APD Member Spotlight Blog (August): Nick Shepherd


King of the Small Checks
I think the general consensus in racing is that unless you’re in the final round, the payout is going to be insufficient. Nonetheless, most race tracks pay to at least the semis, some to the final eight cars and some to the final 16 cars.
When you get a check from the semis, quarters or eights, your best bet for recognition is to make a statement like “I was in the money” and leave out how much money you actually received. Out here on the left coast, those checks are usually $50-$200 so they aren’t exactly worth bragging about.
Over this past month, I’ve become a master of obtaining these checks. Always the little checks, never the big ones. I’ve also become a master of losing right before any check.
July 21st Woodburn Dragstrip
I entered my normal category, non-electronics (ie Pro bracket) and while I was getting ready for my first time run I noticed that they were having the diesel pickup drags this day also. I watched about ½ of the field make the first time run and decided that I had to enter my 1995 Dodge diesel. 
When I found out the entry fee was $80 for the diesel trucks the cheapskate in me hesitated. Fortunately, Randy McCool and Tom Avgerakis talked me into it and even paid ½ the entry for ½ of the potential winnings. 
Then I grabbed my co-pilot Ryan Schaefer. Turns out we can have passengers in this class and I figured two eyes on the finish line would be ideal.
The field appeared to be fast diesels. All of them were just ¾ or 1 ton trucks, and while they all weighed 7,000+ lbs, most were faster than 14 seconds with many running deep into the 12s.
On my first time run I deep staged, left on bottom yellow and my 1995 Dodge diesel, 12 valve with a factory 160 horsepower and NO modifications ran a blistering 21.63 @ 60mph in the quarter mile. My reaction time was also stellar at .225 green.
A new plan was needed.
The second time run, I staged shallow and was planning to leave on the second yellow. However, when the tree came down it didn’t register in my brain and I left on the last yellow. Shallow staging proved to make the truck faster. 20.93 @ 61mph.
And now we’re into eliminations….I’ve got the slowest truck by at least 5 seconds, no idea on its repeatability and no idea if I can cut a light. 
First round we have a 12 second diesel. I have no idea if my truck can repeat so we dial it up 2 tenths to 21.13. We take off and my co-pilot Ryan predicts we were better than .100 on the tree, therefore we assume we’ve got the better light (sad, but that’s what we figured based on watching time runs). Ryan then proceeds to turn completely around in the passenger seat and stare out the back window. In the meantime we have about 20 seconds to have a full blown conversation about our estimated lights and our estimated dump spot. Fortunately, our competitor blew the tires off and we were able to slow to way over and take the win. Our .060 something light was just too much for our competitor who was about .400 on the tree.
Second round, we had a 16 second diesel. When we took off we were not as stellar and we predicted we were between .100 and .200 on the tree (actual was .147). As we approached the stripe, the decision wasn’t as easy as we knew we had to kill .20 to maybe run dead on, yet we were in a machine that we figured would have a .15 ET swing anyway. As we approaching the finish line, Ryan was still looking out the back window and I was watching intently in my huge towing mirror. I’m covering the brake pedal with my left foot as Ryan begins yelling “hold it, hold it, that’s it, kill, kill, kill” as I bury my foot into the brake pedal. Somehow we drove the stripe to .01 in front.
That round was one of the most fun I’ve ever had.
Third round we decided we that we could probably push the tree on the second yellow and be fine. We were almost right. Unfortunately, I was .001 red. 
That was one round before the payout started. (just wait, this will become a theme)
This truck is a SLUG.
In Pro bracket that day I ended the day early in Round 3. I was .025 take a sloppy .02 for the loss. I can take a .01 stripe in my truck, but not in a real race car….
Fortunately, my mom had a much better day and won Super Pro.
Woodburn Night of Fire
So, now we move on to my favorite races of the year. It starts with Woodburn who hosts a 3 day “Night of Fire” bracket race. It’s only in its second year, but it attracts a lot of excellent racers and hosts good payouts and daily buybacks.
The Pro bracket field was absolutely stacked and had enough cars to host an 8 round race.
Friday starts rolling pretty well, I get through the first four rounds and find myself with a .071 lamp in the fifth round. I’m done. One more round would have gotten me in the money.
Then I buy into a second gambler they have for losers. I make it to the final four cars before losing and score $50
I manage to go .006 red third round. 
