RPW Column: Mat Williamson Closed Two Seconds In Four Laps To Grab DIRTcar Nationals Gold Thursday
Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BARBERSVILLE, FL – How the hell did he do that?
That’s what a lot of fans at Volusia Speedway Park were asking after Mat Williamson made up over two seconds on leader Demetrios Drellos over the final handful of laps during Thursday night’s Super DIRTcar Series feature.
He then was able to pass the leader for the top spot on the final circuit as the two drivers powered off the second corner to go on and take night two of the 2023 DIRTcar Nationals.
“I honestly don’t know,” Williamson said with a laugh afterwards. “That’s a good question.”
The Buzz Chew Racing #88 seemed to come to life late in the going of the 30-lap Modified feature and Williamson drove like a man possessed as he hunted down the leader.
“We’ve been fighting a tight condition ever since we’ve been down here,” he said. “I just had to adapt my driving style to make it better and make our car turn. Keep the right front in the brown, get the right rear out from underneath me but not slide the right rear to the cushion. It was tough.”
After finding a mechanical problem with their primary car after the first night, the team, led by Ron “Spot” Ste-Marie, unloaded the back-up Bicknell for Thursday’s action and proved that this car was just as good as the first piece.
Williamson had to search around the tricky Volusia Speedway Park surface if he wanted any chance of catching Drellos. As soon as he was able to find the correct line, the #88 really started to make up ground.
“The middle got crumbed up,” he said. “The guys were running the bottom and the top. Nobody was going through the middle so all that loose stuff was moisture off tires that’s just sitting on the track. That made the middle of the race track brown. You just had to keep the right front underneath you when you were there.”
However, it was the discipline of Williamson’s driving style to figure out those conditions that placed him in the right position to take home another small gator.
“You just had to keep the right front tire out underneath you when you were there,” he said. “You couldn’t bend the car sliding through the crumbs and expect it to have grip. It’s one of those things where I seem to be better at doing that, driving through the middle and keeping the car square rather than pounding off the cushion. However, we had to do a little bit of both tonight.”
Can Williamson and the team go back-to-back on Friday? Did they learn anything on night two that can help them get back to victory lane?
“We’re going to race after the Late Models tomorrow (Friday),” he said. “It’s going to be one of those deals where the track might be pretty similar to what it was like tonight, I think.”
Williamson was quick to give credit to the DIRTcar and Volusia track crew for their hard work in giving teams a nice surface.
“The track crew did a great job because last night (Wednesday) wasn’t as good as we’ve seen down here at Volusia,” he said. “It was tough to pass. The winner (Max McLaughlin) came from the front row, not that he didn’t have an amazing car. I’m not taking anything away from him. It’s tough to win these races no matter where you start but you didn’t see a guy like Larry (Wight) going 22nd to fourth like you did tonight.”
It was that type of track which Williamson stated helped to put on an amazing show.
“Tonight just showed that you could run all over and pass cars,” he said. “There was two last-lap passes to win both features (Bobby Pierce passed Brandon Overton to win the WoO Late Model main) so that should tell you everything you need to know about the track.”
For Williamson, what type of mindset does it take as driver to be able to run all over the track, especially way up high like many were doing on Thursday night, very nearly putting the race car in the fence, just to be successful?
“It’s funny because I’m not really a driver who can go up and beat the wall,” he said. “When we won at Charlotte last November, we drove around Max on the outside like something I don’t usually do. I’ll usually bide my time, keep the middle rolling and keep the car square underneath me, but lately, we’ve had to adapt.”
“It seems like lately, I’m getting a set of nuts on me where I’m not afraid to get out there,” he said. “Georgetown, we had to run the cushion. Charlotte, we had to run the cushion and we had to do it here. My guys always tell me, don’t worry about wrecking the car but I’ve always been one who only came to the track with one car. If you wreck early, you’re going home. I never had that until I started racing for Buzz and Jeff (Behrent).”
Williamson’s desire to win has gotten even stronger these days.
“I guess I’m getting hungrier as I get older,” he said. “We went through a dry spell during the middle of last season where we didn’t win a lot of races. Now, I want them a hell of a lot more you can’t pass up opportunities where you have a car that you think can probably get everything out of.”