SDS: Sheppard Nips Hearn In Qualifying To Earn First-Ever Syracuse 200 Pole

RaceChaser Staff Dirt Track Racing, Featured, Northeast, Super DIRTcar Series 0 Comments

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — official release — DIRTcar photo — Matt Sheppard earned his first-ever pole position start in the prestigious Syracuse 200 during Thursday afternoon’s Big-Block Modified qualifying at the New York State Fairgrounds — but just barely.

The 32-year-old star from Waterloo, N.Y., topped time trials for Sunday’s prestigious $50,000-to-win event by the slimmest of margins, besting Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J., by a mere two-thousandths of a second on the first day of competition at NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLIII.

Sheppard steered his Heinke-Baldwin Racing Troyer car around the historic one-mile oval in a blistering 29.410 seconds, just better than the 29.412-second circuit that the 56-year-old Hearn turned with his Teo-Pro machine. Sheppard earned $1,000 for capturing the Pole Position Raceway Fast Time Award while Hearn collected $750 for grabbing the BACC-OFF Outside Pole Award.

“I cut a good lap,” said Sheppard, the 2009 winner of the Syracuse 200. “I didn’t know if it was gonna be good enough to stay there, though. I kind of figured that with basically all the heavy hitters behind me –— all the guys who were faster than me all afternoon — I didn’t think it would hold up.”

“But it did, so I guess it showed how good a lap it was.”

Sheppard sat behind the wheel of a fresh machine that helped him continue the momentum he carried into Super DIRT Week. He scored a $20,000 victory in last Saturday night’s Outlaw 200 at Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway and was triumphant in Wednesday night’s 358-Modified Series event at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway.

“It’s a brand new car, but it’s no different than this race car sitting right here that I’m gonna run at Brewerton tonight,” said Sheppard, who is making his first Super DIRT Week appearance with the HBR team. “It’s something we’ve been running all year. Just a little bit different tin — very little. We just went with something we know.”

“So far, so good,” he added with a smile. “I’ve been coming here for a while and never been on the pole, so I’m excited. The polesitter doesn’t always win this race, but hopefully we can change that this week.”

Sheppard did face a Moody Mile track surface that turned up much faster than it has in recent years. His sub-30-second qualifying effort marked just the second time in the last seven years that the Syracuse 200 fast-timer was in the 29-second bracket.

“It’s kind of a cross between the last couple years and the old Syracuse,” Sheppard said of the Fairgrounds’ clay. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens the rest of the week. I think it’ll either get faster or it’ll get slower — and I like it slower. It’s better race day like that. It’s fun to go fast on qualifying day, but I’d rather see it slow on race day.”

Hearn would also prefer the lap times to come back to earth before Sunday 200-mile test of man and machine.

“I hope something changes because it would be a better race if it slow downs,” said Hearn, who will be on the outside pole when he takes the Syracuse 200 green flag for the 37th time in search of his seventh career win. “That track today was a little more of a classic of what it used to be. It’s gotten away from that the last few years.”

“I think it has a lot more to do with either the clay they did or didn’t add and other factors, like if they dug it, the cinders in it … but it’s smooth, and it’s definitely got a fast lane on the bottom.”

It was an almost imperceptible bobble on the track that left Hearn trailing Sheppard in the final qualifying numbers.

“I thought that I lost some time into (turn) one,” said Hearn, who fell short of tying Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., with a record seventh Syracuse 200 fast-time honor. “There’s a little bit of a patch of what looks like new clay there that was a little more slippery than the rest of the track. I got through it OK, but it kept me from getting back in the throttle as quick as I needed to.”

“If I lost any time at all — I mean, two one-thouasandths, you can’t even imagine that — that’s where it would be.”

Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., who is Sheppard’s teammate under the HBR banner, was a close third on the final speed chart with a lap of 29.435 seconds. He will start from inside the second row in Sunday’s 200.

Decker will start fourth after turning a lap of 29.466 seconds, while defending Syracuse 200 champion Billy Dunn of Watertown, N.Y. (29.493 seconds) and Duane Howard of Oley, Pa. (29.545 seconds) will share the third row after timing fifth and sixth, respectively, to complete the group of drivers locked into Sunday’s finale.

The balance of the Syracuse 200 field will be determined with the results of Triple 20-lap heat races that are part of Friday evening’s Camping World Friday Night Lights program. The card of heat races, which also includes Twin 20s for the 358-Modifieds and Triple 10s for the Sportsman-Modifieds, is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m.

 

Syracuse 200 Qualifying Results

Pos No. Name Best Tm
1 9H Matt Sheppard 29.410
2 20 Brett Hearn 29.412
3 98h Jimmy Phelps 29.435
4 91 Billy Decker 29.466
5 49 Billy Dunn 29.493
6 66 Duane Howard 29.545
7 7 Rick Laubach 29.723
8 32c Vic Coffey 29.787
9 7z Erick Rudolph 29.813
10 74 J.R Heffner 29.816
11 43 Keith Flach 29.835
12 99L Larry Wight 29.847
13 39 Tim McCreadie 29.856
14 21a Peter Britten 29.861
15 48T Dave Rauscher 29.960
16 1H Tim Hindley 30.011
17 747 Ryan Godown 30.045
18 57 Donnie Corellis 30.105
19 2RJ Ronnie Johnson 30.124
20 5 Jimmy Horton 30.184
21 66x Carey Terrance 30.235
22 3 Justin Haers 30.236
23 51m Dominic Buffalino 30.293
24 42p Pat Ward 30.309
25 74F Tim Fuller 30.520
26 98 Eddie Marshall 30.554
27 27J Danny Johnson 30.559
28 115 Kenny Tremont Jr. 30.571
29 816J Bobby Varin 30.587
30 99 Ryan Phelps 30.594
31 84 Gary Tomkins 30.649
32 11 Rob Bellinger 30.650
33 44F Stewart Friesen 30.753
34 21m Bob McGannon 30.759
35 2 Roy Bresnahan 30.842
36 56 Vince Vitale 30.850
37 22c Mario Clair 30.890
38 M40 Mark Forte Jr 30.973
39 62 Tom Sears Jr. 31.004
40 816 Jeff Rockefeller 31.021
41 14s Brian Swartout 31.157
42 165 Rex King Jr. 31.228
43 3a Kevin Albert 31.238
44 41 Jim Davis 31.240
45 14h Jeff Heotzler 31.292
46 1 David Hebert 31.318
47 28p Eldon Payne 31.378
48 8 Rich Scagliotta 31.447
49 85 Dan Vauter 31.516
50 47 Bob Sarkisian 31.637
51 77w Dan Wiesner 31.706
52 151 Brian McDonald 31.803
53 88 Dave Allen 31.994
54 1x Willy Decker 32.129
55 10 Billy VanIngewen 32.174
56 14 Brett Wright 32.190
57 71 Pierre Hebert 32.217
58 1ny Greg Atkins 32.255
59 44 John McClelland 32.312
60 19b Brian Kressley 32.329
61 R40 Ryan Forte 32.595
62 31m Jamie Maier 32.664
63 35 Mike Perrotte 32.880
64 3M Henry Maier 33.591
65 17 Marcus Dinkins 33.943
66 77H Bobby Hamm Jr. 33.982
67 96 Mike Turner 34.340
68 7a Al Blanchard 34.363
69 3c Jeremie Corcoran 35.775
70 74M Matt Billings 41.618

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