Then I buy into their ultimate gambler. It’s a $100 to enter winner take all purse. I drove pretty well getting around Paul Comeau and my good friend Steve Kelly only to lose with four cars left. At four cars we make a split deal and I earn a mere $100
An .046 lamp in Round 3 and I’m on the trailer. I really struggled on the tree this weekend.
Boise Nightfire
Boise’s Firebird Raceway hosts a race they call the Nightfire. It’s the best race anywhere near me and the best race of the year by a long shot. 
Nightfire is a four day bracket marathon. There are individual prizes each day and then there is an overall points championship for the drivers earning the most points over the four day event.
The conditions are a little brutal. The temperature is hot and the completion is really tough. I like to say that every hero within 800 miles shows up. On the east coast a $5k to win race is relatively commonplace and there are a multitude of options for big buck bracket racing back east. Imagine if the east coast just had one multi day, big buck bracket race?  Well, that’s nearly what happens out here and thus there is an all star line up of good racers at the Nightfire.
As someone in our camp seems to break something every year, I showed up prepared with every spare part I had in the back of my pickup.
Consistent with earlier in the month, I was able to finish in a few late rounds, just shy of the money.
I manage my way through three rounds and in the fourth round we’re paired on a ladder. Unfortunately, I drew my friend Steve Kelly. I was .030 to his .015 r/t. We were both holding a few hundredths of ET and we both spot drop. He drops to dead on 4, I drop to dead on 8. I lose one round shy of any money.
Friday I do a spectacular job of giving the finish line back in the second round. It’s not all bad though because almost everyone from the Oregon/Washington area is out too so we all go sit in the grass to watch the remainder of the racing. Two beers later, it seems like it’s a good idea to play football with all of the kids. That ends in a giant fat lip which is still healing…
I manage to luck my way through a couple of really tough rounds and find myself on the ladder fourth round with Boise’s reigning track champion. He has a low 9 second Vega which is really fast for my Nova which is running 10.90s in the 7,000 ft of corrected altitude. While he didn’t remember I made a bad finish line decision to him in 2010 in round three of the Race of Champions. Its funny how you almost never remember the rounds you win, but the ones you lose often burn a hole in your memory. Fortunately, I was able to score a win against him using a teen light and taking .01 at the finish for the win. 
So now I’m into 5th round and have a bye into the final if I can get it done. Unfortunately, I manage a .007 red light and I’m done. I win a mere $100. 
I put .008 of delay into the car and still manage to go .006 red on Sunday morning in round 1. I think I missed the significant weather change and it’s affect on my r/t. While we had been racing in 6,000-7,000 of altitude, Sunday the weather came down to about 3,600 of altitude.
I bought back into the loser bracket, but first round I face a competitor with a .012 package and I’m done early twice in one day. 
I haven’t confirmed this yet, but I believe that in four years of attending this race I have failed to ever win a round on Sunday.
I finished the weekend 9th overall in points. I didn’t get an official car count, but I believe there were approximately 90 pro cars.
My friend Ryan Schaefer did finish 1st overall in Nightfire’s Heavy bracket and win his first Wally! Heavy bracket is like Sportsman with an ET break of 11.50 to 14.99.
Woodburn Points – August 18th
I managed to go dead late fourth round and win a mere $50.
This was also our final points race of the season and over 15 points earning opportunities I was able to finish as Pro track champion for the third year in a row! I am extremely proud of that accomplishment. 
My points finishes by year are below:
2005 – 22nd (first year trying for points)
2006 – 8th
2007 – 2nd
2008 – didn’t compete the entire season and lost early nearly every round trying to learn the finish line
2009 – 3rd (joined This is Bracket Racing.com mid season)
2010 – 1st
2011 – 1st
2012 – 1st
Unfortunately, this month stats are not ready and I’m behind. I can already predict that with consistent finishes just shy of the money is keeping the win ratio at around 73%.   I also know that almost every loss this month is due to me either having a late light or a red light. For some reason I really struggled on the tree and it started to get in my head.
I was consistently mediocre all month. I drove well in some rounds and got past some tough rounds. I also failed to go all the way in 13 attempts. Fortunately, my confidence is still high and I’m just a little annoyed at myself. Fortunately, the next race I’ll be blogging about will be the ET Finals, so hopefully my luck (or rather my skills) will turn for the better.

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