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HILLSBORO, Texas — In the ultra-competitive world of Super Late Model racing, it takes top-notch equipment, a laser-sharp focus behind the wheel, and the resources to keep up with an ever-changing technology that evolves not only from year-to-year, but sometimes even within a single season. 

For 43-year-old driver Joe Sheddan, Late Model racing suits his style. The former Dwarf car standout moved into the big cars in 2020, and has been making great strides these past few seasons. This year, he’ll compete on the American Crate Late Model Series (ACLMS), and run a few Open Motor races.

“I just had a successful test session last week, in fact,” he explained. “We have a new Longhorn chassis, and wanted to shake it down. It was feeling good on one end of the track, but not so good on the other. But I really think it’s going to come together; this car seems to fit my driving style better.   

“So I’m looking for some pretty big things in 2024. You know, we don’t have a whole lot of experience in this division, but we’ve had some pretty good runs. We’re hoping to continue that trend starting with the new season opener on April 26. This is going to be a fun, competitive and exciting tour in 2024.” 

Sheddan’s indoctrination into Late Model racing brought a big learning curve. As in, Mt. Everest steep.

“I had never, ever, driven a Late Model in my life until I climbed into a Rocket XR1 in August of 2020,” he explained. “I had one evening of practice, then I raced at Big O Speedway and won the race. Then my car owner said, ‘Hey, let’s go to Bristol.’ 

“So for just my third time ever to sit in a Late Model, we were in Bristol, Tennessee. We ran our first Heat, then they inverted the finish for the second Heat on Day 2. We ended up winning our Heat race and making the A Main. We got wrecked and didn’t finish, but just making that race was huge for us.” 

After his mind-blowing experience at Bristol, Sheddan returned to Texas for more Late Model action. 

“The car we took down there is actually sitting here in the shop right now,” he added. “It’s pretty much stripped down to the bare frame, but it still has the Bristol sticker on it. Then we bought a 2021 Rocket, and made our Crate Late Model debut with that car. We had some really good luck with that piece. 

“We struggled in the dry-slick conditions, but we slowly got batter and better. Morgan Bagley is the whole reason we’re even on the Late Model map. He’s a really good friend of mine, and he’s done a lot to  make my car go forward. He got me pointed in the right direction. It’s been a huge help to us.” 

Once he settled into Crate racing, things really started to come together for Sheddan’s program. 

“We ended up finishing second for our first full season of Crate Late Model racing, which I felt was pretty good. It boosted our confidence, so we decided to go Comp Cams Super Dirt Series racing the next year. We knew it was going to be a limited schedule, we got involved late and had some issues. 

“We had some motor problems, then we had some car issues. For a while, we were just waiting on parts. Getting caught up in the supply-chain delays brought on by the COVID deal was a challenge. So we ran a very short schedule with them, and I think we qualified for seven of the nine races we hit.”

Ask anybody who has attempted to compete on the Comp Cams series, and they’ll tell you that’s good.   

“I think we had an 11th-place finish at Cherokee, and to have never been in a Super Late Model in my life, I kind of got thrown into the fire. My first opportunity in one came at Kennedale; I ran some Hot Laps in one during the middle of the day, and the track was trashed. 

“We couldn’t put any power down that time, so my first time to really stand on the gas under Green Flag conditions was at Boothill Speedway. That was the first time I felt the full pull of an open motor, and I couldn’t believe the sensation. There’s really nothing else quite like it in short track racing.” 

For no more seat time in a Late Model than he’s had overall, Sheddan has done a stroke of business. 

“People ask me all the time how it is that I haven’t done this very long yet have enjoyed some success,” he said. “I’m thinking to myself, this is not successful, this is not fun. I mean, we’re making shows, yes, but we’re running in 12th, 15th, or even further back, and that just isn’t anywhere close to fun. 

“But in reality, you look at the guys running consistently in the top 10, and they’ve all been doing this for 10, 15, or even 20 years. Some of them have fathers who have been racing at that level for years, and I do not. So I get a little frustrated not being more competitive, but it takes time to learn here.”

Indeed it does, sir. This Late Model world bears little resemblance to your former life in Dwarfs. Now in his 27th year of racing, he’s paid his dues before any of the current opportunities came calling. 

“I started out back in 1997 running Dwarf cars. I won 200 features between Dwarfs and Mod Lites, eight championships and just about everything under the sun in that type of car,” he explained. “So when I struggle here in these big cars, it hurts. But now I realize, nobody wins all the time in Late Models. It’s just that competitive.” 

Along with that killer new Longhorn chassis and a great natural feel for a Late Model, Sheddan also has several key people and partners in his corner who keep it all moving forward. 

“First and foremost, I have to thank my good friend and car owner, Loui Yount, for having enough faith in me to go Late Model racing,” he said. “I knew nothing about these cars. He told me we would go through the learning curve together. This Late model effort would not be possible without him.  

“I also need to thank All Plumbing, JSE Excavation; my Dad, Joe Sheddan Sr.; Heard Enterprises, Lazy R, Morgan Bagley at MoBags Suspension and Technology; NAPA of Hillsboro, Livestock Limo, Dirt Defender, Yount Motorsports and Tufts Farms. I appreciate their support, and are proud to have them.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass