THE FOUR HORSEMEN: Smith, Sheppard, Marlar, Larson Score Prairie Dirt Showdown Victories
Sixteen drivers are locked into Saturday's $50,000-to-win Prairie Dirt Classic
FAIRBURY, IL – JULY 29, 2022 – Four drivers are one step closer to etching their name into history at Fairbury Speedway.
Garrett Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Marlar and Kyle Larson each scored a World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Prairie Dirt Showdown win, which locked them into the first two rows of Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic.
Twelve other drivers punched their tickets into the 100-lap, $50,000-to-win Feature, as the top four in each Showdown transferred to Saturday’s finale. The remaining drivers – more than 60 total – will battle in Last Chance Showdowns and the Prairie Dirt Shootout on Saturday to round out the rest of the field of the crown jewel.
Garrett Smith saw an opportunity Friday night he couldn’t pass up. The Eatonton, GA driver was running second to Ashton Winger when he made his move on the final lap of his 25-lap CASE Construction Equipment Showdown.
Smith swung his Rocket Chassis to the bottom of Turns 1 and 2, sliding in front of Winger and pulling away on the backstretch. He went unchallenged in the final two corners en route to a $3,000 payday and a starting spot in the first two rows of the Prairie Dirt Classic.
Minutes after the race was over, the winning moment for Smith hadn’t set in just yet.
“[Fairbury] has always been a track on my bucket list,” Smith said. “I’ve played it a lot on iRacing. That’s the best I got on this place, but it’s even better than I thought it was.
“I still really don’t know what happened; it happened so quick. I saw a gap, and I knew I had to fill it if I wanted to win.”
Garrett Alberson crossed the line second, 2021 Series Rookie of the Year Tyler Bruening finished third, and Jimmy Owens grabbed the final transfer spot.
Ashton Winger, who led the first 24 laps, finished seventh after losing power steering with five laps left.
Reigning World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series champion Brandon Sheppard showed patience in his CASE Construction Equipment Showdown victory.
The New Berlin, IL driver bided his time in the first 10 laps before sliding under Mckay Wenger in Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead—one he wouldn’t relinquish.
Sheppard stated the race played out exactly how he hoped.
“Once I got my rhythm going, and I got my line figured out where I needed to be, and where I was making speed and where I wasn’t, then I could pressure him a little bit,” Sheppard said.
“I started seeing him messing up a bit, so I showed him the nose in the middle there. Then, he really started messing up and let me get a good enough run to slide him, and that’s what we needed.”
Jason Feger from Bloomington, IL, finished second, Kyle Bronson was third, and Wenger held on for fourth.
A former Series champion and current Series rookie waged war in an epic battle in the third CASE Construction Equipment showdown.
Tanner English and 2018 Series champion Mike Marlar battled wheel to wheel for several laps before English took control of the race.
However, a late race caution changed the Benton, KY driver’s fortunes, as Marlar powered past him on the outside to score the $3,000 triumph.
The Winfield, TN driver stated he felt English may have had the better car but was still good enough to win after 25 laps.
“Tanner’s car was a little bit faster, and I couldn’t really hold him off,” Marlar said. “I was moving around quite a bit. He was about to get me low, and I moved low, and then he rolled me in the middle.
“Luckily, that caution came out, and I kind of got out there and packed up the crumbs in the middle of the racetrack. It got me just enough grip to get around him, and it worked out in our favor and set us up good for the big show [Saturday].”
English settled for second, followed by Ricky Thornton Jr and Series points leader Dennis Erb Jr.
Kyle Larson picked up where he left off a year ago at Fairbury, dominating the final CASE Construction Equipment Late Model showdown Friday night.
Despite leading all 25 laps, the Elk Grove, CA driver stated he wasn’t perfect throughout the race.
“You never really know how you are out in the lead until you see somebody,” Larson said. “But I never saw anyone, so I felt like I had to be decent. I feel like I was getting around the cushion better than I thought I would. I started making some mistakes around traffic, and about that time, it started taking rubber, so I just inched my way down the track.”
While the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion was out front, all eyes were on Oakwood, IL driver Bobby Pierce who grabbed the final transfer spot after starting deep in the field.
The “Smooth Operator” had problems with his car in Qualifying, forcing him to start toward the back of his Showdown.
“I was on the move,” Pierce said. “We went with all the right decisions, and the car was really good. If that rubber didn’t come, I think we could’ve gotten to second, and you know, hopefully, we’re that good [Saturday].
“We did exactly what we needed to do after our issue, so it’s all good.”
