ELM MOTT, Texas (June 2, 2023) — Touring Sprint car pilot Marcus Thomas, open-wheel veteran Jeff Shepperd, and Stock Car master Shannon Dulock all won features in their respective divisions, as officials hosted MDA Muscling in the Dirt Night on Friday at Heart O' Texas Speedway.
Thomas powered to victory in the 20-lap A Main for Southern United Sprint (SUS) teams; Shepperd continued his recent hot streak in IMCA Southern SportMod action with a thrilling last-lap pass; while Dulock powered to victory in a hotly-contested Factory Stock feature.
Benji Kirkpatrick (IMCA Stock Cars and Outlaw Street Stock) and young racer PJ Egbert (Jr. Limited) were also feature winners on a beautiful night for short track racing in Central Texas.
Thomas, of Corsicana, started second on the talent-filled 25-car SUS grid, led all 20 laps and narrowly avoided disaster on the final circuit to earn top honors. A hard-charging Landon Thompson drove up from fifth to claim second, while recent winner Jeb Sessums filled out the podium.
Claud Estes III (Mannsville) and Colby Stubblefield (Seagoville) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Thomas made brief contact with a lapped car going down the backstretch, and it almost cost him a win.
“Lapped traffic was crazy out there tonight,” Thomas told announcer Brandon Stone in O'Reilly Auto Parts Victory Lane. “I didn't know which way to go on a lot of that. I got into Theresa (Waller) down here in the corner, I'm sorry about that. When Oliver spun out, I got into the back of him a little bit.
“I was able to keep it on all four tires, and keep it out front. I need to thank Paul Cook and George White. Without those guys, we wouldn't be here. George works on this car five to six days a week.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the Southern United Sprints A Main were Indiana's Taylor Courtney, Caleb Padgett, Channin Tankersley, Corby Scherb and Logan Scherb. Three cautions slowed the pace (laps 0, 8, 8), including a rollover by Chad Wilson. Thomas' margin of victory was .317 of a second.
Shepperd, of Waco, started ninth on the 16-car grid, drove to the inside of veteran Paul White coming off Turn 4 on the final lap and narrowly beat him to the line by .083 of a second. Garett Rawls finished third after leading the first 18 laps, while Brandon Geurin and Taylor Florio completed the top five.
“That was great,” Shepperd said. “I think there were three or four of us there that could have won it. I was lucky enough to pull if off. Racing for the win against Paul White, I mean; it couldn't get any better than that. The track was great tonight, I can't thank the staff and fans enough for being here.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the 20-lap IMCA Southern SportMod feature were Dustin Mooney, Mason Martin, Jonathan Beard, Kayden Petty and Trevor Cogburn. One caution slowed the pace (lap four) for a minor spin. Fans expect exciting finishes at HOT, and they witnessed one on Friday night.
Dulock, of Axtell, started eighth on the 20-car Factory Stock grid, drove outside of Cody Dixon to take command at lap seven and barely beat a hard-charging Michael Dabney to the line for top honors. Nate Dixon (Ennis) drove up from at the start to fill out the podium with a solid performance.
Blaine Simcik (Robinson) and Cody Dixon (Ennis) rounded out the top five.
“I was cussing the officials earlier when they were doing all of that watering,” Dulock said in Victory Lane. “But it turned out to be a pretty good track. I saw Michael (Dabney) and all of those guys getting up around me, and figured it was going to be a good race.
“Once I got the lead, I knew I had to keep it in about the middle of the track to keep them behind me. I'd like to thank my sponsors for their support. This win is for the man who organizes this event; he just lost his brother and we're thinking about him. I've been at every one of these MDA deals.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the Factory Stock A Main were Mike Land (who drove up from 14th); Jon Grobe, Ryan Turnipseed (started 16th), Andrew Richards and Michael Guenat. Three cautions slowed the pace, all for minor incidents. Dulock's margin of victory was only .150 of a second.
Friday's MDA Muscling in the Dirt program drew a respectable 102 entries spread across six classes. Led by the super-fast SUS Sprints with 26 cars, there was no shortage of talent in the HOT pit area. Thrilling finishes were the norm, rather than the exception on Friday night in Waco.
Officials cranked out 15 qualifying Heats in short order, allowed some great fan interaction with the drivers during intermission, then played host to their features. Selby Holder and his staff executed another fine show for fans in the greater Waco area. This is HOT's 57th consecutive year of racing.
You can replay all of the action from Friday night's MDA Muscling in the Dirt program at Heart O' Texas Speedway with a subscription at RaceOnTexas.com. With over 450 events on the Live steaming schedule this year, it's home to some of the best short track content available online.
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By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer