Matt Sheppard

FLAT OUT: Maresca Motors to First Career Super DIRTcar Series Win

BARBERVILLE, FL – Michael Maresca stomped his throttle at the drop of the green flag and drove wheel-to-wheel with seven-time Volusia Speedway Park winner and three-time Big Gator champion Matt Sheppard to capture his first career Super DIRTcar Series Feature win.

The Pierrepont, NY driver of the #7MM is the pride of the North Country back in New York after topping a DIRTcar Nationals podium crowded with Series championships and Gator trophy winners. Seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard, from Waterloo, NY, finished second while three-time champ and Gypsum Racing driver Billy Decker finished third.

That’s the definition of a stout crowd. 

“Everyone’s dream, when they start racing in the Northeast, is to win a Super DIRTcar Series race and I finally won one,” Maresca said. “It’s cool to start the year off with a win and to get a Big Block win is especially awesome. It means a lot. I don’t think it’s set in yet. I try to go with the mindset that each race is the same but I’m sure tonight, when I’m lying in bed, I’ll think about all the struggles in the past and realize how awesome this is.”

Maresca, who raced a DIRTcar Late Model earlier in the week, has found speed in his Big Block around The World’s Fastest Half-Mile. 

“Our car had been consistent the last two nights,” he said. “We’ve made little tweaks here or there. We did some testing and the track really suited my style for those first 10 laps when it was really racy.

“We’ve been close the last couple of nights. Our first night was rough but we completely regrouped and went back after it.”

He’s found success with his setup using a new shock package on the #7MM. 

“I want to thank the guys at Penske Racing Shocks,” Maresca said. “They gave us a package to get around this place that’s working really good. There are only two of us here running them. My whole team just kept working and we got it done. I’m really happy to get this car in Victory Lane for those guys.”

When the green flag flew to start the 30-lap Feature, there was an immediate battle between the #9S of Sheppard and Maresca. Sheppard threw his Big Block to the outside but couldn’t execute the pass. 

“We had a really good race there,” Maresca said. “I figured Sheppard would be on the bottom but he came around the outside and I was able to clear him and move up. I think we had a really stout race car.”

Despite falling short of the win, Sheppard was pleased with his result. 

“It was a good night for us,” Sheppard said. “We gave Michael [Maresca] a run on the high side for a while but I just couldn’t get by him once he cleared down to the bottom. I think he was a little better than me anyway.”

Billy Decker has been wracking up podiums all week but, once again, needed a little more out of his Bicknell to get in a winning position. 

“We like parking on the front stretch but obviously we’d like to park down there,” said Decker, of Unadilla, NY. “The Gypsum Wholesaler car has been good. These guys work really hard. We’ve been consistent. We’ve had a rocket since we unloaded it. We didn’t always Time Trial well some nights but we raced really good every night which is important because we normally run really long races. We’re looking forward to it.” 

Max McLaughlin still leads the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship going into Saturday’s finale. Billy Decker rides in second while Maresca climbed into third. Both McLaughlin and Maresca have a chance to win their first Big Gator the same year as their first Little Gators. 

Billy VanInwegen picked up a strong fourth-place finish. He will be eager to come back for the 50-lap Feature while Peter Britten grabbed another top-five.

Next up, on Saturday, Feb. 13, the final night of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals is set to pit the stars of the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds against each other for 50 laps and a $5,000-to-win prize. If you can’t make it to the track, watch live on DIRTVision. Hot Laps begin at 5:30pm (ET). 

Full results here

Feature (30 Laps)

  1. 7MM-Michael Maresca [1][$4,000]; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard [2][$2,000]; 3. 91-Billy Decker [4][$1,000]; 4. 4-Billy VanInwegen [7][$800]; 5. 21A-Peter Britten [5][$700]; 6. 30-Ryan Godown [3][$650]; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [9][$600]; 8. 88-Mat Williamson [10][$550]; 9. 32C-Max McLaughlin [6][$500]; 10. 7F-Tim Fuller [8][$450]; 11. 19M-Jessey Mueller [13][$400]; 12. 25-Erick Rudolph [12][$375]; 13. 2-Jack Lehner [18][$350]; 14. 6-Matt Stangle [17][$325]; 15. 118-Jim Britt [11][$300]; 16. 8-Rich Scagliotta [16][$300]; 17. 14-CG Morey [14][$300]; 18. 16X-Dan Creeden [23][$300]; 19. 20-Brett Hearn [15][$300]; 20. 26-Derrick McGrew [19][$300]; 21. 48T-Dave Rauscher [27][$300]; 22. 1-Darwin Greene [22][$300]; 23. 46-Jeremy Smith [20][$300]; 24. 17D-Marcus Dinkins [25][$300]; 25. 1D-Tyler Dippel [21][$300]; 26. 23-Kyle Coffey [24][$300]; 27. B52-Brandon Hightower [26][$300] Hard Charger Award: 48T-Dave Rauscher[+6]

