WICHITA, KS – June 23, 2023 – A pair of Illinois drivers opened the Wichita Late Model Showdown at 81 Speedway for the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models with a trip to Victory Lane.
Brandon Sheppard and Bobby Pierce each made strong early moves that propelled them to their preliminary Feature wins and a $4,000 prize Friday night.
They also earned the pole of their Heat Races on Saturday, as they aim for $30,000 and a strong start to the World of Outlaws Heartland Speedweek.
FEATURE 1: Brandon Sheppard took advantage of a miscue by Kyle Bronson to keep his undefeated streak alive in World of Outlaws competition at 81 Speedway.
Bronson led the first six laps, pounding the cushion and pulling away from the field until his fortune changed on Lap 7.
The Brandon, FL driver got too high entering Turn 4, sending him up the racetrack and into the wall.
Sheppard rushed past him on the bottom, taking the lead as they exited the corner and held on to win Friday’s first preliminary Feature.
The New Berlin, IL driver understood the importance of finishing up front and what it meant for his chances on Saturday.
“We knew we needed to be out front tonight because it sets us up for tomorrow night for the big money,” Sheppard said. “We had a really good car tonight. We didn’t change a lot. It was a brand-new Longhorn Chassis, so hats off to them guys who build a really great race car. It’s a team effort, and it means a lot to be out here doing what we love.”
Ryan Gustin crossed the line second, taking the runner-up spot from Bronson on a Lap 13 restart.
The “Reaper” dove to the bottom from the outside starting spot in Turn 1, clearing the #40B’s nose as they exited the corner.
Gustin closed the gap on Sheppard but didn’t have enough to catch him.
“I tried to cut to the bottom, thinking maybe I could get a good run and maybe get a slider on him,” Gustin said. “It was right around the cushion, which was fun and exciting. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to run a cushion like that. [Taylon Center] changed some things on the race car to where I can do that again.”
Bronson fell to third, unable to challenge the top two. He said he knew one turn was enough to cost him the $4,000 prize.
“I just kind of missed my marks twice in one lap, and that gave the race away,” Bronson said. “Congratulations to Brandon. He did everything right. And Gustin ran second. Then I got back there and got quarter-paneled and banged around a little bit. We got to get up on the wheel tomorrow and throw some quarter-panels back.”
Brian Shirley crossed the line fourth, while Series points leader Chris Madden finished fifth.
FEATURE 2: Bobby Pierce has navigated a course to Victory Lane at 81 Speedway before, but his journey to do so again Friday night came with new adversities.
Tanner English drove around him on the outside to lead Lap 1, but that’s when the Oakwood, IL, moved to the bottom, giving him momentum.
Pierce only needed six laps to regain the lead, as he passed English on the bottom in Turn 4 on Lap 7.
The “Smooth Operator” looked like he would cruise to the win until Germfree Labs Rookie of the Year contender Nick Hoffman found the outside.
Hoffman picked off cars one by one on the top, moving into second with 10 laps to go and closed on Pierce in traffic.
However, his charge was slowed by a late race caution for Jacob Magee, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
From there, Pierce held on for the final two laps to earn the $4,000 win in the second preliminary Feature.
Pierce said he was comfortable running the bottom despite losing the lead on the first lap.
“It felt really good down there,” Pierce said. “I was pretty chill and content running down there. But then Hoffman started pressuring us, and the track started really moving around to the bottom, middle, and top.
“It got really good. It was a really good racetrack there. And I’m excited for tomorrow.”
English snuck by Hoffman on the race’s final restart to climb back to second. The Benton, KY driver said he needed that caution to move up another position on the podium.
“The car felt really good,” English said. “But I had a bit of a carburetor stumble, and that was killing me. Especially when I was slowing down really bad there in the middle of the race, I’d let off, and it would fall on its face.
“I don’t think I really had anything for Nick or Bobby until that restart happened. I just sent it in a little harder than I had been, and it stuck.”
Hoffman settled for third, ultimately losing second to English on Lap 24.
“My give-a-shit level went to nothing, and my meter got pegged out,” Hoffman said. “I was getting frustrated racing with some of them guys who were sweeping the whole racetrack, and I fell back to probably sixth or seventh. I just wasn’t very good, so I just got pissed off and started hammering the top and made a lot of speed.
“Then I found that middle in [Turns] 3 and 4 and made a lot of gains there. And get back by Tanner for a second.” After that, I was trying to run Bobby down, and I made gains, but he was on a harder tire than me.”
Defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. finished fourth, and Cade Dillard rounded out the top five.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models return to 81 Speedway for night two of the Wichita Late Model Showdown. Drivers will battle for $30,000 in a 60-lap finale—the highest paying Feature of World of Outlaws Heartland Speedweek.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.
CASE Construction Equipment Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 2. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 3. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 4. 3S-Brian Shirley; 5. 44-Chris Madden; 6. 174-Ethan Dotson; 7. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 8. 54-David Breazeale; 9. 60-Kip Hughes; 10. 04-Tad Pospisil; 11. 99-Jesse Sobbing; 12. B1-Brent Larson; 13. B1X-Dustin Bolster; 14. 76-Blair Nothdurft; 15. 19M-Colby Moore; 16. 18-Chase Junghans; 17. 47-Chris Kratzer; 18. 229-Damian Patocka; 19. 18B-Bob Bills
CASE Construction Equipment Feature 2 (25 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce; 2. 96V-Tanner English; 3. 9-Nick Hoffman; 4. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 5. 97-Cade Dillard; 6. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 7. 28S-Dustin Sorensen; 8. 25-Shane Clanton; 9. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck; 10. 7D-Dusty Leonard; 11. X-Jacob Magee; 12. 30-Todd Cooney; 13. 92S-Delbert Smith; 14. 12-Scott Crigler; 15. 14W-Dustin Walker; 16. 112-Tyler Smith; 17. 15B-Braxton Berry; 18. 10-TeeJay Janousek; 19. (DNS) 27-Rayce McCord