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EYES ON THE TARGET: MATT SHEPPARD EARNS TRIP BACK TO VICTORY LANE AT WORLD FINALS



By Michelina Friss
Published: November 3, 2023

Sheppard, Victory Lane, 2023 The Dirt Track
Sheppard extends points lead by six to 83 with fourth season win, inches closer to 10th Series title

Matt Sheppard’s timing couldn’t be better.

The nine-time and defending Series champion returned to Victory Lane at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the first time since 2017 on Thursday night with a potential 10th Super DIRTcar Series title two races away.

Now, with an 83-point lead over Mat Williamson, the Waterloo, NY native is eyeing a clearer shot at history.

Williamson didn’t make Sheppard’s path to victory during Thursday’s 30-lap World of Outlaws World Finals Feature easy, though.

At the drop of the green flag, Williamson played his hand aggressively, shooting out in front around pole-sitter Max McLaughlin – who drew the SRI Performance/Stock Car Steel pole award – to take the lead on Lap 1. Sheppard was not far behind, passing McLaughlin on Lap 5 for second place, setting up a battle between the top two Series contenders – a storyline seen throughout the year.

Williamson created a sizable lead out front with his #88 machine. The challenge arose as the Buzz Chew Racing driver approached lapped traffic heading into Lap 8, tightening the battle with Sheppard as he remained in hot pursuit. As the two Series stars weaved in and out of traffic, Sheppard saw an opening coming off Turn 2 that gave him enough space to pass Williamson on Lap 13.

Both competitors kept the pressure on, staying within half a car length of the other as they fought for the lead. Williamson repaid the favor as he found his way around Sheppard just three laps later, regaining the lead on Lap 16.

With half of the race completed, and the laps ticking off the counter, the effects of every decision made was magnified.

“I kind of decided I needed to change my strategy,” Sheppard said. “Lucky for me, I was able to move back up and carry some really good speed in the middle of the track and was able to get back around (Mat Williamson).”

The two veteran drivers passed by the flag stand to clock Lap 22 with Williamson running the inside and Sheppard on the outside. The defending Series champion rocketed off Turn 2 to push his way around Williamson and find clean air once again.

Once out in front, his #9S machine gained a second wind, increasing his lead in front of the field. His lead stayed steady through the second restart of the race on Lap 24, as Williamson began to lose steam behind him.

Williamson, Sheppard, The Dirt Track

Queensbury, NY driver Demetrios Drellos found his way around Williamson on the restart, passing him for second place, after charging up from a 10th place starting position. Sheppard finished off the remaining laps unchallenged, scoring his 93rd Series win of his career and fourth of the season to inch one step closer to capturing his 10th Series title.

“Yeah, we’re happy with how tonight went,” Sheppard said. “It feels good to get back to Victory Lane after all the second places that I had. We just put a new motor in. It’s been running for us real strong all weekend, but everyone else is going to improve, so we’re going to have to improve too.”

Drellos held on to finish in second place, his second top-five finish with the Series this season in as many starts.

“I executed in the Feature as planned,” Drellos said. “I think we had the better tire on of the top two, top three guys. We just had to use it up to get to where we needed to be before we could race with the leaders. I can’t complain about finishing between Matt (Sheppard) and Mat (Williamson) as a part-timer and coming from 10th to do it.”

Williamson finished in third to round out the podium. It’s his 12th top-five finish with the Series this season – second only to Sheppard’s 13 top-five finishes.

“I started rolling the bottom on the brown, and I got back by (Sheppard on Lap 16),” Williamson said. “I think if it went green to checkers, we might have been able to keep him at bay, but he was really good. It would have been nice if it had stayed green in lapped traffic because that can be the great equalizer, but we have some work to do for tomorrow and just try to do better.”

Max McLaughlin finished in fourth and Anthony Perrego finished in fifth.

UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks return to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Friday, Nov. 3, for a 30-lap, $10,000-to-win, spectacular. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.

Super DIRTcar Series Feature (30 Laps): 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard[3]; 2. 111-Demetrios Drellos[10]; 3. 88-Mat Williamson[2]; 4. 8H-Max McLaughlin[1]; 5. 4*-Anthony Perrego[12]; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[7]; 7. 25-Erick Rudolph[13]; 8. 19-Tim Fuller[4]; 9. 4SL-Bob Hentschel[6]; 10. 84Y-Alex Yankowski[11]; 11. 99L-Larry Wight[20]; 12. 21A-Peter Britten[14]; 13. JS98-Rocky Warner[23]; 14. ONE-David Hebert[16]; 15. 35-Mike Mahaney[18]; 16. 2A-Mike Gular[9]; 17. 70A-Alex Payne[5]; 18. 14-CG Morey[30]; 19. 2-Jack Lehner[24]; 20. 33-Louden Reimert[15]; 21. 5H-Chris Hile[28]; 22. 215-Adam Pierson[19]; 23. 91-Felix Roy[26]; 24. 12-Darren Smith[21]; 25. 66-Corbin Millar[25]; 26. 83X-Tim Sears Jr[27]; 27. 54-Steve Bernard[29]; 28. 91D-Billy Decker[17]; 29. (DNF) 27J-Danny Johnson[22]; 30. (DNF) 26-Ryan Godown[8]