Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., will end his successful six-year career as a Rocket Chassis in-house driver at the end of the 2022 season, leaving the Shinnston, W.Va-based team on friendly terms to return full-time to his family-owned Dirt Late Model operation.
In turn, Rocket house car owner Mark Richards was quick to announce that his iconic blue No. 1 will be driven in 2023 by Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Indiana, who will replace Sheppard with his current owner’s blessing. of Double Down Motorsports, Roger Sellers. .
Sheppard, 29, said he felt leaving the house car was the right move to be closer to his family, including his wife Mikala and their three children, the youngest, Baylor, born last month, and go to run with his father, Steve Sheppard Jr. and his grandfather, Steve Sheppard Sr.
“I can never say enough to Mark how much I appreciate everything he has done for me and taught me,” said Sheppard, who had brief stints in the house car in 2012 and 2014 before taking over for Mark’s son Josh. on a full-time basis in 2017. “He blew up my sports career into what it is, for which I can never thank him enough.
“At the end of the day, it is a decision that I have made for myself. It’s time for me to come home and for my family to get more involved. There will be some growing pains and there will be a lot of work to do over the winter to get ready, but I have everything I need to race for the most part.”
Sheppard, who plans to hire full-time crew members and campaign his family’s Pro Power Engine-equipped No. b5 Rocket cars on a national tour in 2023, has enjoyed spectacular success with Richards’ team. His current tenure includes four World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series championships, a multitude of major wins and more than $3.5 million in earnings, and he continues to contend for this year’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title.
“I hate to see Brandon go because he is a great friend and a great asset to the Rocket1 Racing legacy, but I also understand that he now has a family and wants to spend more time with them,” Richards said in a press release. “He’s grown a lot during his time here and I think his world. I’m going to miss having him as a part of the team, but he’s going to go ahead and do well and we wish him the best with his family team.”
A rising star who turns 22 on September 5, Richard contacted O’Neal and, after discussing the situation with Sellers, a deal was struck for the multiple-time crown jewel winner and Lucas Oil Series regular will fill the vacant in-house car. place.
“As a racer, this is the kind of opportunity you dream of: driving for the best team in Dirt Late Model racing,” said O’Neal, who will start testing with the home car team this month in preparation for the 23rd. “I’m a little bit surprised… and to have Roger’s full support on this move is just amazing. Without Roger and what he has done for me (in the last two seasons) I would not have this opportunity”.
“I think the world of Hudson and his entire family and I will definitely miss him with our team, but I couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Sellers, who will reveal future plans for his race team shortly. . future. “He has worked hard and the Rocket1 Racing ride is the pinnacle of our sport. I want it to be known that Rocket1 Racing did not steal Hudson from our team. Mark called me first to discuss, and we both agreed that this was the best opportunity for him to progress in his career.”