If the standard length of a Morton Buildings Feature was only 45 laps instead of the usual 50, Saturday night’s race at Wayne County Speedway would have ended on a different note.
Former Series Champions Brandon Sheppard and Darrell Lanigan put on what could potentially be remembered as one of the most exciting Features of the 2019 season in an incredible display of lap-after-lap, no-holds-barred battling for over 25 laps. Lanigan pounding the cushion on the top, Sheppard showing a wheel down low almost every lap until he made the winning move on lap 46 by going underneath Lanigan, who was forced out of his high groove by lapped traffic.
Amidst all the fireworks in the last 10 laps with the leaders, rookie sensation Ricky Weiss burst onto the scene with seven laps to go after a late-race charge, getting around Doug Drown with 11 circuits remaining and closing within five car-lengths of the battle between Sheppard and Lanigan by lap 43. With 3 laps to go, Weiss had completely closed the gap and made the pass out of turn four underneath Lanigan to take second. With time running out and a slew of lapped traffic ahead of him, Weiss took aim at the Rocket1 Racing machine.
But his last-lap ‘Hail Mary’ dive into turn three was unsuccessful, and Sheppard hung on for the win – his seventh of the year with the Outlaws and third in-a-row at Wayne County Speedway.
“I knew my car was fast on the top, so if I could just get in open track, I could roll pretty good,” Sheppard said. “Everybody was just all over the place and we were racing hard. A fun, clean race, for sure.”
Sheppard spent a lot of effort digging on Lanigan down low until he saw daylight on the high side. When Lanigan saw the signal sticks telling him to move back up to the top, Sheppard went back to the bottom. But after several unsuccessful pass attempts down low and the laps winding down, Sheppard began feeling the heat from Weiss’ #7 behind him. And that’s when he knew it was now or never.
“I moved to the top in [turns] three and four and caught [Lanigan], and then his crew guys moved him up to the top, which was what they should have done,” Sheppard said. “Finally, we were getting into lapped traffic and I saw Ricky show me a nose on the bottom and I knew it was either time to go or get passed.”
Sheppard got a great run coming out of turn two on lap 46 and drag-raced Lanigan down the backstretch. It looked as though Lanigan’s momentum on the high side would carry him through once more, as it had on every other pass attempt. But Larry Bellman Jr. was already riding the line and impeded Lanigan’s path just enough to allow Sheppard to get the momentum advantage and squeak by underneath.
“The lapped cars were just right where I needed to be and I wasn’t good enough around the bottom to go down there and get up beside them,” Lanigan said. “Brandon’s car was better on the bottom.”
After the lead changed hands, Weiss said he eventually saw an opportunity to grab the lead on the low side, but lapped traffic made him think better of it as well. Blake Spencer was already down on the bottom as the leaders were moving through, and Weiss chose to be conservative over making a bonzai move.
“I just didn’t want to stick my nose in there and maybe hit a tire or slam into his [Spencer’s] door,” Weiss said. “I thought maybe we could get in the right place at the right time and pick off the lead, but I played it safe and went around him on the outside.”
Weiss frequently seems to have a car that comes on in the later stages, and when asked if he thought five more laps would have made a difference in his finishing position, he nodded and replied “I think we would have gave it one heck of a shot.”
With this win, Sheppard has now tied fellow Series Champion Billy Moyer for third on the all-time World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Feature wins list at 44. It also marks his third-straight victory at the Wayne County Speedway in World of Outlaws competition – an unprecedented accomplishment at the Orrville facility.
“It’s fitting for me, I don’t know why,” Sheppard said. “It just reminds me of a track back home in the Midwest.”
Rainfall has been quite a thorn in the side of World of Outlaws competition already this year, and conditions became a little wet once again on Saturday afternoon, shortly before Drydene heat races rolled onto the track. But the small cell hanging over the track passed within 20 minutes, and the Wayne County Speedway surface was expertly packed back in and resulted in favorable track conditions, in the eyes of the drivers.
“When it rained earlier for about five or 10 minutes, it threw a curveball at us,” Weiss said. “But I think it played out pretty good for us.”
