Team Shines while Friesen Gets His Gator DTD Exclusive
by Mike Mallett
It was an impressive night for the Heinke-Baldwin Racing team
as Matt Sheppard took home his first win for the new team
in Saturday nights 50-lap finale for the big-block modifieds
at Volusia Speedway Park. His teammate Jimmy Phelps finally
got things rolling as he completed the top three. Stewart
Friesen crossed the line in second giving him the DIRTcar
Nationals Gator Championship.
of Waterloo, N.Y., made the surprising switch to the HBR team
after several successful seasons and multiple Super DIRTcar
series titles wtih car owner Jeff Brownell. In Florida Sheppard
earned a fourth place finish on opening night, a fifth place
run Thursday before capping it all off with the $5,000 win
on Saturday night.
definitely got better all week long and thats good,
said Sheppard. We had an awesome year last year and
never won a race down here, so this is definitely a good start.
We worked on the cars real hard this week and obviously we
got both of them going pretty good. I was at my best tonight
and Jimmy (Phelps) was at his best tonight. Im looking
forward to a real good season.
took the lead from Billy Pauch on lap 12 and he held that
spot until surrendering the lead to Sheppard on lap 28. Sheppard
and Phelps remained together as they battled in traffic with
Phelps continuing to apply pressure right up to the end of
the race. Sheppard got the lead in the middle of the track
before moving to the bottom of the surface in the closing
had to wait for the track to get cleaned off to find a spot
I felt comfortable, stated Sheppard. I was able
to get rolling there for a bit and I was able to sneak around
him (Phelps). Then I think I used up my left rear tire because
I started dying a little bit. The track started taking rubber
in a few spots and I had to change my line up. The biggest
problem at end was that I didnt know where I should
be running. It is tough when get lead and then the track changes
that much. If it had stayed the same I could have kept rolling
the middle, but I definitely seemed to take a little of a
change there as it took some rubber off of turn four.
lost second with just three laps to go to Friesen relegating
him to a third place finish in the finale. A finish he was
more than happy to have after struggling the first two days
with his No. 98h. Phelps finally got the tightness out of
the car that had been hindering him earlier in the week.
the way week has gone Im happy just to race up front,
explained Phelps, of Baldwinsville, N.Y. I thought towards
the end there when he got by me, I felt we were as good as
him after I moved my line a little bit. I thought we were
going to have one of hell of a race in traffic and we did
there for a while. Friesen was obviously better than both
of us. I dont know what he did there at the end but
he was rolling. This is good for the whole team. We worked
really hard all winter on short notice to build cars and get
things rolling the last few months and Im proud to be
part of it. This is real positive stuff. We struggled early
in the week, made some changes and the car responded positive
to it. We were good enough to win tonight thats all
I can ask for.
Got a Gator: Friesen finally got his Gator on Saturday night
by charging back up through the field. The Sprakers, N.Y.,
piloted secured the DIRTcar Nationals championship on the
back of a win, a second and a sixth on opening night. According
to Friesens recollection it was his second Florida title
but his first big gator trophy.
is pretty cool because the big gator is reason we all come
down here, said Friesen who drove a Tom and Roxanne
Cullen owned Teo all week. We were able to test some
stuff in beginning of the week and then the boys got me fixed
up there under that pit stop and were able to find something
where everyone else wasnt. We were able to drive back
to the front. Matt (Sheppard) is going to be pretty tough
in this car this year. We got something we can race with him
now. We were close but well take second and go from
the pit stop Friesens crew went to work on his car fixing
an issue with the front end as well as changing his right
rear tire. The change allowed him to charge up through the
field after pitting on lap 22. With a few more laps he may
have had shot at getting by Sheppard for the win.
spring cup came out of the right front and it kind of dipped,
said Friesen of the mechanical issue. I felt something
weird with the car. When I came in they changed a tire then
he went back to the right front and got it fixed at the last
minute. It was an interesting race. I feel bad for all those
guys that got tore up because you never want to wreck that
much stuff that early. It was cool that we passed a lot of
good cars and had fun doing.
he returned to the speedway after the repairs, Friesen drove
like a man possessed. He ran the bottom in turns three and
four, but made up most of his ground around the middle to
top groove of turns one and two.
we got it fixed up the car was a lot better to drive,
said Friesen. The track rubbered up a bit on the bottom
of four so you had to be on the bottom, but I could beat the
balls off of it in turns one and two.
