Sheppard Ready for Challenge of Running His Own Team in ’16 By MIKE MALLETT
Matt Sheppard has been fortunate over the course of his career to drive for some very good car owners including his most recent stint with Heinke-Baldwin Racing. As has been well documented that team split nearly three weeks ago leaving Sheppard looking for something for the upcoming 2016 season. After mulling over his options and looking at things, Sheppard has decided it’s time to start his own team.
“I’m putting my own deal together,” said Sheppard. “Obviously starting from scratch so it’s going to take a lot of help from a lot of different people, but so far things are going well. A lot of people have stepped up and we are getting closer to getting a program together. We aren’t quite there but we are getting close. We need some other people to step up. It’s been a busy couple weeks with a lot of phone calls. There is a lot of stuff to put together. I’m just trying to take it one step at time while at the same time trying to put ten things together at once.”
The decision means Sheppard is starting from the ground up. He has to acquire everything from the tools needed weekly at the track to a truck and trailer to get his equipment to the speedway while also putting together his cars to race. His work on that process has already begun.
“The biggest deal right now, I’ve told a lot of people, is that it’s like a big puzzle and I need to put a lot of pieces together to make sure I got a good program,” stated Sheppard. “Basically right now I’m trying to tackle one piece of the puzzle at a time. That is the most nerve racking point. I think once we get the program together and I get what I need, and that isn’t so much cars and motors, as it is trucks, trailers and tools, stuff like that. Once I can piece all that together when it gets down to racing the stuff I’m sure we’ll be comfortable. It’s the building the stuff from scratch that is going to be the tough part.”
Sheppard has been fortunate that his previous car owners have let him, for the most part, do is own thing. He’s been able to make most of the decisions. Now he’ll be making all of the decisions. Unlike in the past, those decisions will also include dealing with the financial end of running his own operation.
“I’m definitely excited,” commented Sheppard about being the decision maker. “I’ve always had the luxury of having a lot of say in how my program is run. Through the years I had a lot of owners that have trusted me to make decisions. I pretty much know the ins-and-outs. It’s going to be the first time that I’m financially responsible at the end of the day. At that the same time I’m kind of excited to be able to get everything together and do a program the way I want to do it.”
Sheppard has indicated he’ll return to Bicknell cars for the upcoming season. He’s always had a close relationship with the company and even though he’s had major success the last two years in Troyers, including a Super DIRTcar Series championship, he feels more comfortable with Bicknell.
“I’m going to be back in the Bicknell cars,” stated Sheppard. “I’ve always had a close relationship with them. It’s not that I don’t like the Troyer cars and we’ve had a lot of success in them. I didn’t feel as connected with them. Randy (Williamson), (Bob) Slack, Pete (Bicknell) and all the guys at Bicknell; I’ve had a great relationship with them throughout the years and they are willing to step up and help me out a little bit to get me back into this deal. I look forward to working with them again.”
A similar schedule is in the works for the Brewerton Speedway, Canandaigua Motorsports Park and Utica-Rome Speedway champion. He’ll also return to defend his Super DIRTcar Serie title.
“I’m going to run a similar schedule,” he said. “If I can get everything together I’d like to run the same deal I did last year with my stuff. The only difference being I’m going to run some races at other places for other people. Other than that it is going to depend on how strong of a program I can put together. I’m definitely looking at Canandaigua, Utica and the series again. Obviously I’d love to get back to Brewerton Friday night’s too.”
Sheppard now has the opportunity to go on the road for other car owners once again. He has been in contact with Pennsylvania car owner Norm Hansell but a deal hasn’t been struck to this point. The duo had success together in the past after nearly collecting a Race of Champions Series title. He’s also been in contact with other car owners and possible supporters as he continues to finalize the deals necessary to get his program off the ground.

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