By Mike Mallett
OSWEGO, N.Y. (October 14, 2019) — No driver in the history of Modified racing can match the magical run of Mat Williamson during the 2019 season. Since winning the Centennial Race at the Orange County Fair Speedway back in August, Williamson has been nearly unbeatable in big events. He’s won multiple Super DIRTcar Series races along with multiple DIRTcar 358-Modfied Series races, including two during Super DIRT Week.
On Sunday afternoon, Williamson took things even further. Williamson won the most prestigious event in all of Modified racing. Williamson became the second ever Canadian to win the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway as part of Super DIRT Week XLVIII. It’s a career defining win. That was not lost on Williamson as he sat reflecting on the accomplishment in the post-race press conference.
“This is wild,” cited Williamson. “Orange County had the $100,000 for the 100th anniversary, but I’ve grown up watching Brett (Hearn) kick ass as Syracuse and Super DIRT Week and it just has the history to it. You only got one shot to win it every year, so it means a lot to win this one.
“It hasn’t sunk in. We are going to enjoy it tonight and probably reflect on it this week.”
This big win came in the Buzz Chew racing No. 88. It was the team’s first win in such a historic event after Williamson’s Orange County win came in a car prepared by Jeff Behrent. Williamson was grateful to Buzz and his entire family for giving him the opportunity to drive their car.
“Buzz has kind of had the same storyline as me,” commented Williamson. “He kind of grounded out and didn’t have that much success with the dirt stuff. This year he elected to pick me to drive the racecar. I’m very honored. They put so much time and effort into the thing. Them guys that work on it every week, they do such a good job. There is so much great communication.
“Going into September we just started clicking. Knowing we could do it together, they had confidence in me and I had confidence in them. Buzz, Brian and the whole Chew family, they deserve this more than I do. They put a lot into this.”
Williamson beat two prior winners of Super DIRT Week with Tim Fuller finishing in second and Brett Hearn in third. He knows the story of how those two drivers get the job done at Syracuse. Now he finally adds his name to a list of only a select few that have experienced Super DIRT Week glory.
“At Brewreton Thursday night a reporter came up to me and told me I’m an overnight success,” he said. “I told him he wasn’t here when I ran 18th for 10 years. We came to Syracuse, we came the past couple years here and we struggled. It is very humbling to have to go back to shop to work just as hard, if not harder, when you struggle. It makes you work really had to work on beating guys like these.
“I grew up watching them. They have had so much success. That’s how you want to set your goals. To be like Brett, and to be like Tim, and have that kind of success. It’s tough to run with them. These guys know how much hard work it takes. You can never give up.”
Williamson’s day started on the inside of third row. He led some laps early, pitted with the early cluster of cars just after lap 50. From there his strategy involved him staying patient while cycling his way back to the front of the field. His car was good enough to drive by other cars as he progressed back up through the pack. Turns one and two took rubber while turns three and four offered him a chance to maneuver across the racing surface.
“It was tricky,” stated Williamson. “You had to race the track with two mentalities. You go into turn one and you had to be on the bottom. It was like racing Brockville or any other place that rubbers up and turns into one lane. That was that mentality. Then you get down into three and four and you could kind of skate around and move around. You didn’t necessarily have to be on the bottom.
“When we got that big lead, we drove around the hole and kept the big lead and we weren’t beating up the car. I guess that’s the best thing about radio racing, you can kind of figure it out and have some help on your side.”
One driver attempted to mount a challenge to Williamson late in Anthony Perrego. Perrego was the same driver that passed him at Orange County in the closing stages of the Centennial event. Perrego and Williamson battled hard there and it looked like it was going to be another shootout between the two at Oswego. That was until Perrego’s fuel cell ran dry after a late caution.
“I was starting to get nervous,” mentioned Williamson. “They kept telling me the intervals, my lap times compared to him. I couldn’t understand what they were saying on the radio, whether I was three-tenths better or he was three-tenths better. I just started to get nervous. I had to check myself under that yellow and get myself back together.
“It was really slippery, besides turn two. It was like an ice rink out there. I had a good line getting into three around the holes. We kept hitting our marks, but for some reason he was catching us. I don’t know if I was getting nervous and slowing down or if our car was going away. I don’t know if we needed that yellow, but I was happy to see it.”
on the restart he gathered himself and pulled away from the field over the final handful of laps for the $50,000 score which also came with an added bonus, the lead in the points for the Super DIRTcar Series. Matt Sheppard’s day came to an end with a 31st place finish. He now has a 10 point lead with three races remaining with the series.
“Coming into this week we knew we ran good here and we run good at Brockville and Charlotte,” said Williamson. “Hopefully we can keep doing what we are doing and see how the chips fall.”
Right now it’s evident the chips, the cards and everything else is falling his way.