By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The "Rocket Shepp" took flight Sunday night at Quincy Raceways.
Brandon Sheppard proved he was every bit worthy of that nickname once he got the lead in the late model feature, flying to a relatively easy 1.494-second victory over runner-up and arch rival Bobby Pierce.
Sheppard, the 2013 UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour champion, has not been able to regain the form he demonstrated a year ago when he was one of the hottest names in all of late model racing.
"We've struggled with our consistency this season," said Sheppard, who finished fourth in this year's Hell Tour points and is still looking for a signature 2014 win. "We're still trying to get the car figured out like we had last year ... but tonight felt pretty good."
Quincy has been a good track for Sheppard, a resident of New Berlin, Ill., since he started racing at 8000 Broadway on a part-time basis in 2012. His five feature wins are tied for the second most in that span, and he's cashed $15,600 worth of checks, including one for $1,200 for Sunday night's victory. Sunday was only his second appearance of the season in Quincy.
"We weren't really coming here for (UMP national) points or anything like that," Sheppard said. "We just figured we'd come here and try and put on a good show. We'll probably be here a few more times this season."
Sheppard led the final 25 laps of the 30-lap feature, becoming the seventh different winner of a late model main event this season. Pierce ran a strong second, but could never quite get close enough to Sheppard to make a legitimate run at him.
Sheppard turned in the fastest feature lap (77.093 mph) of the season. Pierce recorded the fastest qualifying time (77.980 mph) of the year.
"It was a heavy track, but still smooth," Pierce said of the somewhat tacky surface of the .29-mile semi-banked oval that had endured a number of showers in the days leading up to Sunday's racing.
Pierce made the long haul from near Danville, Ill., in search of UMP national points. He is in the running for the UMP national championship.
"This is the only UMP track (in the region) that races on Sundays," he said. "We have to keep going, keep plugging away."
Track points leader Denny Woodworth finished third, followed by Clint Kirkham and Justin Reed. Woodworth was able to build his points lead to 558-529 over Burgtorf, who suffered through a third straight DNF.