RPW Column: Marty’s Notebook Now That Super DIRT Week 50’s In The Record Books
Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – OSWEGO, NY – Matt Sheppard continues to have a hell of a season.
Bow down to him because he’s not stopping. It doesn’t matter if you love, hate, or even meme him. You have to admit this is a season for the ages for “Super Matt,” where he’s kicking butt, something Kyle Larson-esque.
He proved it this past weekend with a sweep of the Modified weekend at Super DIRT Week, pocketing 70k.
“So excited. It’s been a roller coaster,” Sheppard explained to RPW. “There were times in the race I thought we were really good, and there were times I thought we couldn’t win the race. We took a few pit stops and got closer at the end, but getting the lead and clean air seemed to make the biggest difference.”
It was a dogfight for Sheppard, as it had to deal with another #9 car throughout the day. Marc Johnson was a sleeper all weekend, leading in both modified races. Sheppard was very impressed by his performance and had to work hard for it, especially in the wildest long run of the race before the competition caution.
“Some of the runs in the middle of the race, me, him, and Max were four, five, six wide with other traffic; it was insane,” Sheppard exclaimed. “Marc had a very good car all day. I tried the top a couple of times and didn’t have the stick. Tire heat, whatever. Then I tried it again, and the car stuck good for me, and I was able to roll outside. I was still tight, but at least I could use more racetrack.”
Sheppard did feel comfortable, passing Johnson for the lead with 40 to go and opening up a nice on the field until the final caution with under 20 laps remaining.
“I thought I was getting through lapped traffic good,” Sheppard said. “As soon as the caution comes out, your car changes 180 degrees. All of a sudden, I felt like I was on ice skates, but everyone was going through the same thing. You get comfortable running a couple of lines, and the caution comes out. Awesome weekend for this team.”
Win #39 on the year. Second highest for wins that he has had in a second season. Can he break his 2017 record and beat 41 wins?
“I keep telling people they’re hard to get this time of year. We get rolling along. 39, I’m trying to get there! We’ll see. We still got some racing left.”
And we haven’t talked about the lone 358 start for him! An unbelievable win in the Salute To The Troops 150, passing Stewart Friesen for the win with 11 laps to go.
“He was up in the middle of the top in 1 and 2, and I got a pretty good run on him. Then, he floated the middle down there, and I drove up on him. I don’t know if he had a tire going down, but I got a monster run on him,” Matt commented.
Friesen’s right rear tire did go down with six to go, even after pitting for one at the competition caution.
That race had a close call for Sheppard when he had a left front tire going flat. Luckily, a yellow was called on lap 90 for a driver issue. It was then ruled as a competition caution so Sheppard could come in and change the tire, in addition to some new rears.
“We were racing with it, trying to hold our own. The car didn’t drive half bad. I wanted to hold on and get to the competition yellow and stay toward the front of the field. It was a huge break, and come in.”
Fantastic weekend for the MSM #9 team. We are not worthy of the season we are witnessing Sheppard have.
Sunday was a fantastic race for DIRTcar and Oswego, a slick track with multiple grooves. The track had some character, but not as much as last year. A lot more strategy than last year due to the track being slicker and a lot of passing on the long runs. If you didn’t like the insane racing and passing Johnson, Sheppard, and McLaughlin had in lapped traffic, I don’t know what to say to you. Props to Jeremie Corcoran and his crew on a great track every day this weekend.
During the pre-race ceremonies for the 200, I had goosebumps. First, a fantastic tribute to the late Rick Eshelman, who worked past Super DIRT Week broadcasts, his last in 2019. Second, the way the singer sang the anthem and being next to the cars had the hair on my arms stand up, especially for the 50th Super DIRT Week. You knew this was the Super Bowl of Modified racing.
In undercard classes, how about Cody McPherson? The St. Catherines, ONT native, was hyped. Led all 75 laps to take the Sportsman win, an impressive week. Even grabbing one for the Canadians after a majority weren’t able to come out to Super DIRT Week last year due to the shutdown.
“Felt like 150 laps. I was trying to hit my marks and be consistent. I knew if I ran the bottom, it would be tough to get me. It has been three years since we’ve been able to get across. Good to be back. Luckily we parked it in victory lane and brought some hardware back to Canada,” an excited McPherson told RPW.
Finally, in Pro Stock, great to see Nick Stone win a race after the luck he’s gone through.
“This is one of the races every Pro Stock driver wants to win. It took a long time, but it’s worth it,” Stone said. “We had a good slingshot move (to get the lead). From then on, we were good on the long runs and hugged the bottom. Restarts, I knew we would be good if I held the bottom.”
The night story had to have been Kenny Wallace making his Pro Stock debut, finishing 4th, and having a wonderful week in New York for the first time at Oswego since an ASA race in the 1980s.
“It was fun. Those guys are good at what they do. It’s growing and affordable. I’m just a 4th place guy this week,” Wallace commented. “The whole SDW experience was awesome. We took a day out, drove, and met people in the motorhome, drinking beers. I’ll leave with the experience of a lifetime.”
Another packed house and DIRTcar hit a home run. The fan experience was terrific, from bringing historic cars to Buzzie Reutimann making appearances. Incredible broadcast on DIRTVision this year, great job by everyone on the team. A Super DIRT Week that fans will remember for years to come. I can’t wait for October 2023.