Tyler Erb crossed the line behind Larson, Josh Rice was third, and Pierce finished fourth.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models return to Fairbury Speedway on Saturday for the 100-lap, $50,000-to-win Prairie Dirt Classic. Last Chances Showdowns will set the rest of the field, along with Prairie Dirt Shootout, where the winner can take home $2,500 or start the CASE Construction Equipment Feature.
If you can’t make it to the event, watch live on DIRTVision – available either online or through the DIRTVision App.
CASE Construction Equipment Showdown Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. 10-Garrett Smith; 2. 58-Garrett Alberson; 3. 16-Tyler Bruening; 4. 20-Jimmy Owens; 5. 111V-Max Blair; 6. 32S-Chris Simpson; 7. 58W-Ashton Winger; 8. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 9. 2S-Stormy Scott; 10. 35-Derek Chandler; 11. 91-Adam Tischauser; 12. 21-Matt Lux; 13. 757-Bradley Jameson; 14. 1TT-Tom Thoennes; 15. 354-Chris Nash; 16. 36-Logan Martin; 17. 8-Kyle Strickler; 18. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 19. 84-Myles Moos; 20. 73-Bill Weistart; 21. 10P-Paul Parker
CASE Construction Equipment Showdown Feature 4 (25 Laps): 1. 6-Kyle Larson; 2. 1T-Tyler Erb; 3. 11R-Josh Rice; 4. 32-Bobby Pierce; 5. 18C-Chase Junghans; 6. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley; 8. 9Z-Mason Zeigler; 9. 99B-Boom Briggs; 10. 99-Jeff Larson; 11. 89-Mike Spatola; 12. 10J-Joseph Joiner; 13. 18-Shannon Babb; 14. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 15. 3-Dale Markham; 16. 1M-Mike Mataragas; 17. T2-Todd Bennett; 18. 7-Drake Troutman; 19. 26M-Brent McKinnon; 20. 28M-Jake Miller
CASE Construction Equipment Showdown Feature 2 (25 Laps): 1. 1S-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 25F-Jason Feger; 3. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 4. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 5. 42-Mckay Wenger; 6. 17X-Kyle Hammer; 7. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 8. 2-Nick Hoffman; 9. B1-Brent Larson; 10. 4G-Bob Gardner; 11. 10S-Scott Schmitt; 12. 1C-Alex Ferree; 13. 15-Justin Duty; 14. B12-Kevin Weaver; 15. 76-Titus Sneed; 16. 90-Brian Rickman; 17. 19-Cody Bauer; 18. 4-Jason Suhre; 19. 11T-Trevor Gundaker; 20. 79W-Greg Wagner
CASE Construction Equipment Showdown Feature 3 (25 Laps): 1. 157-Mike Marlar; 2. 81E-Tanner English; 3. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 4. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 5. 25-Shane Clanton; 6. 22-Chris Ferguson; 7. T6-Tommy Sheppard Jr; 8. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 9. 111-Steven Roberts; 10. 10K-Daryn Klein; 11. 1-Josh Richards; 12. 38-Thomas Hunziker; 13. 14-Glen Thompson; 14. 33-Bill Hough; 15. 97-Cade Dillard; 16. 12-Doug Drown; 17. 7S-Jay Sparks; 18. 21A-Nick Allen; 19. M27-Mike Provenzano; 20. 212-Josh Putnam
PERFECT SCORE: Sheppard Nets Third Prairie Dirt Classic Win at Fairbury
The New Berlin, IL driver led all 100 laps to earn $100,000 between winnings and lap money
FAIRBURY, IL – JULY 30, 2022 – Brandon Sheppard knew less than 10 laps into Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic his ability to read Fairbury’s surface would pay off well. And pay off big.
As the New Berlin, IL driver saw a cushion building on the track’s high banks, he felt right at home.
The reigning World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series champion used his experience at the Illinois track to quickly take the lead—one he wouldn’t relinquish en route to his third Prairie Dirt Classic win, along with a $100,000 overall payday.
While he never relinquished the lead, “Rocket Shepp” didn’t go unchallenged. Fellow Illinois competitor Bobby Pierce chased Sheppard for more than 20 laps, trying to slide past the former champion and grab his first win in the prestigious event.
As Pierce gained momentum, heartbreak struck the Oakwood, IL driver. A brake issue sidelined Pierce to a 19th-place finish.
From there, Sheppard cruised to victory despite surviving several late-race restarts. He was grateful to lead all 100 laps as he dealt with changing track conditions throughout the race.
“With all that track prep and stuff, and the way that they did it, I felt like the cushion would be there,” Sheppard said. “The bottom was still pretty hard. It was wet down there, but I didn’t feel like it was going to keep up with the cushion if I could run it right.
