An estimated 2,500 fans were in attendance for the World of Outlaws Late Models Series stop at Gondik Law Speedway in Superior, and Brandon Sheppard and Chris Madden gave them their money’s worth.
And then some.
Sheppard, of New Berlin, Illinois, held off Madden after the driver from Gray Court, South Carolina, passed him briefly on the last lap of the 40-lap Late Model feature. A late caution made for a green-white-checkered finish, and on the last lap, Madden passed Sheppard off the high side of Turn 2 and as George Jones would say, the race was on.
It was neck-and-neck the rest of the way as Sheppard pulled past Madden right at the finish line.
“Congratulations to Chris for his performance and you always appreciate when a guy races you clean,” said Sheppard, who some have called “The Rocket Shepp” as the “house car,” i.e. lead driver, for Rocket Chassis.
Sheppard earned $10,000 for the win, the 72nd WOO Late Model victory of his career. He is the current season points leader while Madden is second.
“I thought I had him, but Brandon came back strong,” Madden said. “This was awesome. The crowd was great, and I’m glad we gave them a show. I don’t think they could have asked for more than that.”
The top two finishers in each heat were part of the draw to determine the top end of the field for Tuesday’s WOO Late Model feature.
John Kaanta was asked if he would win the feature, and he said he didn’t know.
“There’s a lot more talent and a lot more motor,” Kaanta said, talking about the WOO field in attendance.
Steve Laursen, who drew the No. 1 starting spot, agreed.
“I love Superior. It’s just great here,” he said. “I’d love to win, but I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch.”
Mod madness: Nelson dominates
Darrell Nelson won the Modified feature, jumping to the lead right at the start and going on to win by 3.75 seconds, prompting track announcer Mark Fleischer to say he couldn’t remember the last time the Hermantown driver appeared quite so dominant.
Nelson picked up the new car a few weeks ago and it showed, with runner-up Shane Sabraski of Rice, Minnesota — a dominant driver in his own right — never able to reel him in.
Nelson earned $1,000 for the Modified victory while Mac Johnston of Rush City, Minnesota, earned $200 for winning his second Hornets feature at the track this season after winning at the Great Lakes Border Battle over the Fourth of July weekend.
“Last time here two weeks ago I won and felt good, and I felt good again tonight,” Johnston said. “At my home track in Ogilvie (Minn.) I can’t win. Here, I just put the hammer down and keep my eyes looking forward.”
Big bucks at stake
While those top prizes were nice, it was silly good money what the WOO Late Models bring in.
It was $1,000 to even make the Late Model feature, meaning there was a lot of money on the line Tuesday.
“We pay $700 to win Late Models on a normal night,” Gondik Law Speedway promoter Joe Stariha said. “So this was a great opportunity for our locals to make some good money and race against the best in the business.”
A WOO Late Model features a 458-cubic inch engine with aluminum heads that pushes 900 horsepower. A Wissota Late Model, like the locals run, features a 362-cubic inch steel block with aluminum heads producing 650 horsepower on average.
So the sledding was a little tougher for the Wissota guys, but James Giossi earned $2500 for finishing fifth and a top Wissota driver $500 bonus. Three grand, not a bad haul.
“A little more money on the line tonight, and it wasn’t going as well with my Late Model, so I had to make it up somewhere,” Nelson said. “The track is beautiful, so everything kind of worked out perfectly. We don’t get to see this many people on a regular night, so it was awesome to see all these fans come out on a weeknight, worknight.”
World of Outlaws Late Model Series
At Gondik Law Speedway, Superior
WOO Late Models
Heat 1 — 1. Brandon Sheppard, 2. John Kaanta, 3. Brent Larson, 4. Frank Heckenhast Jr., 5. Jimmy Mars, 6. Ryan Gustin, 7. Chad Mahder, 8. Darrell Nelson, 9. Sam Mars.
Heat 2 — 1. Chris Madden, 2. Tyler Bruening, 3. James Giossi, 4. Pat Doar, 5. Kevin Eder, 6. Harry Hanson, 7. Jody Bellefeuille, 8. Boom Briggs, 9. DNF: Jeffrey Massingill.
Heat 3 — 1. Dennis Erb Jr., 2. Steve Laursen, 3. Ricky Weiss, 4. Travis Budisalovich, 5. Derek Vesel, 6. Aaron Lillo, 7. Tim McMann, 8. Mike Bellefeuille, 9. Keith Niemi.
Last Chance Showdown — 1. Mahder, 2. McMann, 3. Nelson, 4. S. Mars, 5. M. Bellefeuille, 6. Briggs, 7. J. Bellefeuille, 8. Niemi. DNS: Massingill.
Feature — 1. Sheppard, 2. Madden, 3. Erb Jr. 4. Bruening, 5. Giossi, 6. Gustin, 7. J. Mars, 8. Eder, 9. Weiss, 10. Laursen, 11. Doar, 12. Chad Mahder, 13. Larson, 14. Kaanta, 15. S. Mars, 16.Nelson, 17. Heckenhast, 18. Briggs, 19. Budisalovich, 20. Vesel. DNF: Hanson, M. Bellefeuille, Lillo, McMann.
Heat 1 — 1. Shane Sabraski, 2. Mike Anderson, 3. Skeeter Estey, 4. Darrell Nelson, 5. Brandon Copp, 6. Jason Gross, 7. Neil Balduc, 8. Kyle Helling, 9. Mike Klippenstein.
Heat 2 — 1. Rick Rivord, 2. Jeffrey Wood, 3. Devin Fouquette, 4. Daniel Bargender, 5. Jake Hartung, 6. Danny Vang, 7. Jody Bellefeuille, 8. Pat Hoffman.
Feature — 1. Nelson, 2. Sabraski, 3. Estey, 4. J. Bellefeuille, 5. Anderson, 6. Copp, 7. Gross, 8. Vang, 9. Balduc, 10. Rivord, 11. Helling, 12. Hoffman, 13. Fouquette, 14. Klippenstein. DNF: Bargender, Wood, Hartung.
Heat — 1. Tyler Schramm, 2. Mac Johnston, 3. Kristy Marken, 4. Casey Fitzpatrick, 5. Reid Johnson, 6. Carson Gotelaere, 7. Derek Dunbar, 8. Michael Egan, 9. Paul George, 10. Patrick Passeri.
Feature — 1. Johnston, 2. Fitzpatrick, 3. Schramm, 4. Marken, 5. Johnson, 6. Gotelaere, 7. Egan, 8. Dunbar 9. Passeri, 10. Paul George.