By BILL FOLEY
You had a feeling talking with Pat Ward after his second place finish on the final night of the World Finals that he believed this one could have been his.
A smile never leaves his face when he talks about racing, but before nearly 20,000 fans he put on a solid drive only to have Matt Sheppard do what he has done so often this season…win.
Throughout most of the 40 lapper Justin Haers and Ward were the show, but on the 36th lap Sheppard drove under both of them and took the lead for good.
Pat said, “You are always aware that Matt is coming. All year he has had the dominant car. It was a heck of a race between the three of us. I could see Justin was struggling a bit as I think his right rear sealed up. “
Continuing he explained, “I am a little disappointed and I thought we could do better. It was one of those cases that we both bobbled at the same time and that was that. I really feel I was getting a good run between three and four, but not hitting it like I wanted between one and two. That is until the last restart and that was good.”
He came home with two top five finishes on the final racing weekend of the 2016 season.
On opening night he was also near the front of the field all race long.
Reflecting on the first 40 lapper of the weekend he said, “It was fun, but it was sort of a one lane situation. Restarts hurt me and on one Justin got me and on the last restart Billy (Decker) went by me. I thought maybe I was better than they were, but the restarts just did me in.”
Traffic played a key role in the race and after Sheppard had built up a huge lead the traffic allowed the second and third place cars to reel him in. Pat explained, “I got through traffic pretty good.”
A late race three-wide situation between one and two could have been a disaster as he was up on the top, Haers in the middle and Larry Wight was making a strong move down low.
Pat said,”When Larry cut down under it helped me. He locked it up a little so he didn’t hit Justin and it opened the door for me. I really felt we were going fast and one of the fastest cars out there.”
The track was a bit different than in past years and that might have played a role in the race on Friday night.
Pat noted, “It was one lane and I didn’t anticipate that. It rubbered up last week when they had a major race here. I just didn’t expect it to be the way it was. However, it was as smooth as I’ve ever seen it.”
Pat Ward was in the spotlight this weekend and indicated he felt he had received a major boost recently that attributed to his success.
Pat said, “Dave Reedy of Penske Shocks redid our shocks. The car has been running better ever since. It made a huge difference for us after we put it back together after Oswego.”
The car he used at the World Finals “was one that was a new frame midyear, but when we came back from Oswego we put in new axles and drive line. At Oswego he had a plugged radiator and it ruined our day. The car was running well, I was around seventh and that was right where I wanted to be at that point of the race.”
Pat Ward finished the season strong at the World Finals.
The next possible race for the Modified will be in Florida in February, but he noted, “We haven’t gone to Florida in years, but it would be neat to go.”
Ward is a racer and though approaching 60 he is still gets the job done and is quite popular with the fans.
He will remember the World Finals for yes, finishing solidly in front, but for also coming up with the runner-up spot on the last night of the year. He may have been smiling, but no race driver, who feels he has a winning capable race car, can settle for second place.