Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BREWERTON, NY – Monday at Brewerton Speedway, during the first leg of the 2023 DIRTcar SummerFAST, fans witnessed one of the best Super DIRTcar Series races in quite some time.
Maybe ever if you ask some people.
For winner Mat Williamson, he did something you don’t see every day. The 2019 Series titlist drove around Matt Sheppard with a handful of laps left for the victory.
You also saw him get into it, on track, with veteran Danny Johnson where the two made contact as the laps wound down, knocking Johnson up the track in turns three and four.
For his involvement, you could see Johnson’s displeasure during the next caution and even in the pit area afterwards.
In the end, though, the record books will show that Williamson scored his fourth points-paying Series win of ‘23 and picked up a few points on Sheppard in the race to be this season’s Champion.
Williamson’s #88 Buzz Chew Racing Bicknell just seems to like the slick tracks and Monday’s surface at Brewerton fit that mold. However, it was racing with fellow Series regular Jack Lehner through the middle portion of the 60-lap race that really helped Mat figure out how to tackle the D-Shaped Dirt Demon.
“Racing with Jack taught me a little bit tonight,” Williamson said. “I learned you couldn’t drive in on the cushion in turns three and four. I did that once and just about drove over the edge. That nearly threw the race away for us but he was great to race with. Matt (Sheppard) was good to race with too. It was a lot of fun tonight at Brewerton.”
With all of the success Williamson has had at the Brewerton, NY oval in recent years, accumulating multiple Big Block and 358-Modified wins, he thinks the racing could actually be better.
“I think the fans get ripped off a bit at Brewerton unfortunately,” he said. “In my opinion we need to be doing 100-lap races here. I’ve told this to the DIRTcar officials time and time again. Fortunately, we got the win tonight but I think if it was a 100-lap race, it would have been even better for the fans.”
The track was hard and slippery right from the green flag in the SummerFAST lid-lifter. Most drivers were hugging the implement tires on the bottom of each corner while others tried to run the extreme outside line.
Some had success doing that while others didn’t.
If you wanted to make some moves, the middle part of the track became the place to run and as the race went on, Williamson figured that out.
“I was trying to get heat in the right rear tire to make the middle work,” he said. “If you didn’t do that, you were a sitting duck. My car just didn’t fire on restarts until I got the tire hot. That’s why I was beating the crap out of the cushion. I needed my tire to start working.”
Would Williamson have preferred the track to be a little tackier or did he like how hard and smooth it was?
“I was good with how it was tonight,” he said. “I’ve raced at Brewerton quite a bit over the last couple of years and have had success. I won a Series race where the cushion was the place to be in (turns) three and four and then the middle was good in one and two. This place changes a lot which puts it in the driver’s hands. It’s a fun place to race.”
It seemed as though Williamson began stalking Sheppard in the weaning laps, keeping pace with the #9s. Did the track come to him?
“I got the feeling that I could run the middle when I was racing with Jack (Lehner),” he said. “I was better through the middle of three and four. That was how I got back around the 2.”
Was he saving anything for the final laps or did he just hit the right line to make the outside pass of the defending Series champ?
“In turns one and two, I felt like I would try to go in on the top and drive down the hill,” he said. “If I stayed on the top off of two, I wasn’t very good and Matt was sliding up to the top of (turn) two. There were just so many different racing lines to the track tonight that it was just a fun race to be a part of.”
If the roles were reversed, and Sheppard was hounding him, does Williamson think he could have held on for the victory?
“I think, if I was in the lead, and knew what turns three and four were like, I would have been able to hold him off,” he said. “However, if I had tried to roll the top of those corners while leading, I wouldn’t have been any good.”