, July 20, 2014.
Late models: Brandon Sheppard, 77.093 mph. (fastest of season)
– Overall track record: Jeep Van Wormer, Pinconning, Mich., 78.376 mph, July 11, 2010.)
– UMP weekly series record: Brian Shirley, Springfield, Ill., 77.754 mph, Sept. 16, 2012.
Modifieds: Michael Long, 71.331 mph. (fastest of season)
– UMP weekly series record: Michael Long, Quincy, Ill., 73.763 mph, Aug. 22, 2010.
Sport mods: Jim Gillenwater, 65.541 mph. (fastest of season)
– Track record: Tony Dunker, 65.976 mph, Sept. 30, 2012.
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Michael Long, for what might have been the most dominant performance by a local modified driver this summer.
9 stars: Tony Dunker, for that late charge to the checkers in the sport mod main event.
8 stars: Brandon Savage, who won his fourth stock-car feature and continues to offer up a repeat of his second half of the 2013 season.
7 stars: Austen Becerra, for reaching double figures in sport compact feature victories with his 10th of the season.
6 stars: Brandon Sheppard, whose late model run to the checkers was simply fun to sit back and watch.
5 stars: Craig Spegal, who finished third in the modified feature for his best showing of the season. Only a late pass by Steven DeLonjay denied Spegal a runner-up finish.
4 stars: Bobby Pierce, who also put on an entertaining show in the late model finale and had the fastest qualifying lap of the season.
3 stars: Denny Woodworth, whose third-place finish in the late model main event put him in the driver’s seat to secure a third series championship in the last five seasons. Woodworth unofficially now leads Mark Burgtorf by 29 points.
2 stars: Brandon Lambert, who continued his big second half in the sport compacts with his fifth-runner-up feature finish in the last six shows.
1 star: Clint Kirkham, who drove to his best late model feature finish of the season with a strong fourth behind Sheppard, Pierce and Woodworth.
Late models: 12.
Modifieds: 11. (lowest count of season for modifieds)
Sport mods: 16.
Stock cars: 7.
Sport compacts: 13.
Late models: 2.
Sport mods: 5.
Stock cars: 1.
Sport compacts: 2.
Total: 12. (equals second-lowest total of season)