Rolling: Mat Williamson had a career best Florida effort Saturday
in the DIRTcar Nationals finale finishing a solid sixth. The
Lernerville Speedway champion and St. Catherines, Ont., native
ran just on the verge of the top five for the complete 50-lap
is my best run in Florida so far, commented Williamson.
Im happy with it. The guys at Fox (Shocks) and
my dad (Randy) got this hot rod turned around and I was final
able to race with them guys. We took a gamble on tires and
went with a harder compound and it paid off. I struggled on
the restarts when the tires got cold. Thats when those
guys got by me. This is certainly a good night though and
Im happy with it. I cant wait to see what happens
team changed the entire car for him on Saturday afternoon
including the shock package. It was a combination of all the
changes that finally got him dialed in.
the shock combination was part of it, but there was more to
it than that, said Williamson. The race car was
not as great as it should have been so if we had changed shocks
and not done what we did to race car we probably wouldnt
have been in the top ten. To turn it around and come away
with a top ten is excellent.
Ending: Justin Haers led the DIRTcar Nationals big-block modifieds
points right up to the final event of the weekend. The Phelps,
N.Y., driver was involved in a lap one crash that severely
hurt his chances at the title. He raced back up through to
finish tenth, but it wasnt enough as he fell to third
in the standings.
left front hit his (Williamson) right rear bumper and I spun,
said Haers. It was my fault. The contact jammed the
nose into the left front shock and I felt like it was a solid
spring on there the whole race. It is really disappointing
because I wanted to win the championship.
Big One: After Haers brought out a second caution on lap one
as his car wouldnt fire, the ensuring restart saw a
multi-car pile up happen right on the frontstretch underneath
Dave Farneys flag stand. Jeremy Wilder and Billy VanInwegen
came together causing VanInwegens car to get into the
outside wall collecting several drivers including Yan Bussiere,
Kyle Sheldon, Darwin Greene, Peter Britten and Rich Scagliotta.
Fortunately all drivers were uninjured in the crash. The same
could not be said for their equipment as several drivers went
off on the end of a wrecker.
Sheppard and Phelps Create Super Team at HBR DTD Exclusive
on December 3rd, 2013 in Recent Columns, Story 1 - homepage
Matt Sheppard made it official on Thanksgiving that he was
joining forces with Heinke-Baldwin Racing for the 2014 season
joining longtime driver Jimmy Phelps. The duo now gives HBR
one of the most potent one-two punches in the dirt modified
racing world. Both drivers were reached by phone by Dirt Track
Digest on Monday evening to discuss the move and their new
relationship as teammates for 2014.
Most people were shocked by the announcement that Sheppard
was leaving his highly successful Jeff Brownell operation
for a new ride at HBR. He had this to say,
It is hard to explain because the deal happened so fast.
The biggest deciding factor is when I talked to Jeff (Brownell)
about it he basically said I would be an idiot not to. To
a certain extent, Jeff is like family to me and we had a great
run. With an offer like this it is almost like he is relieved.
He got to the point where he likes doing it, loves doing it,
but on the other hand he is doing it for me as well. He really
didnt know how much longer he wanted to do it. He didnt
want to get out right now but wasnt sure how much longer
he was going to do it on a full-time basis. Its kind
of like everything happened to work out in the best case scenario
for me. Im going to an amazing team and there are no
hard feelings with Jeff. It pretty much seems like everyones
happy with this new deal.
Phelps is also excited to add Sheppard to the impressive team
that they have already built. Hell now have a three-time
Super DIRTcar series champion as his teammate.
