The two-time and a defending World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series National Champion started his title defense over the weekend in the Battle at the Border at Vado Speedway Park in Vado, N.M.
Brandon Sheppard piloted the Valvoline No.1 Seubert Calf Ranches/ Gunters Honey/ Ace Metal Works/ Durham Racing Engines-powered XR1 Rocket Chassis to three second-place finishes in as many nights.
The action kicked off with a $5,000-to-win program on Friday that drew a stout field of 42 entries. Brandon laid down the fastest lap in his qualifying group to earn the pole position for his heat race. He went on to a convincing heat race win, sending him to the redraw.
After drawing the third position on the grid behind Chris Madden and Ricky Weiss, Sheppard nearly snuck by both drivers early in the race. He remained within striking distance of Madden after securing second-place with 11 laps remaining but couldn’t find enough traction to keep Madden from reaching Victory Lane. Ricky Weiss, Scott Bloomquist, and Mike Marlar rounded out the Top-5.
“We were right there, but the racetrack didn’t allow much passing,” said Sheppard. “I had a really good race car but just didn’t have enough to get by Madden. I went to the top a few times but just couldn’t make it work.”
On Saturday, Sheppard started the night with a second-place finish in his preliminary heat race and went on to draw the seventh starting spot for the feature. Quickly making his way into the Top-5, Brandon drew close to race leader, Ricky Weiss in lapped traffic shortly after overtaking Chris Madden for second on lap 18.
Sheppard ceded several car lengths to the leader in the final laps as he settled for his second runner-up finish in as many nights. Weiss was the race winner. Madden finished third, with Darrell Lanigan and Mike Marlar completing the Top-5.
“We’ve been in the right spot, we just haven’t had things fall our way to where we could get to the lead,” Sheppard commented. “But staying up front, being consistent, that’s when the wins will come.”
Sunday’s Battle at the Border finale saw the winner’s purse increased to $15,000. After qualifying fourth in his group and going on to win his heat race, Brandon drew the second starting position for the 75-lap main event.
Sheppard took the lead at the drop of the green flag and set the pace until a lap 66 caution. On the ensuing restart, Cade Dillard was able to slip by and assume command. Brandon was never able to regain control in the closing circuits, leaving him with his third runner-up finish. Darrell Lanigan finished third, while Scott Bloomquist and Ricky Weiss wrapped up the Top-5.
“All the stars lined up all weekend for us,” Sheppard said. “I just made a bad decision on that last restart. All weekend we had a really good race car. Cade, he’s been touring with us and he deserves to get one of these for sure.”
“Thanks to Rocket Chassis, my crew, and all my sponsors for making this possible,” Sheppard added. “We’re off to a great start and I’m looking forward to another great season.”
Full results from these events can be found at www.WorldofOutlaws.com.
Rocket1 will be idle until the Georgia-Florida Speedweeks kickoff with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Golden Isles Speedway (Brunswick, Ga.) on January 31 – February 1. Additional information on the events is available at www.LucasDirt.com.
Rocket1 Racing would like to thank all of their marketing partners, which include Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Rocket Chassis, Ace Metal Works, Durham Racing Engines, FiveStar RaceCar Bodies, Gunters Honey, Hoosier Racing Tire, Integra Racing Shocks, Keyser Manufacturing, Petroff Towing, Slavic Custom Racing Shirts & Decals, Sweet Manufacturing, Sunoco Race Fuels, Accu-Force Shock Service, ATL Fuel Cells, Aurora Rod Ends, Barnes Dry Sump Oil Systems, Bazell Race Fuels, Beyea Custom Headers, Brown & Miller Racing Solutions, Brinn Transmissions, Cometic Gasket, COMP Cams, CP Carrillo, Dohm Cycles, Edelbrock, Fibreworks Composites, Hardrock Powder Coating, Howe Racing Enterprises, Jones Racing Products, Kenny’s Components, Maxima Racing Oils, MSD, NGK Spark Plugs, Tel Tac, Performance Bodies, Peterson Fluid Systems, Powers Performance, Performance Rod & Custom, Quarter Master, QuickCar Racing Products, Rocket Pre-Owned Motors, Safecraft, Show Trucks Unlimited, Simpson, Stealth Carburetors, Strange Oval, Suave Talk, Total Power Valvoline Pro-V Racing, Walker Performance Filtration, Weld Racing, Wiles Driveshafts, Wilwood Brakes, Winters Performance Products, Wrisco Aluminum, Xceldyne Valvetrain, and MSR Mafia Marketing Services.