Mat Williamson Cashes In During Albany-Saratoga’s Fall Foliage 358-Modified 50

Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – They don’t call him “Money Mat” for nothing.

Mat Williamson, who has gained a reputation for running his best in the high-paying late-season races, enhanced that image Friday night with a wildly entertaining victory in the 50-lap “Fall Foliage” Classic for 358-Modifieds that highlighted Day 1 of Malta Massive Weekend at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

The “Fall Foliage” Classic was originally scheduled to pay $4,000 to the winner, but Dirt Track Digest TV kicked in an extra $500, and at the last minute Friday night, Bart Derocha of Bart Contracting added another $500 to the pot, allowing Williamson to walk off with a nice $5,000 payday.

Although Williamson started sixth in the 26-car field, he really wasn’t a factor until the second half of the race. But once he got going, there was no stopping him.

Ronnie Davis III and Rocky Warner, making his first appearance of the season at Malta in the Jason Simmons ride, started on the front row and waged an early battle, with Warner grabbing the lead coming out of the fourth turn on lap nine.

But they had company, as Hall of Famer Pat Ward started third in the Gypsum Express-sponsored modified and ducked inside Davis coming out of the second turn to take over second on lap 12.

A restart on lap 15 bunched the field and when racing went back to green, Ward charged past Warner coming out of the second turn to grab the lead.

Warner hung right on Ward’s rear bumper, but he also had to worry about Marc Johnson, who was now running third.

Johnson squeezed inside Warner coming out of the fourth turn on lap 21 to take over second, and three laps later, he had the lead, as Ward made contact with a slower car as he was tried to weave his way through traffic. When Ward had to check up in the front straightaway to keep his car under control, Johnson capitalized and moved to the front.

While all the attention was focused on the leaders, no one was really paying attention to Williamson, who took over the No. 2 spot on lap 26. Both he and Johnson were easily cutting through lapped cars, with Williamson running the cushion and Johnson down low.

Williamson kept inching closer to the leader, and seemed ready to pounce on lap 40, just as Ronnie Johnson slowed and brought out the caution.

On the restart, Williamson was able to find good bite on the top and took the lead away from Marc Johnson to complete lap 40, and now, Mike Mahaney joined the battle. Mahaney and Johnson ran side-by-side and Mahaney finally took over second with five laps to go.

And he wasn’t done yet. He got the nose of the George Huttig-owned car in front of Williamson in the second turn with three to go, but Williamson charged down the backstretch, regained the advantage when he took the two to go sign from starter Rich Peterson and beat Mahaney to the checkered flag by 0.383 seconds.

Johnson, Ward and 2021 modified champion Anthony Perrego completed the top five.

“Mike ran me clean and we had a great race at the end,” said Williamson after the race. “I think he would have had me if he hadn’t slipped in one and two.”

That’s not the way Mahaney saw it.

“The car felt good,” Mahaney said after taking with Huttig in the pits. “If I had to guess, Matt was probably saving something when he was leading, and when he saw me, he went back to what he had been doing.”

Williamson had been switching lanes late in the race, running low in turns one and two and then going back to the top in three and four.

“The bottom was faster, but I had passed Marc going around the top and when you’re passing cars around the top and you go back to the bottom, it’s usually not smart,” Williamson said. “But when I got back in front of Mike, I went back to the bottom. If he was going to get by me, he was going to have to go around the outside.”

Although Warner slipped to eighth, he did win the Elocin Farms 358 Dash for Cash, which was worth $500.

FALL FOLIAGE 358 CLASSIC (40 laps): MAT WILLIAMSON, Mike Mahaney, Marc Johnson, Pat Ward, Anthony Perrego, Jessey Mueller, Demetrios Drellos, Rocky Warner, Erick Rudolph, Adam Pierson, Max McLaughlin, Jason Herrington Ronnie Davis III, Chris Stevens, Ronnie Johnson, Ryan McCartney, Olden Dwyer, CG Morey, Ryan Larkin, Brian Peterson, Davis Boisclair, Ryan Darcy, Todd Morey, Alissa Cody, Brandon Daley, Matt Depew

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