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GETTING THE JUMP: Brandon Sheppard, Cade Dillard Open Dairyland Showdown with Wins at Mississippi Thunder
They also earned 150 points toward setting up the Heat Race lineups for Saturday’s $50,000-to-win finale.
Here’s how the two preliminary Features went:
FEATURE 1: Brandon Sheppard found himself in the right place at the right time Thursday night at Mississippi Thunder Speedway.
After taking second from Dustin Sorenson on Lap 10, the four-time Series champion couldn’t find his way past leader Jake Timm.
However, an opportunity presented itself as Timm tangled with a lap car on the final lap, bringing out a caution and handing Sheppard the lead.
From there, “B-Shepp” held off Stormy Scott in the green-white-checkered finish to win the first $5,000-to-win preliminary Feature of the Dairyland Showdown.
Timm grabbed the early lead in the 25-lap Feature but had to hold off Scott in the race’s early stages.
The two raced side-by-side as Timm narrowly held the lead until the caution came out on Lap 5 for Terry Casey.
Timm pulled away from Scott, Sheppard, and Sorenson on the restart and aced two more restarts on Lap 7 and 10 to keep the position.
The Lap 10 restart is when Sheppard made his move, sliding under Sorenson for the runner-up spot in Turn 4.
As the laps clicked off, Sheppard reeled Timm in but couldn’t make the pass.
But that changed going into Turn 3 on Lap 24.
Timm tried to roll around Webster on the outside lane, but his left front made contact with Webster, sending Timm around and into the wall, ending his chances for victory.
Sheppard, who took advantage of the misfortune, had damage from Timm’s spin but held on for the win.
“I was just trying to avoid it at that point,” Sheppard said. “I got into him a little bit when I was spinning across there. I hate to see it for him. He was doing a heck of a job. I was definitely putting the pressure on him since I knew he had to get through those lap cars, and that one lap car didn’t give him any room there, and that’s unfortunate for him.”
Timm, who finished 16th, was frustrated with what happened, knowing he had let the $5,000 prize slip away.
“It was my fault,” Timm said. “I’m frustrated with myself, nothing else. I think Brandon got me on the white flag lap, and I kind of knew I’d get back by him in [Turns] 1 and 2 because I had the top, and he was going to be stuck on the bottom.
“I thought my only chance to win was to shoot between [two lap cars] and get in front of [Chad Mahder] and get that run off the top. Otherwise, if I would’ve stayed behind him, I think Brandon would’ve gotten me on the bottom. I just went for it all, I guess, and I just should’ve probably chilled out and maybe settled for second. I guess I don’t really know what the outcome would’ve been.”
Despite not being an official World of Outlaws win, it was the first time Sheppard took the checkered flag in a Series event while driving a Longhorn Chassis.
The triumph is just another step in his journey with the new car.
“Everything’s new for me this year,” Sheppard said. “My crew is different. The cars. The shocks. The motors. Everything involved with the whole team is different.
“We’re having a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying everything we’re doing.”
Scott crossed the line second after dropping back a few spots in the middle of the race.
The Las Cruces, NM driver said he found the changing track condition challenging.
“In the beginning, we were really good,” Scott said. “But once that racetrack went to the dirty stage, it’s kind of what we’ve been working on here, and we’re getting better. It’s just taking a little bit of time.
“We’re still struggling a bit in that condition, but once it blows off a little bit, we were good again. That’s kind of what happened.”
Shannon Babb rounded out the podium after starting 10th.
Brian Shirley finished fourth, while Kyle Bronson crossed the line fifth.
FEATURE 2: Cade Dillard’s Longhorn Chassis debut couldn’t have led to a better result.
The Robeline, LA driver inherited the lead after a Lap 15 incident with Brent Larson and led the final 11 laps to score the second preliminary Feature victory on Thursday at Mississippi Thunder Speedway.
Larson grabbed the early lead in the 25-lap event, quickly clicking off the first 13 laps.
But as the Lake Elmo, MN driver closed on the tail of the field, his challengers closed behind him.