Honestly any kind of change of that magnitude is big
news obviously and I think in the big picture it is a good
thing, commented Phelps. We are bringing in somebody
with the ability and knowledge to help us both. Im sure
that we will able to get along well because weve raced
against each other a long time and weve had a lot of
years being competitors. I think over the years weve
gained a mutual respect for one another. I think we will be
able to share info and it shouldnt be difficult.
He added, I think the biggest thing is to just have
someone running the same equipment. We wont go the same
direction all the time because drivers are different from
time to time with feel etc. Hopefully with us working together
we can narrow up the gaps between running well and struggling.
Now weve got someone on our team to help figure things
out. We can feed off each others notes and see what
is working and try to bring both cars to another level.
For Sheppard it will be a drastic change from the Bicknell
cars that hes become so accustomed to over his career
to Troyer Race cars. He is excited and nervous at the same
time about the next step in his career.
It is going to be different, stated Sheppard.
Obviously Ive been close with Randy Williamson,
Bobby Slack and all the folks at Bicknell and Im certainly
going to miss working with them. We won a lot of races and
worked close together. That is the tough part about the deal.
On the other hand, Im really looking forward to working
with Billy (Colton) and Troyer and a whole new deal. There
are a lot of mixed emotions there. I think its going
to be a good deal and I think it will be good for us.
Right now it looks like Sheppard is going to be running a
schedule to what he ran in 2013 including events at Brewerton
Speedway, Canandaigua Motorsports Park and Utica-Rome Speedway
along with the Super DIRTcar series and other select shows.
Im going to run similar schedule as last year,
said Sheppard. Maybe not as many races, but Im
still going to do some traveling. Ill still be running
three nights a week, the series and some specials. Im
not going to say we are going to hit every track in the country
every night of the week, but we are still going to be racing
at full-time. Right now it is looking like the same schedule
as last year, but you know how dirt racing is and a lot can
change between now and April.
Likewise, Phelps will be running the same schedule with the
HBR team although his weekend tracks are still to be determined.
My schedule shouldnt change a whole lot,
said Phelps. Im not sure where we are going to
run weekly with the Andy Phelps team but with HBR well
be running all of Super DIRTcar series, a lot of RoC and whatever
specials just like have last few years. Well cover the
weekend stuff with the Andy Phelps team. I dont see
One major change for the HBR team will be the location of
the team shop which will move to its primary shop to Weedsport,
N.Y., allowing for both Sheppard and Phelps to help maintain
They are moving shop to Weedsport, said Sheppard.
Kurt (Wiegel) is going to be there and Im going
to be there full-time with all the cars in the same shop.
Weve already had a meeting as a whole team to talk about
the cars and I was able to give my input and so was Jimmy
(Phelps), Billy (Colton) Kurt and Randy Kisaski. We sat down
and talked about where we wanted to go and how we wanted to
start next season.
Phelps is excited about the move of the team headquarters
to Weedsport as hell now be able to make more frequent
visits to the shop and get more hands on with the cars with
it being in a close proximity to his Baldwinsville, N.Y.,
Im excited about it, said Phelps. This
is the first time in a while where geographically Im
in proximity to be more hands on. That could be good and bad.
Im up for the challenge and looking forward to having
little more involvement in the day to day things. I dont
think it is a bad thing. Billy Colton has always done a great
job with the cars, but as a driver you are more confident
when you know 100 percent what you got because you work on
it. I think it is really going to be a positive. It is definitely
going to help being a part of the day to day.
Sheppard expects to have the same crew members together that
helped with the Brownell team for the 2014 season.
Sheppard and Phelps will make their 2014 debut as teammates
at the Volusia Speedway Park as part the annual DIRTcar Winternationals
while Jeff Brownell Racing announced on Monday evening that
Jeff Brownell Jr., will return to the driver seat next season
competing weekly on Sunday afternoons at the Glen Ridge Motorsports
Park in Fultonville, N.Y.