OSWEGO, N.Y. — ‘Super Matt’ Sheppard is continuing to keep his quest for a sixth Super DIRTcar Series championship crown alive and well, and proved Thursday at Oswego Speedway that he remains the master of NAPA Super DIRT Week time trials.
Sheppard stormed around the five-eighths-mile ‘Clay Palace’ in 21.210 seconds (106.082 mph) with his No. 9s Dendis Companies big block modified, earning the pole for the Super DIRT Week finale for the second-consecutive year and third of the last four runnings, dating back to the penultimate race on the Syracuse Mile in 2014.
The lap turned by Sheppard also set a new track record at Oswego, now in its second year of hosting Super DIRT Week.
Sheppard will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday in search of his second Super DIRT Week win and first since 2009.
“Man, this car is super fast and I’m excited,” said Sheppard, who qualified on the outside pole for Saturday’s 358-modified feature. “As qualifying went on, the track widened out and that helped us a good bit. Both of our cars are really, really good and it makes me feel good about the rest of the week to come.”
The top six qualifiers from Thursday’s time trial session locked into their starting positions for Sunday’s race.
Pennsylvania traveler Rick Laubach, who is focusing solely on this year’s Billy Whittaker Cars 200, used that focus to his advantage and timed in second-fastest (21.344/105.416) to earn the outside pole as he chases his first-ever victory in the big dance.
Laubach’s career-best finish to date in the 200 came in 2010, when he crossed the line third at Syracuse behind winner Billy Decker and runner-up Tim McCreadie.
Decker, who leads Sheppard by 27 points in the race for the Super DIRTcar Series title, was third-quick ahead of Keith Flach and Dom Buffalino.
McCreadie, whose only hope of racing on Sunday was to lock into the top six on speed due to prior commitments with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series on Friday and Saturday, bounced back from a final practice crash to grab the sixth and final guaranteed spot with a blockbuster run in the final qualifying group.
The No. 39 Sweetener’s Plus entry toured the five-eighths-mile oval in 21.623 seconds (104.056 mph), all after McCreadie and his team had to replace the steering box, front axle and all four shocks on the car.
With no laps on the rebuilt machine prior to qualifying, McCreadie’s effort was one that had the grandstands — and the No. 39 pit area — cheering wildly.
“We were lucky, plain and simple,” McCreadie said. “After the wreck … we switched over everything and it ended up being enough. It feels great (to be locked in).”
Race sponsor Billy Whittaker, who sat on the qualifying bubble for most of the session, ended up being bumped out of the top six by McCreadie’s last gasp effort and landed seventh-fastest (21.731/103.539) by a tenth of a second.
Other notables outside the top six included young gun Max McLaughlin (eighth), 358-modified polesitter Tim Fuller (10th), five-time Super DIRT Week winner Stewart Friesen (37th) and six-time winner Brett Hearn (45th).
Whittaker and the rest of the Super DIRTcar Series field will have their next shot to make the 200-lap finale during the Friday Night Lights program, which features triple 30s for the big block modifieds.
Twin 25s for the 358 modifieds and heats for the Chevy Performance Sportsman field will also be on tap tomorrow.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…