OCALA, FL (February 19, 2017) – The former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year, Brandon Sheppard took the lead on the final lap from Scott Bloomquist to win Sunday night’s Lucas Oil Winter Nationals - presented by GEICO at Bubba Raceway Park. The exciting finish brought the packed grandstand to its feet as Sheppard charged from his 11th starting spot to take the win.
Bloomquist finished in second, followed by Dennis Erb Jr. in the Vomac Trucking, Clements Racing Engines, Black Diamond Chassis. Earl Pearson Jr. came home fourth in the Dunn-Benson Ford, Larry Wallace Racing Engines, Longhorn Chassis. Frank Heckenast Jr. completed the top five in the St. Louis-U-Pic-A-Part, Capital Race Car.
Sheppard ended the Georgia-Florida Speedweeks with his second win in the Mark Richards Racing, Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Gunter’s Honey, Sallack Well Services, Sunoco, Durham-powered Rocket House Car.
In Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the sixth time in his career, the 24-year-old racer was at a loss for words; “Anytime you can pass Scott [Bloomquist] for the lead, it’s pretty big. He is probably one of the greatest in our sport. I guess you could say it was an honor to pass him on the last lap for the win.”
“It was crazy out there. Turns three and four and down the front stretch were pretty slippery. You had to make sure you hit the little bit of brown on the bottom of three and four,” said Sheppard.
“The caution with two laps to go, let us pack the top of one and two and made it so we could roll around on the top better. Scott was running on the top before that caution come out. I kind of expected him to go to the top and then he went to the bottom on the restart. I guess I just grinned a little bit and got on the gas and went right by him on the outside.”
At the start of the race Josh Richards and Bloomquist led the field to the green flag. Bloomquist led the first lap and Richards took over the point on lap two. Richards then started to receive heavy pressure from Don O’Neal who had moved by Bloomquist into second place.
As Richards and O’Neal exited off turn four on lap 20, a car spun directly into front of them, leaving those two drivers with nowhere to go and they came to a halt with heavy damage to both cars. Richards went pit-side and made repairs to re-join the field on the tail while O’Neal was done for the night.
Bloomquist inherited the lead, which he held until a caution with two laps to go for a slowing car in turn two, which bunched the field for a green-white-checker finish. Erb, who had been all over Bloomquist in the final five laps of the race charged to the bottom trying to get by Bloomquist as Sheppard swung out wide and went by both to take the win.
Bloomquist crossed the line in second even though it wasn’t the result he was looking for. “We were pushing badly at the end, especially in three and four. The tire was starting to give-up a little bit. The crew guys pointed to get to the bottom on the restart. I didn’t expect him [Sheppard] to get a run like that, and the car didn’t feel as good at the end, it was just one of those things. We had a good race and I am sure that everybody enjoyed watching that one.”
Erb took third, and commented on his podium finish, “We had a good car all night long. From the time we hot lapped, qualified, ran the heat, this car stayed good and to be running up front near the end, we are real pleased with that. We worked on this car all week-long and finally brought it out tonight, we made a lot of changes on this car, but at least we are going in the right direction.”
Completing the top ten were Tim McCreadie, Chub Frank, Boom Briggs, Jonathan Davenport, and Josh Richards.