By BOBBY SWEENEY
GEORGETOWN, DE – Ryan Watt electrified the crowd on Saturday night in taking the win in the 49-lap Melvin L. Joseph Memorial at the Georgetown Speedway in the Short Track Super Series South Region opening. Watt used a late pass of Matt Sheppard to pack his Ron Roberts owned No. 14w in victory lane.
“We’ve been so close here, second so many times,” an elated Watt said. “Every race we ran here last year we got second, but we finally got a win. I seen those trophies earlier this week and I thought ‘man, that would be really awesome to get one of those.’”
Watt took command in the opening circuits of race leading Friday night winner Craig Von Dohren and Sheppard on the lightning fast track before a lap three yellow for Danny Creeden slowing. Sheppard moved to second before Danny Varin slowed for a caution one lap later.
Watt held a steady lead over Sheppard as the duo entered lapped traffic. As they begun to negotiate the tail of the field, Sheppard and Doug Manmiller collided and Manmiller spun for the third caution of the event on lap 12. On this next restart, Sheppard dove under Watt to take the lead.
Watt hung close trying to reclaim the top spot, but all eyes focused on David VanHorn, who had clawed from 11th to third before Ryan Godown slowed for a yellow on lap 17. Continuing the theme of yellow fever, a multicar pileup with 19 laps in the books claimed Jamie Mills, JoJo Watson, Creeden, and others. Meanwhile, VanHorn was now scored second.
VanHorn’s stint in second was brief at best, as Watt blasted around him on the restart. Immediately, Watt went to work on Sheppard, drawing even to complete lap 24. However, Sheppard hung tough and Watt got off the racing surface three laps after, but still remained second. Now, Watt was a full straightaway behind Sheppard.
Watt didn’t stay a full straightaway behind for long, closing in lap after lap. As Watt re-entered striking distance on lap 34, Jordan Watson slowed and brought out a caution. This put Watt right on the tailgate of Sheppard with 15 laps left.
Lap after lap, Watt chased Sheppard around the topside of Georgetown Speedway. As laps ticked off, the pair reached lapped traffic once more. With three laps left, Sheppard dove to the bottom to pass two cars, but was hung up in the middle of the corner. This left Watt a wide open lane up on the cushion and Watt blasted to the lead to the crowd’s approval.
“The track was awesome today. The top, the bottom, the top really widened out tonight,” Watt noted. “It wasn’t the edge, but it was on the edge. There was one time I went over the edge when I was catching and catching Matt and just went over in 3 and 4 and lost all that ground. I kinda just rode there hoping for a caution because I didn’t want to use my car up getting to him, and we got our opportunity there in lapped traffic.”
One last yellow with two laps remaining placed Watt in clean air, and the Pennsylvania rocket would not be denied, blasting to the $6,949 payday in the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial. Sheppard chased in second, followed by David VanHorn, Billy Decker, and Billy Pauch Jr.
MELVIN L. JOSEPH MEMORIAL WEEKEND RACE SUMMARY – GEORGETOWN SPEEDWAY MARCH 17, 2018
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Velocita-USA South Region Event No. 1 Modified Feature Finish (49 laps): RYAN WATT, Matt Sheppard, David Van Horn, Billy Decker, Billy Pauch Jr., Duane Howard, Craig Von Dohren, Billy Pauch, Stewart Friesen, Anthony Perrego, Andy Bachetti, Danny Bouc, Wade Hendrickson, Carson Wright, Dan Creeden, Tyler Boniface, Rick Laubach, Scott Van Gorder, Scott Hitchens, Ron Roberts, Mike Gular, Jordan Watson, Joseph Watson, Jamie Mills, Mark Byram, Ryan Godown, Danny Johnson, Doug Manmiller, Jimmy Horton, Danny Varin, Jim Britt.
Did Not Qualify: HJ Bunting, Brett Barrett, Michael White, Matt Stangle, Jeremy Smith, Matt Janiak, Kevin Gardner, Brian Hitz, Allison Ricci, Russell Morseman II, Jack Lehner, Brad Trice, Craig Hanson, Norman Short, Jeff Strunk, Brett Kressley.