Nov 15, 2020 08:51 PM EST
SUPER MATT SHEPPARD CLAIMS 2020 OUTLAW SPEEDWAY REGULAR SEASON MODIFIED TRACK TITLE
Sheppard’s Championship makes it his third overall title in the last four seasons.
Comfort, Sobotka, Whritenour, Smith, Ellison and Bunn all win 2020 track titles.
Story by Kenny Shupp Jr.
(Dundee, NY) When Matt Sheppard decided to make the Outlaw Speedway his Friday night race place some four years ago, it immediately became a foregone conclusion that the Waterloo, NY native would win his fair share of feature events and track championships at the popular Yates County facility. Afterall, the second generation pilot has been a success story since his early days in go-karts along with competition in upstart divisions including Youth Bandits, Sportsman and 358 Modifieds before graduating into the premier class in the Northeast, that being the Big Block Modified Division.
In his inaugural campaign at Outlaw Speedway in 2017, Super Matt teamed up with standout driver/car owner, Vic Coffey who fielded a machine for Sheppard. The duo was an immediate success winning multiple feature events along with the “17” Outlaw Speedway Track Championship. A run of bad luck kept Sheppard from going back to back in 2018 in a year which found AJ Slideways, Alan Johnson bagging the title after winning a tie breaker with 2016 Outlaw Speedway Modified Track Champ, Hurricane Steve Paine.
Sheppard would bounce back in 2019 after an amicable parting of the ways with Coffey and the Sweeteners Plus operation as Super Matt formed his own small block race team that would compete fulltime in the highly competitive Friendly Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Modified Division at Outlaw Speedway. In dominating fashion Sheppard would go on to the 2019 title and back it up in the 2020 COVID-19 19 abbreviated season which began in early June and completed in late August and with this year’s championship that makes three in the last four seasons. Considering the high-profile drivers and topnotch equipment that competes weekly at Outlaw Speedway it is without question that Matt Sheppard is the class of the field.
Besides AJ Slideways Johnson and Hurricane Paine others have won feature events over the past several seasons including track owner/promoter, Bossman Tyler Siri along with his teammate and hired gun, The Doctor Danny Johnson. Siri’s son, Jordan has shown signs of brilliance in a third Tyler Siri team car along with a host of others including local favorite, Brady Fultz. Cory Costa has been able to find victory lane at Outlaw on a couple of occasions over the past five seasons and Kyle Coffey has visited victory lane as well. Numerous others including the likes of Ron Cartwright Jr., Jim LaRock, Justin Wright and Eldon Payne are all well capable of hitting paydirt.
But it has all come down to the man they call Super Matt and for good reason. With marketing partners that most would die for and a dedicated pit crew led by DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame Mechanic, Randy Kisacky, Sheppard has a well-rounded group surrounding him including wife Bethanne.
Let us not forget that Matt Sheppard also has a background in engineering making him not only a great driver but also a great thinker when it comes to dealing with geometry and balance in a race car.
His nine trips to victory lane at Outlaw Speedway was almost five times that of any other competitor during the Regular Point Season as Alan Johnson claimed a pair of feature wins as did Steve Paine. A midseason Bounty was placed on Sheppard by track owner, Siri in an attempt to entice more invaders to take a shot at beating Super Matt as well as adding an incentive for any track regular to upend the potent 9s machine. It all was to no avail as Sheppard could not be stopped while running at the end of a regular thirty lap feature and when it was all said and done, Tyler Siri presented Matt Sheppard with the $2,000 Bounty as a show of good faith for his spectacular championship season.
AJ Slideways, Alan Johnson was second in the final regular season point standings followed by brother Doctor Danny Johnson. Kyle Coffey continues to impress with his best Outlaw Speedway point finish by nailing down the fourth spot while Hurricane Steve Paine rounded out the top five-point finishers.
In addition to Matt Sheppard’s Championship Title in the Friendly Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Modified’s two Sportsman Modified Classes compete weekly at Outlaw including the Sunrise Insulation American Racer Tire Sportsman Division along with the Hoosier Tire shod Sportsman Class. Two seasons ago Siri decided to take the American Racer Tire Sportsman Division and add on the Hoosier Tire Class allowing drivers to compete in either or both divisions. Numerous drivers and teams took the challenge by racing on both tire compounds while others decided to focus on just one tire brand.
Horseheads, NY resident, Ajay Potrzebowski was poised to claim the American Racer Tire Class Title, however veteran racer and former Track Champion, Karl Comfort had other ideas and was able to win the 2020 Sunrise Insulation American Racer Tire Sportsman Track Championship backing up his 2017 title. The top five point finishers in the class were all within striking distance of winning the championship on the last double point race of the Regular Point Season, but it was a late season surge by Comfort that got him in position to win the whole enchilada after a sluggish start to the 2020 campaign. Potrzebowski did lead the way in feature wins during the Regular Season with four with Will Shields bagging a pair. Single feature wins went to veteran driver, Dale Welty along with young guns Zach Sobotka, Billy Paine, Alex Payne and JT Sperring. Champion Comfort picked up just one feature event which came late in the season, but it was that win that gave momentum to KC in claiming the track title.
Potrzebowski did wind up second in the point standings followed by 2018 American Racer Tire Champ, Chris Fisher. Fourth was Will Shields as Zach Sobotka completed the top five in points.
