CONCORD, NC – Matt Sheppard entered the 2023 Super DIRTcar Series season finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte with his 10th Series title already locked up. But one goal remained.
The now 10-time Series champion still eyed another win at the 4/10-mile track and the $15,000 payday that came with it Saturday night.
He put himself in prime position to do so early on by earning the $500 SRI Performance/Stock Car Steel Pole Award, putting him at the head of the 30-car field for the 40-lap Feature.
As the green flag dropped, the Waterloo, NY driver accelerated his Hurlock Auto & Speed Supply #9S machine out in front, ready to cap off his season with an exclamation point.
With his rapid pace, Sheppard caught the back of the field by Lap 9, having to map out his course of navigation around them. Jimmy Phelps followed behind him, attempting to stay within distance, but Sheppard continued to gain speed as the laps ticked off.
2023 Billy Whittaker Cars 200 champion Mat Williamson incrementally came into the conversation, charging up to third place from eighth by Lap 14.
Sheppard passed the halfway point of the race still going strong, with competitors hoping for a caution to equalize the playing field. Second-place Phelps took his turn running through lapped traffic, using both sides of the track to run a solid race of his own.
Sheppard was half a straight away in front of his competitors when his speed was finally slowed on Lap 28 with the race’s first caution. They lined up double file once more –Sheppard, Phelps, Tim Fuller and Williamson occupying the front two rows.
The Series champion did not miss a step on the restart, firing hard around the top side of Turn 1 and 2, regaining his considerable lead in front once more. It was the first and last time his competition saw an opportunity to challenge for the lead.
Heavy lapped traffic, a late race caution, and talented opponents did not slow down “Super” Matt, as he finished the remaining 11 laps error free for his fifth Series win of the season and second win in three nights at the World of Outlaws World Finals.
“We’ve been good all week and we had track position tonight,” Sheppard said. “We got out front early, kind of dictated the race a little bit, running my own pace, that certainly helped tonight, for sure.”
Phelps crossed the finish line in second, his best finish of the event after a sixth-place finish Thursday night and a ninth-place finish Friday night. It was his fifth top-five performance overall, moving him to third in the final points standings.
“We had a good car that could keep us up front,” Phelps said. “That (Matt Sheppard) is awful tough. We had a handful of laps there right at the beginning where I thought we could sneak by him until he got warmed up and then somehow try to hold him off. We could run with him, but we just could never clear him. Four or five laps in, you could start to see his stuff come to life, and it was almost game over at that point.”
Known for late race charges, Williamson powered by Fuller for third place on the Lap 28 restart, fighting every inch of the way for a third consecutive podium finish. His efforts paid off as he held on for his second third-place finish of the World Finals.
“It was a good run,” Williamson said. “We passed a lot of good cars and did it quickly and then just got the tires hot and then got free as the race went on… We had to take chances (with our starting position) with our tires that wouldn’t let us fire early and get up to the front. I thought we had a better car tonight than we had all week, but congratulations to Matt Sheppard and his team on their championship.”
Mike Mahaney crossed the finish line in fourth followed by Max McLaughlin in fifth to round out the top-five finishers.
By claiming his 10th Series title, Sheppard solidified his status as the driver with the most Super DIRTcar Series championships. His win also brought his to 94 career Series wins overall, second only to Brett Hearn.
Williamson ended up second in points for a second straight year and Phelps rounded out the podium. Mahaney and Tim Sears Jr. had career seasons, finishing fourth and fifth in points, respectively. A couple spots back Jack Lehner and Chris Hile also had a career-best finishes in the points standings by ending the season in seventh and eighth, respectively. For the full final standings, CLICK HERE.
Super DIRTcar Series Feature (40 Laps): 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 2. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 3. 88-Mat Williamson; 4. 35-Mike Mahaney; 5. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 6. 19-Tim Fuller; 7. 4*-Anthony Perrego; 8. 111-Demetrios Drellos; 9. 26-Ryan Godown; 10. 25-Erick Rudolph; 11. 12-Darren Smith; 12. 33-Louden Reimert; 13. 99L-Larry Wight; 14. 21A-Peter Britten; 15. 5H-Chris Hile; 16. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 17. 2-Jack Lehner; 18. 27J-Danny Johnson; 19. 5-Tyler Siri; 20. 70A-Alex Payne; 21. 215-Adam Pierson; 22. 91D-Billy Decker; 23. 2A-Mike Gular; 24. 91-Felix Roy; 25. 54-Steve Bernard; 26. 14-CG Morey; 27. 28-Michael Trautschold; 28. 66-Corbin Millar; 29. JS98-Rocky Warner; 30. 83X-Tim Sears Jr