"Our goal on opening night is going to be the same goal we have on September 16th," says Shepherd when asked if his Ridge Road Racing team will carry a plan into Saturday's event.
"We want to defend our championship more than anything. Winning one at Sunset is difficult enough, and we know that going back-to-back is going to take a lot of work, but that's exactly what we're hoping to do."
The multi-time feature winner joins a 2017 roster that includes 2015 Sunset champion Taylor Holdaway, former Autumn Colours Classic champion Travis Hallyburton and former Barrie Speedway champion Ron Quesnelle.
With the Sunset championship chase as wide open as ever, Shepherd knows patience and focus is more paramount than in any season prior.
"We've been chasing championships for a long time as a team," notes the second-generation racer. "I think one of the most important things to remember is not to get too far ahead of yourself."
"We just want to take things one lap at a time. One race at a time. Every battle we can win is going to put us one step closer to winning another championship."
After earning two regular season victories in 2016, Shepherd hints that repeating the feat is far from a guarantee.
"I think winning races this year will be even harder than it was last year," says the veteran matter-of-factly. "Guys like Taylor [Holdaway] and Travis [Hallyburton] only get better. They get sharper. They improve every season. That's what makes it mean so much when you beat them."
"We just need to keep working as hard as we always have," adds 'The Smoke'. "A strong start on Saturday night will go a long way. We have good cars, we have good motors and we have a good team. I think we have the package we need for another good year."
Gord Shepherd's Sunset Speedway championship defence is proudly sponsored by, Waste Connections,Peter Shelswell, Cookstown Auto, Puzzle Partner, Truckers Tax,Seasoned Paint and Contracting, Foxes Bakery, HWY 400 Transmission, The Deck Guy, Heartland Kennel, BFI Canada, Desjardins Insurance, Shepherd Trucking, Northway Truck stop, Eric's Auto Sales, Ink Your Ride and Cabral Racing Promotions.