'The Smoke' ran within the top-5 for much of the 114-lap contest, and was riding in 3rd position when a controversial late-race restart opened the door for the Ridge Road Racing representative.
With 10-laps remaining, race-leader Ryan Kimball was penalized for a 'jump start' by Peterborough Speedway officials. The ensuing penalty would shuffle Kimball to 3rd and promote Shepherd to the race lead.
"We saved our stuff all race, I knew we had enough car for that late-race push," explained Shepherd post-race. "All I kept telling myself through the last couple of restarts was 'don't screw up'. We had a great car, but so did the guys behind us. I didn't want to get a bad start and leave it to chance."
Fortunately, for Shepherd, the final restart of the afternoon was picture perfect. The 2014 Barrie Speedway champion would immediately begin to pad his lead, leaving his closest pursuers to battle amongst themselves for the runner-up position.
"So much of this race comes down to strategy," offered Shepherd. "We were hoping for a late caution. We rode for a long time and just saved our stuff. Once the opportunity presented itself, we weren't going to look back."
"We came here this weekend promising not to get outworked. My team gave me an awesome piece all weekend. We were quick in practice and even better in qualifying. Somehow, these guys just made this car better and better all weekend."
For Shepherd, the victory comes after a career of close calls at Peterborough, and is one his Ridge Road Racing outfit is not likely to forget.
"Every year we seem to have a fast car but just can't seal the deal," beamed the winner upon clearing post-race technical inspection.
"Something always tends to happen to keep us from winning. But we were never going to give up. This is the win that all of us wanted more than anything. There's not a chance that any of this would've happened without the support of my team. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. I have the best crew, the best car owner and the best wife that any driver could ask for. I'm on top of the world right now."
Mere hours after his Pro Late Model victory, Shepherd returned to action in the 75-lap Ltd. Late Model feature. Incredibly, Shepherd came within a shadow of replicating his earlier victory, posting a 2nd place finish to end the afternoon with one of the most impressive Autumn Colours Classic performances in recent memory.
Gord Shepherd's banner Autumn Colours Classic performance would not have been possible without the support of Progressive Waste Solutions, Shelswell Racing, Puzzle Partner, Cookstown Auto Parts, Montana's Cookhouse of Orillia, Shepherd Trucking, HWY 400 Transmission, Liberty North, Kruegar Electrical, Seasoned Painting, Checkmate, DesJardins Insurance, Eric's Car Sales, Fox's Bakery & Deli, Bill le Boeuf Jewelers and The Dock Guy.
By Spencer Lewis (@itsspencerlewis)