By KEN BRUCE
SWEDESBORO, NJ – I have been to plenty of races throughout the years where the feature event was dominated by a single driver. If you’ve been going to races for years like I have been you’ve surely seen it as well. Well, last night was one of those feature events.
Boyertown, Pa., driver, Ryan Watt completely dominated the night at the big 5/8’s mile oval in South Jersey. Watt did it all on this night with his Enders powered 2017 Bicknell chassis. The night started off with Watt having the fastest time in warm-ups. After lining up sixth in his heat race it wasn’t long before Watt was in the lead and gone to take the win.
“This car was just really good tonight. We made one little change from Saturday night to tonight and the car picked over a half of a second. I could run the top, the bottom, the middle, I could crossover, it didn’t really matter tonight. This car is really fun to drive, it’s different than any other car I have driven but I am finally getting used to it.”
The car Watt is using is a 2017 Bicknell chassis with a coil over set-up in the rear unlike any other he has driven in the past. It is basically the same set-up that Jamie Mills was using last season with little tweaks here and there. I asked Watt about the car and if this is his set-up or what it came with from Bicknell.
“This car came right from Bicknell with all the hardware that is on it right now. It’s basically the same thing (Jamie) Mills was running. Jamie talked to Randy Williamson last year and had him make some brackets for him. Mills seemed to like the car so in the off season we ordered a car just like Jamie had. So they put it together and here we are. Jamie and I talk quite a bit about different ideas and stuff still. I know he switched back to a torsion bar car but we still talk back and forth about what I’m doing and he still gives me some input on what it needs. So we’ve talked a lot the past year or so about this.”
With the top twelve starting spots in the 40-lap feature determined by the luck of the draw I am sure the competition was hoping that Watt would draw the 12th and final spot after seeing the way Watt was running on the night. Watt ended up pulling the sixth starting spot, but realistically on this night Watt could’ve probably started shotgun on the field and won the race going away. Watt was just that good.
When the green flag was thrown to get the feature event underway outside pole sitter Neal Williams immediately shot to the lead over pole sitter Jimmy Horton. He started to open up an advantage over the field. Watt was on the charge early and made little work of the cars in front of him as he moved past Horton and into second on lap six. Williams who had opened up a safe advantage over Horton was next up on Watt’s assault to the front. Within two laps Watt was right on leader’s bumper. The two veteran drivers hooked up in crowd pleasing duel with Watt working the low groove trying to get by Williams. Williams was able to shut down the charge of Watt for a few laps. The two drivers were side-by-side for the lead the yellow was thrown for a spinning Sammy Martz in turn three.
It didn’t take long once the green flag came back out to restart the race as Watt powered by Williams to lead lap 11 just as the yellow was thrown once again for a slowing Billy Pauch Sr. who headed to the pits. Fifth running Richie Pratt Jr also headed to the pits during the caution.
When the race resumed there was a multi-car tangle in between turns one and two that blocked the track causing the red flag to be thrown so the track crews could clear up the portable parking lot. No less than seven cars were involved in the melee. Pauch and Pratt took advantage of the long red flag period to make repairs to their cars and return to the race.
After the lengthy red flag period came to an end the race resumed and again it was all Watt. During the long green flag run Watt was gone. There were some good battles going on behind the high flying Watt. Ryan Godown and Duane Howard raced cleanly side-by-side for multiple laps battling for the fifth spot with Howard finally winning out. Howard, who started back in the tenth spot, was starting to come on now as he set his sights on fourth running Dominick Buffalino. While all of this was going on Watt was running in another county. Just as Watt lapped the ninth place running Jeff Strunk the one thing he didn’t need to happen, happened. The yellow flag appeared as the sixth place running Godown suffered a flat tire on lap 30 bringing the field back up to Watt’s rear bumper. Godown headed to the pits and returned with a new sneaker as the field was ready to get back to business.
As a driver leading a race by that big of a margin, you never want to see a yellow flag because the questions start to pop up in your head. How fast was the car behind me? Will my tires seal over? I am sure Watt was thinking of all of those things and more as he came back to take the green flag with ten to go.
“You never want to see a caution when you have such a big lead because you never know what can happen next. But the car was good tonight and the lapped cars did what they were supposed to do tonight and not get in the way.”
If there were questions going through his mind it only took one lap for them to go away as once again Watt was GONE! While there were some battles going on behind the leader Watt again was the class of the field on this night and raced under starter Ken Golden’s checkered flag to ACE the big “Poker Series” race. Williams kept up his consistent start to the year to finish second. Buffalino and Howard waged a terrific battle for third with Buffalino winning out. Howard finished fourth with Frank Cozze coming on strong from his 18th starting spot to finish fifth.