“It was definitely tricky. It was rough around there after they tilled it, like a rut all the way around about a car lane off the top. It was tricky, and the transition from blowing the cushion over top of that, it was definitely tricky. I was about to turn over a couple of times, I thought, but it paid off, it was a crazy race, and we were very fortunate to lead all of the laps.”
Sheppard’s third Prairie Dirt Classic win earned him and Rocket1 Racing $100,000 after he grabbed the $50,000 check for the win and the $500 bonus per lap led – which for him was all 100.
He also adds his name to a list of Illinois legends who have won the event three times. Sheppard joins Shannon Babb and Bob Pierce as the only Prairie State drivers to win the event more than twice.
“It honestly means the world to me to win this race,” Sheppard said. “This place is like home for me. All the fans, and the people, and the atmosphere is electric. They’ve taken me in like it’s home, and it’s two hours away from the house, but it’s definitely turned into my favorite track.”
Sheppard’s Prairie Dirt Classic win is his 80th career World of Outlaws CASE Late Model victory—and third of the 2022 season.
Mike Marlar crossed the line second, his fifth straight top five in World of Outlaws competition.
The 2018 Series champion felt he was close to grabbing the win but didn’t have enough to get by Sheppard.
“Coming into this weekend, we had a little bit of a streak there, but I was like, ‘Dude, there’s 81 cars at this little bullring, and that’s asking a lot to come out of here with a good finish,’” Marlar said. “Not only did we have a good finish, we had a shot lots of times at [Sheppard], he just didn’t do anything wrong, and I needed just a little bit to pass him, but we were really close.”
Tanner English, the World of Outlaws Rookie of the race, crossed the line third for his second podium finish of the season.
The Benton, KY driver was resilient after dropping back to 10th in the first 50 laps.
“I fell back to about 10th there early on, and I just kind of waited around and just tried to hit my marks and go where they weren’t, and the car kept getting better,” English said. “I kind of stalled out there with about 50 to go, and we just kind of rolled there and caught people when they made mistakes.”
English moved into second in the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models points standings and now leads in the race for Rookie of the Year—two points ahead of Max Blair, who finished eighth.
Tyler Erb finished fourth after hovering in the top five for most of the race. The New Waverly, TX driver stated he was happy with his performance overall.
“I didn’t want to kill my stuff at the drop of the green, so I just tried to maintain as long as I could,” Erb said. “When Bobby [Pierce] passed me, it was kind of the sign that I needed to move up and maintain his pace. He got to [Sheppard] really quick, and I was like, man, if there’s still 70 laps left, or 40 or whatever, if I could just ride with him until the last 20 or 30, I could give myself a chance.”
Ryan Gustin rounded out the top five. The Marshalltown, IA driver used a different line than he’s used to, as he rolled the bottom patiently throughout the race.
“We’ve been doing some different things to the car where it’s a lot easier to driver here lately,” Gustin said. “You don’t have to go up there and live and die by the cushion. I just tried to be patient there. I kind of wanted to go hard at the beginning to make sure I didn’t get put a lap down or anything like that.
“The track went through a lot of different changes tonight, and it kind went the bottom, middle, top, diamond line, slider line, it was all over the place, which makes for good racing for sure.”
Brandon Sheppard felt at home at Fairbury Speedway, scoring another Prairie Dirt Classic win. His experience at the track paid off well and paid off big.
“It’s always racy, and my car’s really good here, and I have a good feel of this place,” Sheppard said. “It’s been good to me for sure.”
UP NEXT: The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet return to Wisconsin for the $50,000-to-win USA Nationals Aug. 4-6 at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, WI.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or through the DIRTVision App.
Prairie Dirt Classic (100 Laps): 1. 1S-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 157-Mike Marlar; 3. 81E-Tanner English; 4. 1T-Tyler Erb; 5. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 6. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 7. 32S-Chris Simpson; 8. 111V-Max Blair; 9. 25F-Jason Feger; 10. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 11. 25-Shane Clanton; 12. 16-Tyler Bruening; 13. 1-Josh Richards; 14. 11R-Josh Rice; 15. 10-Garrett Smith; 16. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 17. B1-Brent Larson; 18. 6-Kyle Larson; 19. 32-Bobby Pierce; 20. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 21. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 22. 42-Mckay Wenger; 23. 22-Chris Ferguson; 24. 89-Mike Spatola; 25. 58W-Ashton Winger; 26. 20-Jimmy Owens; 27. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 28. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 29. 58-Garrett Alberson Fox Factory Hard Charger: Chris Simpson [+27].