ORO STATION, ON – Popular veteran Gord ‘The Smoke’ Shepherd tied up his second consecutive Sunset Speedway Ltd. Late Model championship last month. The second-generation star finished fourth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings, after tallying 9 wins with 26 top-5 finishes in 28 starts.”I can’t thank J.R Hanley for all the hours and input he puts into this team and car, He is one of the reasons we can countine to put up the results we do.”
With numbers as impressive as those, it’s clear that Shepherd is operating on a level as high as ever, with fans across the province wondering just how his Ridge Road Racing outfit will look to follow up their incredible 2016 and 2017 seasons entering next Summer.
‘’I think it’s downright impossible not to be happy with a season like we had this year,’’ smiles the soft-spoken veteran. ‘’My guys worked so hard on this car all year. I don’t think I could ever thank them enough for what we’ve accomplished over the last two seasons. It’s been an awesome run for us and it wouldn’t have been possible without the time and effort of every single person on this team.”
‘’We’ve really spent the last month just enjoying what we earned in 2017,’’ admits Shepherd. ‘’We haven’t really sat down as a team yet to try and make a plan and figure out what direction we want to head towards next season. So, in a lot of ways, nothing is really off of the table yet. We’re considering all of our options.”
The Pro Late Model division has experienced a resurgence as of late, thanks in part to the burgeoning APC United Late Model Series, and it seems a though Shepherd can’t unload on a raceday without fans and competitors alike asking if ‘The Smoke’ sees himself destined for a Pro Late Model run after his recent rash of Limited Late Model weekly dominance. However, for Shepherd, the decision is not one he takes lightly.
‘’We’ve absolutely seen what the Pro Late Model scene has developed into over the last three years,’’ confirms the multi-time Limited Late Model champion. ‘’It’s something that’s really grabbed our attention. There’s a lot of talent racing Pro Late [Models] now and there are a lot of big races for those cars that we would love to add our name to.”
“The APC [United Late Model] Series has really done things the right way,’’ continues Shepherd. “And, with Jukasa [Motor Speedway] back in the mix it sweetens the pot a little bit. But, to do the Pro Late [Model] deal the right way – the way our team would want to do it – would take a huge commitment. It would be a big investment of money and time. We can’t do it half-serious.”
With two straight championships and feature wins in the double digits since 2016, Shepherd wrestles with the thought of moving away from a proven commodity to chase a Pro Late Model endeavour that could very well never bear comparable results.
‘’It would be tough to walk away from our Limited Late [Model] program right now because we’ve worked so hard to put ourselves in the position we’re in,’’ offers ‘The Smoke’. ‘’I feel like we’re one of most competitive – Limited Late Model teams in the province at the moment. We’ve done a lot of research and made a lot of laps for that to happen. It’s something our team takes a lot of pride in.”
“If we went down that road towards doing more Pro Late [Model] racing, then it would probably mean we would have to step back from the Limited Late Model stuff,’’ adds the veteran. ‘’That’s what we need to sit down as a group and decide on. Because, no matter what division we’re in next season, we’re going to put everything we have into it. It’s a team effort.”
Now, with over 5 months until the first rounds of practice for the 2018 season, the Ridge Road Racing team will confer with one another to see just what division will best fit their operation in the years to come.