Sunday, September 24, 2017

Shepherd Claims Fourth RPM Pro Late Model Win Of 2017

Buddy Shepherd in RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model victory lane
Photo Courtesy Jason Wedehase

MADERA, CALIFORNIA (September 23, 2017) – Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd extended his points lead with his fourth RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model Series victory of 2017 on Saturday night, taking the 100 lap race at Madera Speedway worth $2,000. Shepherd’s win and fast-time gave him critical points in a tight points battle with Napa’s Logan Zampa heading into the Short Track Shootout on October 7th.

Racin Vernon drew the pole alongside Shepherd for an all-Bakersfield front row for round #7 of 8. The busy start for the 25 car field saw Modesto’s Garland Tyler from eighth slide around several times boxing out 16 year-old Eric Nascimento, Jr. Nascimento was forced into a three wide situation to fall back to 11th.

Shepherd led early while Vernon, Zampa, and third-generation driver Ross Strmiska nearly went three-wide on several occasions for second. Tyler’s loose condition jumped him to the outside which was the preferred line anyhow. Mariposa’s Glen Cook and Jarrett Gilmer battled for sixth with Tyler on the outside behind them. There was racing all over the track as Strmiska took over second from Vernon.

Strmiska and Vernon made slight contact in turn two in lapped traffic on lap ten. Strmiska cut down a right rear tire but was saved by a yellow when Nascimento and Oakdale’s Blaine Rocha came together in turn four.

Shepherd had a strong restart which allowed Vernon to get outside Zampa for second. Rick Thompson and Clovis’ Trevor Schlundt crashed in turn three right in front of a side-by-side Howard Holden and Shelden Cooper for a lap 18 caution. Modesto’s Kyle Gottula restarted fourth and followed Shepherd on the following restart to try to pass Zampa, but Zampa held on for second. Vernon drifted backwards but was saved by a yellow when Cook spun and collected Schlundt. Both were able to resume.

Seemingly a new character emerged for third on every successive restart, with Tracy’s Justin Philpott going around the outside of Gottula and 11th starting Matt Erickson also entered the fray.

Gilmer turned around in turn one and sparked a significant crash with six cars stuck together including Mike Shapiro underneath Nascimento. A lengthy red flag resulted although only a couple of cars were actually eliminated from the event. Shepherd lost no momentum when he rocketed away on the restart. A skirmish in turn four ended up with Coarsegold’s William Martyn sideways for another yellow.

Erickson used an uncharacteristic inside line to pass both Tyler and Dillon Tucker to assume fifth before sliding back upstairs on lap 40. Cook had a solo spin for a lap 44 caution that ended up being the halfway break six laps early.

The field resumed 19 cars strong with Vernon and Erickson colliding for a scare down the frontstretch but both managed to keep going.

Zampa had a strong restart at the lap 50 mark but could not make the inside stick, after much of the field reported a tight condition during the break. Erickson and Vernon entertained the fans with a side-by-side battle for many laps for fifth. The race went under its longest green flag stretch which allowed Erickson to crawl up to Tucker for fourth. Erickson threaded the needle on a lapped car to take the spot on lap 75.

Vernon, Shelden Cooper, and Philpott put on a good race for the eighth position before Cooper spun down the backstretch for a lap 84 caution. Erickson was able to restart behind Shepherd from the outside of row two but couldn’t chase him down. A lap 85 yellow for Gilmer spun around in turn one gave Erickson another look. Erickson had a much better restart on this try but Zampa managed to slide up in front of him to keep second behind Shepherd. The scramble brought Rocha into the top-five too. The following lap Rocha spun into the turn three wall to set up the final restart of the evening.

Shepherd proved too strong as he drove away from Zampa with Erickson narrowly edging Gottula for third. Tyler rounded out the top-five. The series concludes October 7th with the $10,000 to win Short Track Shootout that is expected to attract teams from across the country.

Austin Herzog won his sixth career 51FIFTY Energy Drink Junior Late Model race and second of 2017 by taking the 75 lapper. Hollister’s Adam Lemke drew the pole alongside Tanner Reif of Las Vegas against a 17 car field.

Lemke edged forward inside to lead lap one as the top 12 cars all ran side-by-side early. His teammate Hailie Deegan nosed inside Reif to battle for second. Danville’s Anthony Guaimano spun in turn four for the first caution on lap three. Watsonville’s Lilly Mead spun on the backstretch for the next caution on lap five. Lemke jumped ahead by three car lengths while Reif anchored a tightly wound second pack. Deegan looked inside Reif in turn one and they tangled with Reif spinning for a lap 11 yellow flag. Deegan had to restart at the rear which changed the complexion of the race.

The incident allowed Herzog, the evening’s fast-time qualifier, to restart third. Nascimento passed points leader Jesse Love IV of Menlo Park for fifth on the restart. Austin Edwards hounded Lemke up front with several bumps before cutting inside down the backstretch to challenge on lap 17. Edwards led at the line on lap 19 and brought Herzog to second. Tyler Reif spun on the backstretch for a caution on lap 21.

Dylan Zampa and Kyle Keller collided for a turn four spin on lap 24. Love and Deegan worked their way underneath July winner Eric Nascimento, Jr. to drop him back to seventh. Nascimento went to the outside and tried to pass Deegan back while Love peeked inside Berry for fourth in a two-by-two formation.

Herzog got around Edwards and led lap 31 with Lemke following through to take second from Edwards as well. Berry spun from fourth and Love was blocked, dropping him to the rear of the field before the caution flew. Zampa collided with Mead for a caution on lap 34. Deegan and Nascimento displayed great side-by-side action for third on the following restart as Deegan marched through the field.

The intense battle for third continued coming out of the lap 50 break. Deegan finally cleared Nascimento down the backstretch on lap 55. Mead and RJ Smothermon came together on the front stretch prompting a lap 60 caution. Deegan turned up the wick to challenge her teammate Lemke for the second position which allowed Herzog to get a five car length cushion with ten to go.

Lemke managed to motor away from Deegan while Austin Herzog crossed the stripe with the victory. Lemke, Deegan, Nascimento, and points leader Love were the balance of the top-five.

The Modified Super Toyotas and Toyota Sedans ran a combined 30 lap feature where the top two in each respective class ran in unison throughout the race. Dave Lander led the MSTs early before a caution allowed Patrick Geiger to take over the top spot. Lander stayed in tow for the entire distance darting in and out of Sedan traffic.

Lander tried one last move for the lead into turn four at the finish but couldn’t make it work. In Toyota Sedans about ¾ of a lap behind them, Dean Gould held off points leader Mike Marley in a similarly close finish.

Up next for Madera Speedway is a big night this Saturday, with the 75 Lap Open Hobby Stock Race, The USAC HPD Midgets, BCRA Midgets, CSS/360 Super Modifieds, Legends of the Pacific, and the Legends of Kearney Bowl.

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Madera Racing on MAVTV continues every Thursday night at 8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific. Madera Speedway racing is also available on the LucasOilRacing.TV app.