HALF-SECOND HERO: McLaughlin Edges Decker for First Career DIRTcar Nationals Win

BARBERVILLE, FL – Max McLaughlin raced home to his second Super DIRTcar Series win and his first trip to Volusia Speedway Park’s confetti-filled Victory Lane on Thursday night during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals.

The 20-year-old pilot of the #32C Sweetener’s Plus Big Block Modified was just barely able to box out future Hall of Famer Billy Decker in a wild finish where the two swapped lines on the track trying to block and slide each other at the same time. Hard charger Michael Maresca in the #7MM car cruised from 19th to third in an amazing run through the field.

After a lengthy rain delay, drama built quickly in the 30-lap Feature as McLaughlin made contact with seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard on the first lap, sending Sheppard’s #9S up the race track and into Peter Britten’s #21A. Sheppard made his displeasure with McLaughlin known during the caution flag, but was able to recover for a fifth-place finish. 

“I got into the water there on lap one,” said McLaughlin, of Mooresville, NC. “It was a bonehead move, I guess. They checked up and he [Matt Sheppard] started pushing and I figured I’d go right below him. The left front hit the water and pushed up and I got into Matt. I hate that. That’s kind of what I was thinking about the whole race.”

When the race returned to green flag action, McLaughlin had to contend with some heavy hitters. “Mad Max” found a way around defending Series champion Mat Williamson as well as “The Baldwinsville Bandit” Jimmy Phelps, who started on the outside pole. 

However, once McLaughlin took the lead on Lap 15 there was no time to relax. Decker had his Gypsum Wholesalers #91 at full song around the top side of the speedway in pursuit during the closing stages.

“I didn’t really know where he was but I knew he was coming around the top,” McLaughlin said. “I knew I had to change something and I saw the [signal] sticks get smaller and smaller. I had to do something different.”

With an adjustment of his line, McLaughlin was able to hold Decker’s crimson #91 at bay. 

Decker did all he could to try and pass for the lead.

“We had to go where he wasn’t,” said Decker,  of Unadilla, NY. “I think we were as good as he was on the bottom, but he fired a little better on the restarts than we did. After a few laps, I think we got it rolling so it was one of those deals where he had to stick to his lane. I started hazing the outside and closing the gap. He obviously got the signal from the infield to move. If he didn’t, he was going to finish where I did. He had to move and I didn’t get him soon enough.”

Decker will look to improve just one more position tomorrow night for a coveted 50th Anniversary DIRTcar Nationals win.

Michael Maresca, from Pierrepont, NY, advanced 16 positions to capture his second consecutive third-place finish. The #7MM started the night behind the eight-ball.

“We buried ourselves in a hole in qualifying,” Maresca said. “We had a really good car all night. I think with it being a little bit wetter, I think it threw me off on my gear selection. We were able to capitalize on good restarts.”

A fast, widening race track gave him what he needed to work through two-thirds of the field in 30 laps. Unfortunately, for the pilot of the St. Lawrence Radiology Big Block Modified, Decker and McLaughlin were just a click faster. 

“Congrats to Max and Billy,” Maresca said. “I couldn’t keep up with them. I think I was just a little bit under-geared for that. But I know our car is good so we are just going to keep trucking and hopefully contend for a win tomorrow.”

Catch all the action in person or on DIRTVision on Friday, February 12 at Volusia Speedway Park as the Super DIRTcar Series take on The World’s Fastest Half-Mile for the fourth night in a row alongside the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models. 

