Holding his hands together, Brandon Sheppard raised them to the sky in thanks of the gift before him. Victory. Relief… Finally.

The three-time and defending champion ended his longest drought of starting a season without an official World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model win (15 races) by finding Victory Lane Friday night at Mississippi Thunder Speedway. Along with it came a $12,500 top prize, as well.

It was also the New Berlin, IL driver’s 70th Series win. He’s now eight wins away from tying four-time champion Josh Richards for most all-time (78).

Sheppard felt a victory was coming after several consistent runs over the last month.

“Everybody’s been working together really hard trying to figure out what we need to do to get back to Victory Lane,” Sheppard said. “I know we’ve been close the last month, but we’ve been just trying to find that little bit of extra, and we’re getting things back to normal.”

While Sheppard added to his impressive list of accolades, he also kept another driver from taking his first checkered flag.

Sheppard and Larson Side-by-side
Sheppard and Larson fight for the lead at Mississippi Thunder/Jacy Norgaard Photo

Lake Elmo, MN driver Brent Larson got off to a fast start, keeping his car locked on the bottom.  He powered past six drivers in the first 10 laps and grabbed the lead.

Larson opened a sizeable advantage in traffic, but Sheppard started to reel him back in. That’s when the “Rocket Shepp” made his move, driving around Larson on the outside. It wasn’t something Sheppard could do early in the race.

“At the beginning of the race, the bottom was blowing crumbs up to the top, so I knew the top wasn’t the best place to be,” Sheppard said. “Once we got into lap traffic, we got up there and started hustling and it worked out for us.”

When the top groove came in, it may have signaled the end of Larson’s chances to win. He knew he couldn’t come off the bottom if he wanted to keep his momentum going.

“The top came in, and I was really too tight to be up there,” Larson said. “I didn’t cut our tire up to take that much abuse. We didn’t see any tire wear [Thursday] when we were testing, and tonight we blistered.”

Even though Larson didn’t get to Victory Lane, second is still important for the Minnesota campaigner. It’s his best finish on the World of Outlaws Late Models Series, so far.

“It’s a great feeling,” Larson said. “It’s a great accomplishment for our team. It’s a good reminder to us that we can do this, and show other people the same thing.”

Jimmy Mars finished third, Cade Dillard was fourth, and Chris Madden crossed the line fifth.

Sheppard and Larson weren’t the only contenders for the win. Both had late challenges from Ryan Gustin, who was running third until his night took an unfortunate end due to a mechanical failure with five laps to go. “The Reaper” had a lot of damage including a broken driveshaft.

Ryan Gustin and Brent Larson
Brent Larson and Ryan Gustin battle for position/Jacy Norgaard Photo

He was disappointed because it was a car he felt could win.

“I’m not sure what tires the other two were running, but that caution toward the end didn’t help us,” Gustin said. “We should be able to get it back together and hopefully be there at the end tomorrow.”

UP NEXT: The Most Powerful Late Models on The Planet return to Mississippi Thunder Speedway Saturday, May 8, for night two of the Dairyland Showdown presented by Dynamic Concrete Resurfacing.

Saturday’s Feature is 60-laps, paying $22,500-to-win. If Sheppard wins again, he’ll get a $5,000 bonus.

Morton Buildings Feature (40 Laps)-1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [2][$12,500]; 2. B1-Brent Larson [7][$6,000]; 3. 28M-Jimmy Mars [11][$3,500]; 4. 97-Cade Dillard [4][$2,800]; 5. 44-Chris Madden [12][$2,500]; 6. 25-Chad Simpson [10][$2,300]; 7. 8-Kyle Strickler [5][$2,200]; 8. 32-Bobby Pierce [6][$2,100]; 9. 99JR-Frank Heckenast [9][$2,050]; 10. 18B-Shannon Babb [14][$2,000]; 11. 10S-Taylor Scheffler [8][$1,600]; 12. 49-Jake Timm [18][$1,400]; 13. 28-Dennis Erb [20][$1,200]; 14. 7-Ricky Weiss [23][$1,100]; 15. 99B-Boom Briggs [15][$1,050]; 16. 74-Mitch McGrath [13][$1,000]; 17. 11-Gordy Gundaker [22][$1,000]; 18. 29-Spencer Diercks [19][$1,000]; 19. 55C-Chad Mahder [21][$1,000]; 20. 19R-Ryan Gustin [3][$1,000]; 21. 16-Tyler Bruening [1][$1,000]; 22. 20-Rodney Sanders [16][$1,000]; 23. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck [24][$1,000]; 24. 32S-Chris Simpson [17][$1,000] Hard Charger: 7-Ricky Weiss[+9]

Qualifying Flight-A –1. 74-Mitch McGrath, 13.743; 2. 16-Tyler Bruening, 13.821; 3. 8-Kyle Strickler, 13.822; 4. B1-Brent Larson, 13.837; 5. 97-Cade Dillard, 13.842; 6. 32S-Chris Simpson, 13.85; 7. 99JR-Frank Heckenast, 13.896; 8. 28M-Jimmy Mars, 13.934; 9. 3-Brett Swedberg, 13.963; 10. 99B-Boom Briggs, 13.964; 11. 77-Jordan Yaggy, 14.067; 12. 25J-Jared Siefert, 14.098; 13. 66-Ron Berna, 14.223; 14. 29-Spencer Diercks, 14.284; 15. 10-Paul Parker, 14.459; 16. 24-Brad Waits, 14.519; 17. 10C-Chad Olsen, 14.589; 18. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck, 14.71; 19. 55C-Chad Mahder, 14.738

Qualifying Flight-B-1. 1-Brandon Sheppard, 13.504; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce, 13.638; 3. 10S-Taylor Scheffler, 13.698; 4. 19R-Ryan Gustin, 13.706; 5. 25-Chad Simpson, 13.75; 6. 44-Chris Madden, 13.788; 7. 18B-Shannon Babb, 13.815; 8. 19-Dustin Sorensen, 13.854; 9. 49-Jake Timm, 13.864; 10. 76-Blair Nothdurft, 13.911; 11. 11-Gordy Gundaker, 14.009; 12. 28-Dennis Erb, 14.013; 13. 15-Nick Anvelink, 14.166; 14. 20-Rodney Sanders, 14.21; 15. 90-Lance Matthees, 14.322; 16. 7-Ricky Weiss, 14.324; 17. 43-Jeremy Grady, 14.453; 18. 6M-Jeff Massingill, NT; DNS. 39-Tim McCreadie, NT