Dillard and Bobby Pierce made their moves to the front, each trying to get by Larson.
As the three drivers came through Turn 4 on Lap 14, Pierce tried to go around Larson on the outside before Larson slid up in front of him to hold the spot.
When they crossed the flag stand, Dillard snuck underneath Pierce and, with momentum, pulled a slide job on Larson in Turn 2 on Lap 15.
But as the two drivers waged war for the lead down the backstretch, the two cars touched, sending Larson around and into the wall.
Dillard said he thought he left him enough room when the two drivers left the turn.
“He knew he was in a bind and started using the whole track,” Dillard said. “We entered [Turn 1] and got a run on the top. I felt like I was far enough when I saw he wasn’t leaving any room. I checked up to leave him room. I mean, you can watch the video. I got on the brakes, and he just kept coming.”
Larson showed displeasure toward Dillard after the race was over, pulling next to the winner as he approached Victory Lane, signaling his frustrations.
He said he felt Dillard should have lifted once they exited the corner.
“I had no idea he was up top and whatnot,” Larson said. “You can’t see a guy until they’re past you in these things. You don’t have mirrors. You don’t have radios. Someone could have a run on you, and you’d have no idea.
“We all know that, and we have to race that way. We know that the guy in front can’t tell you’re there until you’re past him, so you have to lift for somebody. If you don’t want to lift, then that’s how we’ll play the game. I’ve lifted for him a bunch while he’s sliding all over the track, and I just won’t do it anymore. It’ll change the way I race around him. I can tell you that much.”
Dillard led the final 11 laps of the Feature to score the $5,000 preliminary Feature win in his first race behind the wheel of a Longhorn Chassis.
Pierce crossed the line in second. Despite not getting the win, he said he was happy with his finish.
“All in all, it was a good race,” Pierce said. “I was happy to come home second tonight. Congratulations to Cade on the win in his first time in a Longhorn. I hate to see another guy that fast, but it’s good competition.”
Germfree Rookie of the Year contender Nick Hoffman finished third.
The Mooresville, NC driver noted what Shannon Babb did in the first Feature and applied it to his strategy.
“Babb was making a lot of speed, kind of just sliding himself in [Turns] 3 and 4,” Hoffman said. “So, I kind of went to that early when there a little moisture in the middle. I was able to make pretty good speed until they went ripping around the top.
“It felt pretty good at the beginning of the race, but then everybody kind of transitioned to the top.”
Defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. finished fourth, and current Series points leader Chris Madden finished fifth.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models return to Mississippi Thunder Speedway on Friday, May 5 for night two of the Dairyland Showdown, and another round for of split-field 25-lap, $5,000-to-win Features.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.
Preliminary Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 2S-Stormy Scott; 3. 18B-Shannon Babb; 4. 3S-Brian Shirley; 5. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 6. 12-Ashton Winger; 7. 28S-Dustin Sorensen; 8. 36-Logan Martin; 9. 11G-James Giossi; 10. 55C-Chad Mahder; 11. 96V-Tanner English; 12. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 13. 6M-Dona Marcoullier; 14. 90-Lance Matthees; 15. 15-Nick Anvelink; 16. 49-Jake Timm; 17. 44W-David Webster; 18. 7X-Jesse Glenz; 19. 14G-Trevor Gundaker; 20. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 21. 58-AJ Diemel; 22. 42-Terry CaseyPreliminary Feature 2 (25 Laps): 1. 97-Cade Dillard; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 9-Nick Hoffman; 4. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 5. 44-Chris Madden; 6. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 7. 18-Chase Junghans; 8. 25S-Chad Simpson; 9. 25-Shane Clanton; 10. 77-Jordan Yaggy; 11. 32S-Chris Simpson; 12. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck; 13. 28M-Sam Mars; 14. 76-Blair Nothdurft; 15. 10-Paul Parker; 16. 6JR-Parker Martin; 17. 85-John Kaanta; 18. 30-Todd Cooney; 19. 14W-Dustin Walker; 20. B1-Brent Larson; 21. 22B-Gary Brown Jr