Keep up with the Super DIRTcar Series at SuperDIRTcarSeries.com and on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Full results available here

Feature (30 Laps) — 1. 32C-Max McLaughlin [5][$4,000]; 2. 91-Billy Decker [11][$2,000]; 3. 7MM-Michael Maresca [19][$1,000]; 4. 88-Mat Williamson [4][$800]; 5. 9S-Matt Sheppard [3][$700]; 6. 25-Erick Rudolph [15][$650]; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [2][$600]; 8. 23-Kyle Coffey [21][$550]; 9. 21A-Peter Britten [6][$500]; 10. 1D-Tyler Dippel [10][$450]; 11. 8-Rich Scagliotta [14][$400]; 12. 7F-Tim Fuller [12][$375]; 13. 4-Billy VanInwegen [23][$350]; 14. 16X-Dan Creeden [26][$325]; 15. 118-Jim Britt [9][$300]; 16. 19M-Jessey Mueller [13][$300]; 17. 17D-Marcus Dinkins [25][$300]; 18. 1-Darwin Greene [22][$300]; 19. 20-Brett Hearn [16][$300]; 20. 14-CG Morey [29][$300]; 21. 88T-Tyler Jashembowski [17][$300]; 22. 30-Ryan Godown [8][$300]; 23. 6-Matt Stangle [1][$300]; 24. 2-Jack Lehner [7][$300]; 25. 33T-Cass Bennett [27][$300]; 26. 01W-Justin Wright [24][$300]; 27. 17-Rob Pitcher [20][$300]; 28. B52-Brandon Hightower [28][$300]; 29. 26-Derrick McGrew [18][$300]. Hard Charger Award: 7MM-Michael Maresca[+16].

What to Watch For: The Super DIRTcar Series Starts Five Nights of Volusia Action Tonight

BARBERVILLE, FL – The 2021 Super DIRTcar Series season hits the ground running in 2021 with five straight nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park.

The best Big Block Modified drivers in the world will be on the hunt for the prestigious Big Gator championship trophy.

Big Block Modified Features at the DIRTcar Nationals are a touch different from traditional Series races where race fans are accustomed to seeing 100-lap battles. Instead, the Features at Volusia from Tuesday to Friday are 30 laps and $4,000-to-win. Saturday night’s finale is 50 laps and $5,000-to-win. These races do not count towards the Super DIRTcar Series points championship but they do count as prestigious Series wins in the record books. 

How to watch:

Tickets are available for all five nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park. 

Tonight, Tuesday, February 9, features the DIRTcar Late Models with the Big Blocks. The next four nights, Wednesday to Saturday, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models take over on the card. Alternatively, race fans can watch the live broadcast on DIRTVision

Who to beat:

Defending Series champion Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, Ontario, was the other man to beat in 2020 at Volusia. Williamson won the first night and the final night as Wight picked up three straight in between. Look for Williamson in his #88 Buzzchew Racing, Shakelton Auto Parts Big Block Modified to be fast out of the box at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

The defending Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals champion Larry Wight will not be in attendance but for good reason: His wife had a baby on February 8. Although Wight will not be traveling with the team, race fans will see the familiar Gypsum Racing red gracing Billy Decker’s #91. He’s looking to make a championship run this year and starting out fast at Volusia is often a key indicator for early-season success.

For all of his success, only two of his 70 Series wins have come in DIRTcar Nationals competition. “The Franklin Flyer” is eager to add to his total this week. 

Matt Sheppard, a member of the Top 50 DIRTcar Nationals drivers, says Volusia is unique because once you think you have it down, you don’t. He’s looking to a strong DIRTcar Nationals as the 2020 edition was not his best Florida excursion. 

Sheppard has eight wins to his name at Volusia and three Big Gator championships. 

The Ransomville, NY racer Erick Rudolph is a strong contender at every race. The top guns of the Series know the #25R is coming for them again in 2021. Can Rudolph kick off the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals with a win.

Rudolph has won Series races in New York, Quebec, Canada, and Ohio but so far a Florida victory eludes him. 

Big names in attendance:

Never count out Stewart Friesen. The Sprakers, NY Canadian-American wheelman has added another motor racing vehicle to his repertoire; a dirt late model. Now Friesen will be back behind the wheel of his Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified before going to “the big track” to run his NASCAR Camping World Truck. Friesen was held winless at Volusia in 2020.

Seven out of Friesen’s 33 Series victories have come at Volusia. 

Brett “The Jet” Hearn is back behind the wheel. He has the most DIRTcar Nationals checkered flags out of all Super DIRTcar Series drivers. Notably, Hearn’s first win came on a flat three-eights of a mile track on the same grounds when the half-mile was paved over. 

When it comes to success at the DIRTcar Nationals Hearn is in a league of his own. He’s earned nine Big Gator trophies and a whopping 21 Feature wins. No one else is close. 

Max McLaughlin has made a name for himself behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified, an asphalt modified, and stock cars. He had an incredible run during last fall’s OktoberFAST including his first career Super DIRTcar Series win which came at Weedsport Speedway. 

Tim Fuller has 31 career Super DIRTcar Series wins under his belt. His last DIRTcar Nationals win came in 2016. Watch for the #19 to be a steady presence at the front of the field.  

