Hard-Fought Battle Nets Mat Williamson Super DIRTcar Series Opener Win At Bridgeport Sunday
Story By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – SWEDESBORO, NJ – Having won four of the last six Super DIRTcar Series races, Mat Williamson rode that wave of momentum into a victorious start to the 2023 championship season with the Series.
The 2019 Super DIRTcar Series champion has already claimed a crown in his journey to a second Series title, winning the King of Big Blocks at Bridgeport Motorsports Park Sunday night. However, walking away with the $7,500 prize at the end of the 75-lap was not an easy task.
“The track was challenging,” Williamson said. “The lapped cars were a little challenging. But there was really only one place you wanted to be, and that was a smooth line and there was only one of them through each corner.”
When the Feature commenced, sophomore full-timer Darren Smith – who set a new track record during Low-E Insulation Qualifying – pulled ahead with the lead. Williamson went from third tosecond on Lap 2 when defending Series champion Matt Sheppard suffered a flat right rear tire coming off Turn 3, forcing him to enter the infield.
A battle then ensued between Williamson and Smith after the St. Catharines, ON driver chipped away at Smith’s sizeable lead, briefly moving into the top spot on Lap 35 before Smith regained control. However, the Buzz Chew Racing driver kept Smith in sight. That persistence paid off around Lap 60 as Smith’s car began to fade.
Trying to not get fatigued himself, Williamson pounced on his opportunity to pass Smith for the lead on Lap 63 and then ran away with it to claim his fifth Series win in seven races. Williamson won twice during the 2022 season finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and then won two more in February during the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals – also claiming his first Big Gator championship.
Behind Williamson, New Jersey native Matthew Stangle attempted to make the final laps entertaining, making a late race charge on Williamson. As Williamson passed Smith for the lead, Stangle followed him through and went by Smith for second. He tried to close the gap to Williamson but was not as efficient at perfecting his line.
“The whole Feature we were good,” Stangle said. “I feel like we just couldn’t put together some good laps at the end of the race. Every time I would get a good run in one corner, I would lose it in the next. I would either lose position on the leader or I would lose a couple spots. Those last five laps were probably my better laps, but one or two corners ruined my chance.”
His hard-fought efforts fell short in the end, having to settle for second.
Billy Pauch Jr. led an astounding charge from 22nd to 3rd to round out the night’s podium finishers. Mike Gular finished fourth, and Darren Smith finished fifth. Sheppard ended the night in seventh place.
Williamson walked away as a true king, sitting atop the Super DIRTcar Series points standings to kick off the 2023 season.
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks return to Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY on Sunday, May 7.
RESULTS (75 Laps)
1. 88-Mat Williamson; 2. 6S-Matthew Stangle; 3. 15P-Billy Pauch Jr; 4. 2A-Mike Gular; 5. 12S-Darren Smith; 6. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 7. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 8. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 9. 5H-Chris Hile; 10. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 11. 30-HJ Bunting; 12. 215-Adam Pierson; 13. 54-Steve Bernard; 14. 2L-Jack Lehner; 15. 4-Anthony Perrego; 16. 7D-Tyler Dippel; 17. (DNF) 21A-Peter Britten; 18. (DNF) 37M-Mathieu Desjardins; 19. (DNF) 33-Louden Reimert; 20. (DNF) 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 21. (DNF) 35-Mike Mahaney; 22. (DNF) 32R-Ronnie Davis III; 23. (DNF) 34-Kevin Root; 24. (DNF) 17Z-Dillon Steuer; 25. (DNF) 126-Jeff Strunk; 26. (DNF) 24-Sammy Martz Jr; 27. (DNF) 17-Marcus Dinkins; 28. (DNF) 14-CG Morey