FONDA - Over the years, Matt Sheppard has been snakebit by Fonda Speedway. Although having a few top five finishes the three-time Super DIRT Series champion has never found his way to Victory Lane at the Track of Champions.
That changed Saturday as Super Matt held off Matt DeLorenzo and Jimmy Davis on a slick Fonda surface to claim the 50-lap modified main event.
"Finally!" Sheppard said in Victory Lane. "I have won at a lot of different race tracks and now we can at this place to the list."
Craig Hanson, right, races with Don Ronca, center, and Stewart Friesen during modified heat action at Fonda Speedway on Sunday. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Joining Sheppard with wins on the first day of Fonda Speedway's season finale were Troy Palmer (602 sportsman), Keith Tesiero Sr. (4 cylinders), Ed Hatch (street stock) and Doug Matthewson (vintage modifieds).
Jeff Cook took home the checkers in the ESS Sprintcar A-main, while Steve Poirier wrapped up the ESS championship.
Matt DeLorenzo and C.G Morey brought the field of 30 modifieds to the green with DeLorenzo gaining the early advantage.
The lone caution of the race came on the second lap when Justin Boehler spun on the infield along the backstretch.
Stewart Friesen, who started 12th in the field, found some bite on the top of the speedway and powered his way fourth on the restart.
Davis got the lead away from DeLorenzo on lap four, while Friesen and A.J. Romano and Bobby Varin were battling for third.
Friesen broke away from Romano and Varin and quickly caught the frontrunning duo and took over second from DeLorenzo on lap seven.
Davis held Friesen at bay as they picked their way through lapped traffic as the fight for third tightened as DeLorenzo, Romano, Varin and Sheppard were pinned behind the lapped car of Bryon Seyfried.
Friesen found an open lane past Davis to take the point on lap 15 and Sheppard, who started seventh, pulled into fourth behind DeLorenzo.
The leaders settled in and were running nose-to-tail behind the slower car of Pat Ward.
On lap 20 Davis attempted to pass Friesen on the high side of turn one. He got alongside but lost momentum. DeLorenzo grabbed the spot away and stayed on Friesen's back bumper.
Friesen tried to break free from behind Ward on lap 30. Moving up the track in the attempt opened the door for DeLorenzo, Davis and Sheppard to slip past before Friesen could get back in line in fourth.
Sheppard did find a little extra on the outside of turn one to get around Davis and was settled in behind DeLorenzo when he got a shot at the lead.
"I know that when I got into second Matty cut a left front or something and slid up enough that I was able to get under him," Sheppard said. "From that point on it was just a guessing game as to whether to stick behind the lapped cars or try to pass them. We decided to stick behind them."
Sheppard opened a slight edge when Ward dropped out with six laps remaining.
Friesen, who was running fifth, made a last ditch move to advance his position by going back to the outside where he found bite earlier. There wasn't enough as Varin and Ronnie Johnson dove under him to take the spot away.
At the checkers, it was Sheppard picking up his first Fonda win and 21st win overall on the season. DeLorenzo held off Davis for second with Romano fourth and Varin fifth.
Johnson, Friesen, Mark Kislowski, Jeremy Wilder and Jeff Rockefeller round out the top 10.
In the 25-lap 602 sportsman feature, Tyler Dippel made the most of his outside pole position to grab the early lead over Daryl Nutting.
Dippel had opened a sizable lead on the field when the caution flew for an accident involving Nutting and Adam McAuliffe.
On the restart, John Scarborough, Chris Schaffer and Palmer pulled up to Dippel.
He was up to the challenge as Scarborough and Palmer settled in behind him.
Palmer found a way under Scarborough on a restart and began pressuring Dippel.
Dippel withstood a series of lap 19 restarts and was first to the checkers, while Palmer held off Scarborough for the second-place finish.
Palmer found himself in Victory Lane for his first career 602 sportsman feature win at Fonda after Dippel came up light on the scales during postrace tech.
Scarborough moved up to second followed by Jeremiah Munson, Schaffer and Dan Santabarbara. Chip Constantino, Ray Zemken, Connor Cleveland, John Palmer and James Friesen.
In the final points race of the ESS Sprint Car Series season, Stewart Friesen took command early before coming to a stop on lap six, handing the lead over to Poirier.
Poirier built a substantial lead over Cook before he got loose passing the lapped car of Kyle Dutcher and spun on lap 19.
On the restart, contact between Josh Pieniazek and Paul Kinney triggered a multi-car wreck on the front stretch that also involved Dutcher, Dave Axton, Joe Trenka and Kevin Ward Jr.
Cook maintained his lead over Shawn Donath and Lance Yonge to pick up his first win of the season.
Jessica Zemken and Danny Varin completed the top five.
Poirier finished the race in 10th and garnered enough points to lock up the ESS Series championship.
Donath also claimed the four-lap dash for cash.
Racing resumes today at 4 p.m. with the season-ending Palmer Service-sponsored Ed and Michael Keyser Memorial and Outlaw 200 qualifier, 100-lap modified feature.
Also on the card is the 20-lap 602 sportsman invitational and the 30-lap pro stock challenge.
General admission will be $28 for today's racing card.