GREENWOOD, Neb. — Brandon Sheppard led the final 14 laps to win Saturday night’s 10th annual Imperial Tile Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway.
Sheppard passed race leader Chad Simpson on the 88th lap and pulled away to take his first career win in the crown jewel event, pocketing $53,000 for the Rocket House Car Team in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned race.
Ricky Thornton Jr. got by Simpson in the closing laps to take the $20,000 second place prize. Simpson finished third, earning $10,000. Tim McCreadie was fourth with Ricky Weiss in fifth.
Sheppard dedicated his win to the family of Tim Hitt, who passed away on Friday. Hitt was the original house car driver for Rocket Chassis in the early 1990s.
“I had it in the back of my mind that I was going to wait as long as I could to get to the top of the track. I knew I was abusing my equipment up there. I hit the wall a few times off of two. It was a crazy race,” said the 27-year-old Illinois native.
Point leader Jimmy Owens led the first 43 laps of the race until he began having problems under the hood of his car and Tyler Erb took over the top spot. Erb started to pull away from the field as the caution for Owens came out with 64 laps scored. Owens entered the hot pit area and retired from the event. He was credited with a 23rd place finish.
Simpson grabbed the point from Erb on the restart and then held off Sheppard until the reigning Dirt Track World Championship winner became the fourth different leader of the race. Sheppard took the lead on lap 88 and held it to the finish.
Thornton grabbed the runner-up finish in his debut weekend at the Nebraska track.
“Congrats to Brandon on the win. Thanks to Todd and Vickie Burns for giving me a chance to drive their car.”
Simpson came home third.
“The car was really, really good mid-race. I could roll through the middle good with my momentum,” he said. “The guys told me under caution to keep rolling the middle, my laps times were really good. My crew guys were telling me to use top when I was coming down the frontstretch once. As soon as I came off of turn two Brandon went by me on the topside and I knew it was over.”
Brandon Sheppard, Ricky Thornton Jr., Chad Simpson, Tim McCreadie, Ricky Weiss, Josh Richards, Tyler Erb, Jonathan Davenport, Chris Ferguson, Tanner English, Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer Jr., Kyle Strickler, Shanon Buckingham, Shane Clanton, Tyler Bruening, Devin Moran, Stormy Scott, Justin Zeitner, Ben Schaller, Kyle Bronson, Colton Horner, Jimmy Owens, Mason Zeigler, Bobby Pierce, Tad Pospisill, Jake Neal, Andrew Kosiski, Bill Leighton, Earl Pearson Jr., Chase Junghans.