Stories to follow: 

Albany-Saratoga Speedway hot shoe, Jessey Mueller, planned to make 2020 his rookie season in the Super DIRTcar Series. He’s going for it again as we get 2021 started with a bang. 

“The Batman” Peter Britten has a brand new Bicknell Racing Products chassis for the 50th annual DIRTcar Nationals. True to his nickname, he’s gone all black on the #21A. 

A couple of Big Block veterans, Rick Scagliotta and Dave Rauscher are looking to make their presence known at Volusia. Rauscher is coming off an injury plus a huge rollover at Land of Legends Raceway this past summer in his #48too. 

Jack Lehner continues to improve and could soon become a consistent threat for podiums this year. Watch his Time Trials results to see if the #2L is going in the right direction at Volusia. A solid Time Trial can set a driver up for a strong night. 

Keep an eye on these drivers:

Thirty-plus drivers are expected to let their Big Blocks loose at Volusia. Watch for drivers like Kyle Coffey, Billy VanInwegen, Jimmy Britt, Cass Bennett, Brandon Hightower, Danny Creeden, Rob Pitcher, Derrick McGrew, Justin Wright, Tyler Jashembowski, Ryan Godown, Marcus Dinkins, CG Morey, Tyler Dippel, Darwin Greene, and Matt Stangle want to start their 2021 off with a gator to bring back home. 

How to follow the action: 

Race fans can catch every lap of action in person at Volusia Speedway Park or live on DIRTVision.com

For live up-to-the-minute coverage, all week long follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also catch shots and videos up on Instagram. Schedules, features, race reports, and more are all on SuperDIRTcar.com

For more DIRTcar Nationals coverage follow the event account on Twitter and at DIRTcarNationals.com

ANOTHER ANIMAL: Higher Purses, New Track Surface Await Super DIRTcar Series at Volusia Speedway Park

The Super DIRTcar Series returns to action on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Volusia Speedway Park kicking off five straight days of Big Block Modified action. The Series helps ring in 50 years of prestigious DIRTcar Nationals history with expanded purses and a brand new racing surface.

The Big Blocks start with a four-pack of 30-lap Features worth $4,000-to-win to set up a $5,000-to-win 50-lap Feature finale. The purse has also been expanded to increase the amount to start each Feature to $300 Tuesday through Friday and $350 on Saturday. 

Plus, the World’s Fastest Half-Mile now has a brand new surface, which has been raced on already by the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models and has received high praise from the racers. 

Three-time Big Gator champion and seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard, from Waterloo, NY, knows not to haul south with any assumptions about Volusia from one year to the next. He’s ready to add to his eight-win DIRTcar Nationals victory count. 

“Volusia is certainly another animal compared to most of the tracks we’ve been to,” Sheppard said. “I’ve been going to Volusia for a long time now. It’s tough. It’s a tough place to get figured out from year to year. It seems like you go one year and you think you’ve got a handle on it. You go back the next year and everything changes. I don’t know what it is about the place but there are definitely certain guys that run really well down there and certain guys that seem to struggle. I think I’ve had it a little bit of both ways. Last year was one of the years I struggled. Hopefully, we can turn that around this year.”

Sheppard earned a place in the DIRTcar Nationals Top 50 Drivers list, which included drivers from the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, and Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds.

Despite coming from various racing backgrounds all premier dirt racers want a Big Gator of their own to take home, signifying they won the championship of their division.

“The Big Gators are in my basement with a bunch of my other trophies. I kept a few of the little gators but everyone loves them so I gave a few of them away to fans and crew members,” Sheppard said. “I’ve got a trophy shelf across the top of my shop and there is a Big Gator up there along with one of the stuffed animal gators. Whenever kids come over to my house they are always intrigued by the big bronze gator on the floor.”

That’s one crowded trophy shelf. It never hurts to have a Big Gator to keep the rest in line. 

You can watch Matt Sheppard and the stars of the Super DIRTcar Series at the DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 9-13 at Volusia Speedway Park. Get your tickets at DIRTcarNationals.com

If you can’t make it to the speedway be sure to sign up for DIRTVision and watch all the action live and in HD. Be sure to get the all-new DIRTVision Platinum FAST PASS Annual Subscription which includes all Super DIRTcar Series races plus all NAPA Super DIRT Week events, World of Outlaws, and DIRTcar Racing plus weekly racing from Knoxville, Williams Grove, Jacksonville, and more.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: DIRTcar Nationals Champions Reminisce on Big Gator Trophies

Each February, racers of all disciplines descend upon Volusia Speedway Park to compete for one of the most iconic trophies available: The Big Gator.

