ORO STATION, ON – Gord Shepherd appeared every bit a reigning track champion in Sunset Speedway’s 2017 season opener. ‘The Smoke’ hovered around the top of the speed charts in practice, time trialed strong and finished the night with a win and a runner-up in double feature competition.
In short, it was a near perfect outing for ‘The Smoke’ and his Ridge Road Racing squad.
“You’re always going to be happy to start a season with a win,” shrugs the defending champion with a smile. “But I’m more concerned with what comes next. We’ve been doing
“We walked out of opening night feeling like we accomplished what we set out to do,” explained Shepherd from the team’s Oro-Station, ON shop on Sunday.
“When you’re racing for a championship, you can’t have too many bad nights and you definitely can’t have a weak start. You have to get every point. You have to do everything you can not to leave anything on the table”
The multi-time Barrie Speedway champion captured his first Sunset Speedway title in 2016, and has dedicated the 2017 season to becoming the first back-to-back Late Model champion since the speedway joined the NASCAR banner.
“A win and a second sets the tone for where we know we need to be this season. That’s the pace that we want to keep all season. We know if we can keep these kind of numbers rolling, it’s going to be difficult for these other teams to match us”
“We’re just looking ahead at what’s coming next,” adds Shepherd. “Building on this momentum is what next week is going to be all about. We just need to keep moving forward – because the moment you start getting comfortable in this division is when guys start leaving you behind”
Shepherd traded positions back and forth all evening long with fellow fan favourite Taylor Holdaway – a microcosm of their lauded 2016 championship battle that saw Shepherd defeat Holdaway by the narrowest of margins on the final night of the season.
“The parity here has never surprised me – guys like Taylor [Holdaway] are always going to make you work for it,” says the veteran.
“Battles like that are why our team is here. It’s why all these teams are here. We know every single time we unload at Sunset that we’re going to have to go to war for every spot – and that’s exactly what we’re prepared to do all season.”