RPW Column: No Matter Past Success, Super DIRT Week Glory In ’22 Would Be Huge For Mat Williamson & Max McLaughlin

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – OSWEGO, NY – Winning at Super DIRT Week’s special.

Defending Big Block Modified Champion Mat Williamson’s aiming for a three-peat in 2022 after winning the last two years the event has been run.

For Max McLaughlin, he’s still chasing his first.

Both drivers have the same passion, and desire, to add the 50th Super DIRT Week trophy to their mantle and the prestige that goes along with it.

Williamson and the Buzz Chew Racing #88 team enter this year’s weeklong spectacle of speed in Oswego, NY trying to accomplish something that only Gary Balough and Stewart Friesen have done before, win three-straight Big Block Modified events at the track. The St. Catherines, ONT driver knows it’ll be a tall order but he’s up for the task.

“It would be cool to do three-in-a-row,” Williamson said. “It’s going to be tough to three-peat. To make win the race three times in-a-row would be pretty special. I know it’ll be tough with the competition but I know our guys are up for it.”

Williamson is grateful for the chance his team has given him, just to be in contention for a victory in the biggest event on the DIRTcar Northeast schedule each year.

“Just to win the Big Block race once was obviously something I’ll take to my grave and proud about until I’m not here anymore,” he said. “I’m proud of my team that they have put us in the position so we could win both years but to do it again in 2022’s going to be tough.”

Heading in the final Super DIRTcar Series race before Super DIRT Week, the Malta Massive Weekend at Albany-Saratoga Speedway this coming Saturday night, Williamson currently sits second in points. He’s 123 markers behind leader Matt Sheppard in the chase for his second Series title with a single tour victory to his resume in 2022, the Summer Nationals at Ransomville Speedway in August.

Even with that win, six top 5’s and nine top 10’s to date, Williamson and company are having a good year, but not the type of season they’d wish to have and hope another Super DIRT Week win can help rectify that.

“We prepare early for DIRT Week,” he said. “However, we don’t have any momentum going right now. We’re kind of down on ourselves so we’ve started to focus on the bigger races in September. Now, we’re getting through them and then we see Super DIRT Week circled on the calendar.”

While he’s still young in age, you could also classify Williamson as a veteran of the sport with as much as he’s accomplished. While he’s run both the Big Block and Small Block events at Oswego for several years, in 2022, he’ll change things up a bit.

“I’m going to run my own Small Block car there this year,” he said. “This whole month, we’ve been focused on getting that car ready so we can maybe put ourselves in contention to win both the Big Block and 358-Modified race. Hopefully, we’ll be in the hunt.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Max McLaughlin, who’s chasing his first career win in the Big Block Championship at Super DIRT Week. The Mooresville, NC driver is young, but hungry, to taste the glory of winning this crown jewel event. He understands just what it would mean to add his name to the list of drivers who have hoisted the trophy in this race.

“It’d be huge,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone wants to win at DIRT Week. It’s such a historical event and we’ve been close before.”

They say you must first lose a race before you can win it and for the driver known as “Mad Max,” he’s done just that.

“We had a shot to win the race in 2019,” he said. “We had a loose wheel on pit road and lost it. That still stings so I’m hungry to try and avenge that.”

Back in 2016, the race moved to its current home at Oswego Speedway after the Mile at the New York State Fairgrounds was taken away. Since that first race at the “Clay Palace,” Max has run well and enjoys the track.

“I really like Oswego,” he said. “I never got to race at the mile but it seems like we’ve always had success at Oswego. We’ve been in contention to win the big race but never been close enough and never there at the end.”

The entire HBR Team, which includes veteran Jimmy Phelps, would like to bring car owner Al Heinke his first Big Block win in the event. Phelps won the final 358-Modified event at Syracuse in 2015 for Heinke but the Big Block win has eluded HBR.

“Hopefully, our luck will change this year,” he said. “Al’s never won a Big Block Super DIRT Week title so it’d be pretty cool to get his first for sure.”

McLaughlin in grateful for everything that Heinke has done for his career to this point and would love to give him that victory.

“Al’s been the backer of almost my entire career,” he said. “Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be here. I drove for Vic Coffey and Carl Meyers the last two years and got my first two Super DIRTcar Series wins. Now, to come back and be able to drive again for Al and win two more series races (Volusia in February [non-point] and Land of Legends in June) has been amazing.”

Heinke gives McLaughlin all the tools he needs to get the job done every time the Cra-Z 8H hits the speedway.

“To be in contention, every time we’re on the track, is a lot of fun,” he said. “Al’s been the sole reason for almost all of my success since I was about 15 year old to this point. Without him, who knows where I’d be.”

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