MERRITTVILLE, Ontario – Matt Sheppard drove past Gary Lindberg in the outside lane to take the lead on lap 85 and then paced the final 16 laps to win his second straight Bob St. Amand Memorial 100 at Merrittville Speedway on Wednesday night.
The victory was also his fourth straight with the Super DIRTcar Series and second in as many nights, after he also won Tuesday at Ransomville Speedway.
Lindberg, a Merrittville weekly 358 (Small Block) Modified regular, gave everything he had to keep pace with Sheppard, but came up 1.203 seconds short of his first career Series victory.
“We have had some really good racecars and some really good luck. That’s what it takes,” Sheppard said of his four-race win streak. “Going back five races to Sharon, I thought we had a shot at winning that and got a flat tire late in the race. We were pretty good up in Quebec, good again last night and tonight I didn’t think we were nearly as good, but we had a little bit of luck.”
Sheppard’s good luck was at the expense of Erick Rudolph’s misfortune during the most dramatic point of the race.
Lindberg and Rudolph had broken away from the rest of the pack in the top two spots. As the race reached its final quarter, Rudolph zeroed in on Lindberg among the lapped traffic and pulled to his back bumper, all after erasing a two-second deficit.
However, Rudolph’s bid for the lead ended with 81 laps completed when he tried to race under Lindberg, who was running a half groove off the bottom of the track in turn three. The two drivers made contact in the middle of the corner, and the result was Rudolph facing the wrong way in front of the field.
The ensuing restart moved Sheppard from third to the outside of the front row beside Lindberg. The Waterloo, N.Y. native made the most of the outside groove and took the lead from Lindberg on lap 85, after a four-lap side-by-side battle on the icy slick track.
“The turning point of that race was when Rudolph tangled and spun around there,” Sheppard said of the incident that halted a 51-lap green-flag run. “That kind of reset the field and gave me a little bit of open racetrack. That’s kind of what we needed with the Big Block. We needed to keep our momentum up. I got up top and was able to get it rolling and just got it rolling well enough to get around Gary.”
While Sheppard held the point, Lindberg kept within striking distance over the next 10 laps, until the final caution flag of the race waved with five laps remaining when Fred Carleton rode the outside retaining wall to a stop on the frontstretch.
Contrary to most situations, Sheppard was actually happy to see the yellow flag.
“That string of cautions really helped out,” Sheppard said. “I would have never got around Gary without the yellow and then I didn’t mind seeing that yellow with five to go. It gave me a little bit of open racetrack because I had to use every bit of it and even some more on the front stretch.”
Sheppard and many of the drivers resorted to dipping the right-side wheels into the moat on the frontstretch to find grip for the straightaway, which was devoid of moisture elsewhere.
That same slick track played to the benefit of Lindberg and the other Merrittville Small Block regulars.
“The track conditions helped and so did starting up front,” Lindberg said. “I thought I was a sitting duck up there and luckily we held on as long as we did. The guys put a good car under me this week.”
Billy Decker completed the podium with a third-place finish. Decker’s second top-three result in as many nights extended his point lead over Larry Wight, who finished ninth.
Prior to the lap 81 caution, the race had run under green conditions all the way from a lap 30 restart.
Max McLaughlin was the night’s Fast Qualifier with a lap of 16.692 seconds and the winner of heat two. Sheppard, Ryan Susice and Decker also picked up heat race wins. Mark D’Ilario won the Last Chance Qualifier.
For Sheppard, the win was another step in the right direction towards climbing up the points ladder. Entering Wednesday’s event, he was 115 points back of Decker.
“All we can do is keep trying to win these races and let the rest take care of itself,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard will get the chance to try for his fifth straight win when the Super DIRTcar Series returns to action on Aug. 24 at Ohsweken Speedway for the Triple Crown Showdown.
RESULTS: Super DIRTcar Series; Merrittville Speedway; Aug. 9, 2017
Feature (100 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 2. 28z-Gary Lindberg ; 3. 91-Billy Decker ; 4. 6m-Mat Williamson ; 5. 3-Chad Brachmann ; 6. 71-Mike Bowman ; 7. 3rs-Ryan Susice ; 8. 21a-Peter Britten ; 9. 99L-Larry Wight ; 10. 25-Erick Rudolph ; 11. 6h-Max McLaughlin ; 12. 19-Tim Fuller ; 13. 15J-Tim Jones ; 14. 44-Stewart Friesen ; 15. 42-Pete Bicknell ; 16. 20-Brett Hearn ; 17. 1-Todd Gordon ; 18. 38-Scott Wood ; 19. 42p-Pat Ward ; 20. 16-Brent Beggolo ; 21. 43-Keith Flach ; 22. 109-Billy Whittaker ; 23. 7m-Mike Maresca ; 24. 37s-Tommy Flannigan ; 25. 96-Fred Carleton ; 26. 08-Mark D’Ilario ; 27. 98h-Jimmy Phelps ; 28. 88p-Shayne Pierce ; 29. 8-Rick Scagliotta ; 30. DNS 22-Brandon Walters
CREDIT: DIRTcar Communications