Zach Sobotka was one of many that would compete in each of the Sportsman Divisions on a weekly basis during the 2020 season and by virtue of four feature wins he picked up his first ever track title at Outlaw Speedway. Like the Sunrise Insulation American Racer Tire Sportsman Division before them the Hoosier Tire Sportsman could boast a who’s who list of top pilots including the likes of Tommy Collins who picked up three feature wins during the season as did third generation driver, Alex Payne who competed in a mind blowing three open wheel modified divisions during the 2020 season. 2019 Hoosier Tire Track Champion, Will Shields also visited victory lane on three different occasions, but when it was all said and done Sobotka won the title by a wide margin over Collins, Payne, Shields and Zach George who completed the top five in the final Regular Season Point Standings.
It was well documented that the 2019 Stans No Tubes Track Champion, Dylan Cecce would not be competing full time during the 2020 season. Cecce was able to upend perennial Street Stock favorite, Glen Whritenour to claim his first title at Outlaw, but with Cecce in semi-retirement, Whritenour went to the whip early in the season, totally dominated the class and like Matt Sheppard in the Modified Division, GW also had a bounty placed on his head for any driver that could take him down while he was still running at the end of the 20 lap feature go. Talk about two veterans that shared a season with nearly identical stats as both Sheppard and Whritenour were within striking distance of double digit feature wins and both were given the bounty money by Tyler Siri for running the table during the season half of the year. GW did however have one up on Super Matt as Whritenour had a six-race win streak during the middle part of the season while the best Sheppard could do was five in a row starting on week two thru week six. Whritenour ended the year with nine feature wins as did Sheppard. Quinn Sutherland opened the season with a win and CJ Guererri found victory lane on week two. From there it was all Glen Whritenour as the Jasper, NY veteran was only stopped on two other occasions by Jake Karlnoski and Jared Hill. GW won the title going away making it three titles in the last four seasons including the career season he had in 2018 when he did the double by winning not only the Stan’s No Tubes Street Stock Track Championship, but he also went on to claim his first and most likely last IMCA Modified Track Title at Outlaw Speedway. Guererri did put up a valiant fight, but Whritenour’s point advantage was insurmountable as CJ had to settle for second in the final point tally. Karlnoski, Aksel Jensen and Hill rounded out the top fine in points.
The numbers were down a bit this season at Outlaw Speedway in the nationally sanctioned IMCA Modified Division, however it did not deter from fierce competition throughout the field including a battle for the track title that went right down to the last lap of the last Regular Season feature event on August 28, 2020. 2018 Track Champion, Rodney Morgan had the most feature wins with six, but it was Brad Smith with just one trip to victory lane that picked up his first Outlaw Speedway IMCA Track Title. Other feature winners included Shawn Bruce and Kevin Smith with two each as Lamphere and Spalding each had one win during the season. When the double checkered flags fell on the final point race of the Regular Season, Bad Brad Smith had won by just a scant four points over Kevin Smith and by ten over Morgan. Veteran driver, Dick in the Dirt Rich Karlnoski finished fourth while Bumps Scutt claimed fifth in the final IMCA Modified point standings.
In the companion IMCA Hobby Stock Division total domination would be an understatement as with nine feature wins to his credit, the same win total as Whritenour and Sheppard, Wayne Ellison picked up his first ever Outlaw Speedway Track Championship. Marc Minutolo had ruled the roost in 2018 and 2019 racking up numbers similar to Ellison, but the big fella just could not find the magic that led him to two consecutive track titles as Ellison was just too tough to handle. Minutolo did wind up with three wins during the Regular Season as Joshua Oles was the only other driver in the class to hit pay dirt. The final points shook out like this with Ellison holding a commanding lead over Jamie Eldredge Jr., Justin Eldredge, Bruce Kinner and Jeremy Trank.
Last but certainly not least the Might 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks had a new face claiming the track title as two time an defending Mini Stock Track Champion, Adam Austin decided to take the year off to spend more time with his young family. Austin was without question the class of the field in 2018 and 2019, but with his departure it left the door wide open for a new champ. Enter Jeremy Bunn who with his four feature wins was crowned the 2020 Mini Stock Track Champion. However, it was anything but a walk in the park as Bunn had a host of other top drivers in the division all over him like bees on a hive. Outlaw Speedway mixes both front and rear wheel drive four-cylinder machines into one class and it makes for plenty of exciting action. Veteran driver, Ray Hyer with a pair of feature wins came up a bit short in the final point tally finishing second to Bunn while father Scott Lehman got the best of son Scott Jr by just two points as they claimed third and fourth in the final point standings. Bob Doolittle with four wins rounded out the top five. Lehman Jr did bag a pair of feature wins as Kenneth Evans was victorious on one occasion.
Over all thirteen feature events were run in 2020 at Outlaw Speedway as the Regular Season got started on June 5 and concluded on August 28 with the annual double point season championship races.
Congratulations to all competitors.
As of this writing it is still unclear if a 2020 Outlaw Speedway Regular Season Track Banquet will take place due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic along with stringent NYS protocol which includes no mass gatherings. Traditionally the Outlaw Banquet takes place in late January so a lot could change between now and that time.
For the first time in the five-year history of the Outlaw Speedway, track owner/promoter, Tyler Siri did host a Fall Series beginning on September 11 and concluding on October 23. In an upcoming story a complete rundown of all feature winners and top point finishers will be covered at that time.