FUTURE IS NOW: ‘Hell Tour’ Showcases Talents of Young Champion Brandon Sheppard, Rising Star Bobby Pierce
CONCORD, N.C. – Aug. 6, 2013 – For many racers it takes a lengthy career toiling in obscurity before they achieve their dreams. Trials and tribulations, ups and downs through the years make achieving goals rich and rewarding.
Brandon Sheppard had dreams, too. He watched his dad, Steve, summer after summer chase the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Hell Tour championship. He even pitched in a bit before he decided to give it a go himself, to take over the Sheppard family’s quest for a crown in the prestigious dirt Late Model series. Four years later, at the ripe old age of 20, he won four times and claimed the championship of the grueling six-week-long tour that rolls through the Midwest for nearly 30 races from mid-June to mid-July. In the process he became the youngest champion in the tour’s 26-year history when he wrapped up the title in July at Oakshade Raceway.
When it comes to junior achievements, though, even Sheppard was too old to match what championship runner-up Bobby Pierce accomplished. At only 16 years old, Pierce became the youngest winner in the tour’s history, accomplishing the feat four times and finishing a mere 15 points behind Sheppard overall.
That means the top two drivers in the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Hell Tour championship were a combined 36 years old, or three years younger than 39-year-old third-place finisher and three-time champion Shannon Babb. Young guns, indeed.
Miller Wins Oakshade DIRTcar Summer Nationals ‘Hell Tour’ Finale
Sheppard crowned youngest champion in series history
WAUSEON, Ohio — July 20, 2013 — Matt Miller looked virtually unstoppable on Saturday night as he charged from ninth to take the lead from Jeep Van Wormer on lap 23 en route to claiming the victory in the finale of the six-week-long DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour” at Oakshade Raceway.
Brandon Sheppard, a 20-year-old four-time winner this season, became the youngest DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion when he took the green flag.
Casey Noonan started the feature on the pole but outside starting Van Wormer quickly shot to the lead. Miller, of Whitehouse, Ohio, powered from row five into a battle for the top spot.
Van Wormer was forced to fend off several early charges, including one by Sheppard, who was trying to clinch the championship in style with a victory but his car eventually slowed and he settled for a 19th-place finish.
Miller caught Van Wormer by lap 20 of the 60-lap event and finally maneuvered around him on lap 23. Miller quickly expanded his lead by up to a half-track advantage as the second half of the race ran caution free as he dominated his way to the $10,000 checkered flag.
“We’ve been good all year, especially when we get in slick conditions,” said Miller, who earned his first Hell Tour victory since 2008. “We came here last week and got tore up and had to take the car to Rocket and get it clipped. My guys busted their butts, especially (car owner) Rick (DeLong) and Rodney and those guys, working till 1 in the morning every night. It feels good to pay them back. The car couldn’t have been any better.”
A 19th-place finish was a minor disappointment for Sheppard. The 20-year-old claimed the $25,000 title over 16-year-old Bobby Pierce in the 27th season of the six-week-long tour. Pierce became the youngest driver to win a DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature during this year’s tour, accomplishing the feat four times.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and working really hard at it just trying to get to where we’re at now,” said Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill. “It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my family cause they’ve been doing it just as long.”
Doug Drown Outduels DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour” Stars at Attica Raceway Park
ATTICA, Ohio — July 19, 2013 — Doug Drown made his first start of the 2013 DIRTcar Summer Nationals Hell Tour season count as he scored the win over title contenders Brandon Sheppard and Bobby Pierce at Attica Raceway Park.
Drown, of Wooster, Ohio, started from the pole position, leading flag-to-flag to claim the victory, but he had to hold off points leader Brandon Sheppard, who started the race from the outside of row one, and Bobby Pierce, who started fifth.
Lapped traffic came into play as the leaders reached the slower end of the field towards the later stages of the race. As Drown approached lap traffic, Sheppard and Pierce closed to the back bumper of the leader. Drown held off the challenges of the Hell Tour championship contenders, navigating the slower traffic and capturing the $5,000 checkered flag.
“I knew when I saw them not to get too excited and start spinning the tires,” said Drown, making his first Hell Tour appearance since 2011. “They’ve been pretty hot here the past month with the Hell Tour. I knew they were just as hungry, especially with their points battle going on, that they were gonna do anything they could to get the extra points and possibly the win.”