Bechtelsville, PA- Matt Sheppard was on a mission on Saturday night at Grandview Speedway as he left a stacked field in his wake en route to victory lane in the 2nd Annual Bruce Rogers Memorial. The Waterloo, NY driver and previous winner in two Super DIRTcar Series races at the legendary speedway in 2015 and 2016 had the fastest car on the track throughout 50 laps, earning $7,500 for the effort in a performances that was as smooth as it was fast. It was a performance that saw him use both patience and precision as a steady stream of cautions kept the race from achieving much in the way of momentum.
Brian Hirthler and Frank Yankowski led the field to the green flag and from the get go, Hirthler had his #4 machine taming the field early on with Yankowski, Louden Reimert and Duane Howard in tow. Behind them, Danny Johnson began hot pursuit of Howard for the fourth spot and was just about to make the pass when the first caution flag of the night flew with four laps down for a slowed Tim Buckwalter.
When action resumed, Sheppard showed good jump, pegging the first of many restarts on the night as he hunted the fifth running Johnson while behind them, seventh starting Jeff Strunk began his move towards the front of the field. With nine laps in the books, Johnson and Sheppard engaged in a tight, door to door battle for fifth position until a caution for a turn four jingle involving Kyle Weiss, Doug Manmiller and Craig Von Dohren with 12 laps down reset the field.
When the green flag waved again, the field started to re-arrange itself with big moves. Yankowski and Reimert found themselves going backward on the restart as Howard found himself in second place for a brief moment before Sheppard made his way underneath him to take the spot. Meanwhile, Hirthler suffered a heartbreaking moment when he broke causing him to surrender the lead to Sheppard with 16 laps down.
Johnson, who had managed to make his way to the third spot, then brought out the yellow just two laps later for a flat tire setting up a second half of the race. On the ensuing restart, 2018 winner Stewart Friesen announced his presence to the top five with authority as he found the top side of the speedway to his liking and moved forward to the second spot. Friesen was set to hunt Sheppard for the lead when another caution reset the field with 26 laps down as Weiss slowed. Sheppard timed the restart perfectly and jumped out to a multi car length lead over Friesen who would have one more golden opportunity to seize the lead four laps later when Manmiller slowed to bring out the yellow once again with 20 laps in the books.
However, Friesen jumped the cushion in turn two just moments after contact with Howard and went backward in the field allowing Strunk to move to second and 18th starting Rick Laubach to make his way to third. After one last caution for Howard’s flat tire with 15 laps to go, Sheppard slammed the door on the field, hitting his marks in every corner and leaving no mistake to take advantage of for his second victory of the 2019 season.
Feature Finish- 50 Lap- $7500 to win Bruce Rogers Memorial
Starting positions in parentheses
1. Matt Sheppard (8) 2. Jeff Strunk (7) 3. Rick Laubach (18) 4. Jared Umbenhauer (12) 5. Kevin Hirthler (14) 6. Stewart Friesen (13) 7. Craig Von Dohren(24) 8. Louden Reimert (3) 9. Brett Kressley 9) 10. Kyle Weiss (11) 11. Ryan Watt (23) 12. Briggs Danner (10) 13. Clay Butler (21) 14. Dylan Swinehart (22) 15. Duane Howard (4) 16. Ray Swinehart (6) 17. Doug Manmiller (15) 18. Colt Harris (19) 19. Frank Yankowski (2) 20. Danny Johnson (5) 21. Dan Waisempacher (16) 22. Brian Hirthler (1) 23. Tim Buckwalter (20) 24. Billy Pauch Sr.(17) *Pauch Sr elected to start scratch
Hard Charger: Craig Von Dohren +16
Jared Umbenhauer; Ray Swineheart; Jeff Strunk; Brian Hirthler;
Billy Pauch Sr.; Rick Laubach