Rick Laubach who ran third for much of the race until the last caution finished in the sixth spot followed by Brett Kressley, Ryan Godown, Mike Barone and Jeff Strunk rounding out the top ten.
“We started out a little slow but this car was fast early on and then we hurt the motor. So we just put this car aside until we got the motor back. We put the motor back in and here we are. This car has a heck of a record right now and things are picking back up. I really need thank my crew, my wife Lesley and son Logan and especially Ronnie and Fay who provide me with this rocket ship.”
Williams End His Day with Smile in Second
The day didn’t start to well for Neal Williams when he received word from the World Racing Group that he had been disqualified from his fourth place finish from the Super DIRTcar Series race run on May 16th at the Bridgeport Speedway. The infraction Williams was DQ’d for was as a result of tire samples that were taken after the event had come back showing the tire had been altered and did not conform to the specs as provided by Hoosier Tire.
Even though the night started out on a bad note for the Pittsgrove, N.J., pilot, the driver rebounded nicely to record a solid second place finish at night’s end. Williams has been a model of consistency all year and his cars have had a lot of speed each and every race. Although Williams still hasn’t recorded that elusive first win of the season yet, he remains very optimistic on how his season has gone so far and what lies ahead for the Sal DeBruno owned #0 team.
“I’ll tell you what, we just changed the motor and put this newer motor and it’s only the third race on it. The chassis we are using is a 2013 Teo chassis that Richie (Pratt Jr) was using, so the stuff we are using is all used and it’s as fast as it’s gonna go. We have a new chassis sitting at home we are building and I tell you what, when that car is done it’s gonna be a bad ass car. You can’t ask for anything more from the used stuff we have right now. The guys that are beating us all have newer stuff and trust me I am not saying what we have right now isn’t good and we are definitely getting the most out of it we can.”
He continued, “We are very consistent right now and if you look at the results every week it’s only me, Rick (Laubach) and Ryan (Watt) that are able to come from the back each week. We have found a sweet spot right with our set-up and its showing.”
I asked Williams about the penalty leveled against him from the Super DIRTcar Series and what were his thoughts.
“It’s always a tough deal when the Super DIRTcar series comes to town. We all know how they are, I’ve been with them, I’ve ran with them and it’s a tough thing to swallow but it’s not finished yet. We’re on American Racer tires tonight and I love the American Racers and I love coming here. I love big-block racing and I really love being back with Sal (car owner Sal DeBruno) and it’s always good to get a podium finish at the end of the night.”
Buffalino Bridgeport Bad Luck with a Third
When Buffalino decided to come back to Bridgeport Speedway this season as a regular he never imagined the trouble he would have on a track that he has had success on previously. But 2017 hasn’t gone as planned for Buffalino and the team has had a rash of bad luck and mechanical failure early in the year. This night however, Buffanlino was finally able to put together a solid race. It paid off with a hard earned third place finish after a battle with Howard.
“Man, it’s been a tough year here so far. We’ve blown up three motors so far this year and even tonight didn’t start off to well when we broke a rocker arm before I even got in the car to go on the track for warm-ups. We got that fixed and then we experimented with a carburetor and that didn’t work. Finally we got it all straightened out for the feature. I have to tell you this was the most balanced car we’ve had here in a long time, but starting 11th just kills you when all the fast cars are starting in front of you. You know starting up front they can save their cars and tires a little more and that just makes it tougher. I thought I might’ve had something there for Williams after that last restart but my right front tire had sealed over. Then I just had to do all I could there the last 19 laps to hold off Duane. It was a nice way for our team to bounce back after the slow start we’ve had here so far this year.”
There were 27 big -block modified on hand for tonight’s round #3 of the Bridgeport Speedway Poker Series. Pratt Jr, Watt and T. Hill won the three heats with Ryan Anderson winning the consi…
Billy Pauch’s bad luck in the Danny’s Pizza Pizzazz #51 continued. With a new Billy the Kid Performance big block bolted under the hood, Pauch was solidly qualified in a redraw spot in heat #2 when the water pump blew apart ending the team’s night…
It was announced last night that the makeup feature from round #2 of the Poker Series postponed from May 28th will be made up as part of the Poker Series round #4 on Monday July 3rd…
Congratulation to Matt Stangle who won both the makeup feature and the regularly scheduled feature in the Crate/Sportsman division.
As always, I can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.