Column By: MARTY KELLY III / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Friday night at the Orange County Fair Speedway was a tough one for Mat Williamson and his chances to repeat as champion of the Eastern States 200.
However, his chances are not gone. Quite the contrary, actually.
The defending winner of the Big Block Modified event during Eastern States lost his primary Modified, the car owned by Harry and Jeff Behrent, in a horrific crash in the third turn during the 24-lap Will Cagle Champions event. Williamson lost brakes and the car went head on into the third turn boiler plate.
“I’m obviously dejected for my guys,” Williamson said. “They work very hard and build such great equipment. To write a car off like that sucks.”
According to a member of the #3 team, the St. Catherines, ONT driver tried to steer the car into one of the implement tires and spin it out. He wasn’t able to direct the speeding mount as he had hoped, however, and in turn, it slammed into the outside wall. He was uninjured.
Does Williamson know what happened?
“The brake pads fell out of the right rear caliper as I was entering turn three,” he said. “The pedal went to the floor and it was all I could do just to hold on. That’s the first car I ever wrecked like this.”
Unfortunately, the car will not be able to be fixed for the 200 on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean Williamson’s chances are eliminated. Thanks to a gentleman he drove for on a few occasions in 2021, Lebanon Valley Speedway car owner Kevin Starchak, Williamson will be behind the wheel of the backup S&S Asphalt Paving #9 Bicknell as a teammate to primary driver Marc Johnson.
Williamson is locked into Sunday’s 200-lap event. The defending Eastern States 200 winner has a chance to win any race he enters.
As soon as it was determined that the primary would not be able to be run, offers for rides began to come in. One such offer came from the Gypsum Racing team and driver Larry Wight as well as Johnson.
Ultimately, Williamson chose Johnson’s backup mount, the blue, S&S Asphalt #9 car that he’s actually familiar with. In April and early May, he logged quite a few laps behind the wheel of a car for this team, and even garnered a second place finish in the Valley’s lid-lifter.
The Canadian driver has been on a tear as of late, winning the Outlaw 200 at Fulton, Demon 100 and Hurricane Harvey 75 at Brewerton, the Super DIRT Week Kickoff at Weedsport and the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego.
There’s no doubt that in any car, with whatever number is on the door, Williamson will be a contender to win Sunday’s race.