Be it World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, World of Outlaws Late Models, Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks, or DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, the goal is the same. Take a stroll through any legend’s trophy room and the DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator remains one of the coolest, most unique awards in all of dirt racing.

As such a special prize, these big guys don’t just go to the basement and collect dust. They’re centerpieces at the core of any room. So, where exactly do some of the Big Gators end up? We talked to six superstars to find out where they are today.

Daryn Pittman’s gator trophy collection.

Nick Hoffman went beyond collecting a few gators or establishing a gator family, he built an entire gator farm. The single-most dominant force in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds division, Hoffman has earned more than 20+ of the iconic Volusia trophies. His seven Big Gators have been enough motivation to build a new office and new home for all of them, with more to come.

“I’ve got so many that they’re spread out all over the place right now,” Hoffman said with a laugh. “I’ve got some in my office, some in my living room, and others at some different sponsors shops. I’m currently building a new office and I’ve got it all planned with shelves on the wall, one for all of my Big Gators.”

Daryn Pittman owns more Big Gators than any other driver in World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series history. His first DIRTcar Nationals championship in 2013 went back to Kasey Kahne Racing, but his two most recent titles in 2015 and 2019 are on constant guard watch at home. Those two Big Gators sit on the floor sandwiched between his 2003 Historical Big One and 2008 Kings Royal trophies, and protect his 2013 World of Outlaws championship award, which is right above them.

“It’s no midget in my dining room, but it’s the best I got,” Pittman kidded. “I always get a kick out of seeing those two Big Gators on the floor, guarding all my other trophies. Some of my most prized possessions and special moments of my career are all there in that room.”

Brandon Sheppard started collecting gators in 2017, and has since become the fiercest hunter in all of the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. His most prolific year came in a record-setting four-night run at the 2019 DIRTcar Nationals. B-Shepp won every single World of Outlaws show and easily scored the overall title, snaring up a family of five gators in just about 96 hours.

Shane Clanton celebrates his Big Gator championship.

“We kept the whole family together actually,” Sheppard joked. “They’re all in the trophy room together at Rocket1 Racing headquarters. We’ve got my two Big Gators in there, plus Josh [Richards] won four of them too. A lot of little gators in that room as well, but the Big Gators are by far the coolest.”

The Georgia Bulldog Shane Clanton has found plenty of success in his days at the DIRTcar Nationals. In fact, he has six gators in total, all sitting in a small shrine in his house; a testament to his love for and success at Volusia.

“I made a gator pond out of them,” Clanton commented. “They’re all sitting in my mancave looking at each other.”

When it comes to the Super DIRTcar Series, Matt Sheppard has been king of the Big Blocks at Volusia of late. His eight feature wins and three Big Gator championships are some of his most memorable moments in the Savannah, NY native’s legendary career.

“I kept a few of the little gators, but everyone loves them so I gave a few away to fans and crew members,” Sheppard noted. “I’ve got a big trophy shelf across the top of my shop and there’s a Big Gator up there along with some of the stuffed animal gators. I’ve got one of the big bronze ones on the floor and the kids are always intrigued when they see that. I remember we always strapped it into the front seat for the ride home to be safe.”

For Paul McMahan, his 2014 DIRTcar Nationals title came via the consistency of a 3.75 average finish with two runner-up results in his CJB Motorsports No. 51. He has yet to score a feature victory at Volusia, so the Big Gator sits in his office as his lone connection to the Barberville, FL half-mile.

The famous gator trophy drivers get for winning at Volusia Speedway Park.

“It’s a really cool tradition they’ve built with all of the gators given out,” McMahan said. “I see mine almost every day, it’s right there in my office at home up on a shelf. It’s really neat to look up and see that big, long golden gator. I’ve got it right next to one of the slot machines I won at Las Vegas. I’d put it up there with my Brad Doty Classic cup and the Williams Grove checkered flags as one of the coolest items I’ve got at home.”

When the 50th DIRTcar Nationals begins next week on Tuesday, February 2, a whole fleet of 30 gators will be waiting for their relocation. In all, 25 feature events will be contested with little gators as the top prize. Only five Big Gators will be given out to the respective point champions of Sprint Cars, Late Models, Big Block Modifieds, and UMP Modifieds, which also awards an additional Big Gator in the Gator Championship race.

Fans can buy tickets and packages for the 50th DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 2-13) by CLICKING HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.