“That rain, it definitely didn’t hurt the track any,” Sheppard said. “It was definitely a fun race, for sure. Hopefully, we can get that good of a track tomorrow night too.”
Speaking of tomorrow, the Outlaws head back to Dresden, OH tomorrow afternoon to make up the event previously washed out by rain on Friday evening at the Muskingum County Speedway. Hot laps go live on DIRTVision at 4 p.m.!
Abbreviated Results (full results)
Morton Buildings Feature (50 Laps) – 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$10,000]; 2. 7-Ricky Weiss [$5,000]; 3. 29-Darrell Lanigan [$3,000]; 4. 28-Dennis Erb [$2,500]; 5. 12-Doug Drown [$2,000]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,700]; 7. 25-Shane Clanton [$1,400]; 8. 44-Chris Madden [$1,300]; 9. 1x-Chub Frank [$1,200]; 10. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,100]; 11. B1-Brent Larson [$1,050]; 12. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,000]; 13. 6-Blake Spencer [$950]; 14. 59-Larry Bellman [$900]; 15. 9-Devin Moran [$850]; 16. 59m-Shane McLoughlin [$800]; 17. 5m-Ryan Markham [$770]; 18. C9-Steve Casebolt [$750]; 19. 18c-Mitchell Caskey [$730]; 20. 79-Brad Malcuit [$700]; 21. 44h-Dave Hess [$700]; 22. 14g-J.R. Gentry [$700]; 23. 36-Matt Irey [$700]; 24. 17-Charlie Duncan [$700]; Hard Charger: B1-Brent Larson[+12]
PFC Brakes Fast Time Award ($50 Cash and $50 Product Certificate) – Brandon Sheppard
Morton Buildings 1st World of Outlaws ($200 Cash) – Brandon Sheppard
Morton Buildings 2nd World of Outlaws ($200 Cash) – Ricky Weiss
Morton Buildings 3rd World of Outlaws ($200 Cash) – Darrell Lanigan
Morton Buildings 4th World of Outlaws ($200 Cash) – Dennis Erb Jr.
Morton Buildings 5th World of Outlaws ($200 Cash) – Cade Dillard
Comp Cams 1st-Place or Next Highest ($50 Product Certificate) – Brandon Sheppard
MSD Ignition 1st-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Brandon Sheppard
Quarter Master 1st-Place or Next Highest ($100 Product Certificate) – Brandon Sheppard
Wrisco Aluminum 1st-Place (3 Sheets of Aluminum Product Certificate) – Brandon Sheppard
DART 2nd-Place or Next Highest ($100 Product Certificate) – Ricky Weiss
Penske Racing Shocks 3rd-Place or Next Highest ($50 Product Certificate) – Darrell Lanigan
NGK Spark Plugs 4th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Dennis Erb. Jr.
JE Pistons 5th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Cade Dillard
Drydene 6th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Cade Dillard
VP Racing Fuels 8th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Chris Madden
DART 9th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Chub Frank
Comp Cams 10th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Chase Junghans
Quarter Master 11th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Product Certificate) – Brent Larson
Cometic Gasket 12th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Cash) – Boom Briggs
Quarter Master 13th-Place or Next Highest ($25 Product Certificate) – Blake Spencer
NGK Spark Plugs 14th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Product Certificate) – Larry Bellman Jr.
JE Pistons 15th-Place or Next Highest (One  Set of Rings Product Certificate) – Steve Casebolt
Drydene 16th-Place or Next Highest ($50 Product Certificate) – Shane McLoughlin
Arizona Sport Shirts 18th-Place or Next Highest ($100 Product Certificate) – Steve Casebolt
DART 19th-Place or Next Highest ($100 Product Certificate) – J.R. Gentry
JE Pistons 20th-Place or Next Highest (One  Set of Rings Product Certificate) – J.R. Gentry
MSD Ignition 24th-Place or Next Highest ($25 Cash) – Charlie Duncan
Rookie Bonus ($250 to Highest Finishing Rookie in Feature) – Ricky Weiss
Bonus Bucks ($500 to Highest Finishing in Feature, Never Won) – Doug Drown