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Sheppard earns 11th career STSS modified win

PHOTO PROVIDED Forty-two cars line up to race at Port Royal Speedway.

Matt Sheppard was determined to win Thursday night at the Speed Palace. The Savannah, N.Y., driver topped the Speed Showcase 40 for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS).

Sheppard was clearly the dominant force in an event run on the tacky half-mile clay oval, earning $5,450 for his efforts — $5,000 from the posted purse, $400 as the Danny’s Pizza Pizzazz halfway leader and another $50 as one of six heat winners.

The win for Sheppard was his 11th career STSS modified victory, second of the season and first-ever at Port Royal.

Billy Pauch Jr. finished second, earning the Southern Super Modified Series-sponsored $200 Hard Charger award, bringing the Milford, N.J., resident’s earnings to $3,200 for the runner-up effort.

Mike Mahaney of King Ferry, N.Y., authored a stout drive to complete the podium in the Adirondack Auto No. 35. Mahaney challenged Pauch heavily in the final five laps for third.

Mat Williamson powered from 19th starting position to finish fourth in the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse No. 3 car, and Australian Peter Britten completed the front five.

A huge field of 61 STSS modifieds signed in for competition, requiring six heat races. Taking the $50 heat-winner victories were Alex Yankowski, McLaughlin, Michael Maresca, Sheppard, Josh Hohenforst and Bouc.

Three B-Mains were run with victories going to Williamson, Friesen and Billy Decker.

A massive turnout of 65 Crate 602 Sportsman took part in four rounds of practice sessions throughout the night. Garden State driver Stephen Kemery turned the quickest lap of the night (21.305 seconds) and received $50 cash.

Saturday night it was an unforgettable, inaugural Speed Showcase 200 at Port Royal Speedway was capped off with a 200-lap main event for the ages.

Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, grabbed the checkered flag — and the biggest paycheck in Northeast dirt modified racing this season for the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse No. 3 team.

The win netted “Money Mat” $53,000-plus, and another high-paying event added to his resume. Along with the large paycheck, it was Williamson’s first career STSS modified victory.

“Thanks to Brett Deyo (STSS promoter) and Port Royal for doing this. It’s incredible to be able to race for $53,000 in the times we’re in right now,” Williamson proclaimed in Victory Lane.

Williamson is not just racing for the paychecks, he keeps on winning them.

A pair of Keystone State drivers –Alex Yankowski and Danny Bouc — led the 42-car field to the green in the first ever Speed Showcase 200 edition.

An otherwise clean-and-green start to the 200-lap event came to a grinding halt, literally, on lap 42, as Frenchtown, N.J.’s, Billy Pauch Jr. had a throttle stick on his Rick Holsten-owned No. 96. It sent him head-on into the third-turn guard rail. Fortunately, Pauch Jr. walked away after flipping violently.

The guard rail suffered extensive damage and required the Port Royal track crew to complete repairs.

Middletown, N.Y.’s Anthony Perrego found the top side of the Speed Palace to his liking when racing resumed after an hour-and-a-half delay and used the top line to take the lead and ultimately lead the field to the lap-100 halfway break.

The lead at the race’s midpoint earned Perrego the $600 halfway bonus.

Following the halfway break — with some cars using the hot pit area and others remaining on the speedway to advance positions — Sprakers, N.Y.’s, Stewart Friesen established himself as the car to beat in the second half of the main event. Friesen stretched out his lead and carved through lapped traffic with ease.

A lap-180 caution flag changed the complexion of the race. Friesen’s lead evaporated and Williamson pulled alongside Friesen for a double-file restart. Friesen chose the inside lane. Williamson remained event down the long Port Royal frontstretch. When Friesen drove hard into turn one and slid across the track, Williamson shot the gap to the inside to take a lead he would not relinquish.

Despite a late-race, single-file restart that put Friesen back on Williamson’s bumper, Williamson was able to repel Friesen’s bold outside-lane tactics to score the STSS breakthrough triumph.

Sprakers, N.Y.’s Friesen settled for a $20,000 runner-up finish and snagged an additional $1,000 via the Mike’s Racing Heads Hard Charger Award for his 38-position ascent from 39th starting position. Friesen took a series provisional to start the 200 after losing an engine in his Friday night qualifying race.

Savannah, N.Y.’s, Matt Sheppard charged late with fresh rear tires to secure a podium finish and accompanying $10,000 payday for his team. Perrego held onto a fourth-place finish aboard Brian Smith’s Superior Remodeling No. 44 and Larry Wight of Phoenix, N.Y., charged through traffic in the final laps to complete the front five driving the Gypsum Racing No. 99L. Wight started the 200 from 14th position.

Mooresville, N.C.’s, Max McLaughlin ran inside the top-10 for much of the event, finishing sixth aboard a Sweeteners Plus No. 32c car.

Completing the top-10 were Ryan Godown of Ringoes, N.J., up from 15th in the Steve Searock No. 26.; Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass., who started 29th on the grid; pole-starter and early leader Alex Yankowski of Covington Township, Pa.; and Sidney, N.Y.’s Billy Decker recovering from a turn-three melee with the Jeremy Smith Racing No. 91. Decker started 26th.

The three-day inaugural Speed Showcase 200 weekend was well-received by fans and competitors alike. Port Royal Speedway promoter Steve O’Neal and STSS organizer Brett Deyo are already working on plans for a 2021 edition.

See you at the races!

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