By KEN BRUCE
When you ask a fan or another driver to describe Ryan Watt as a driver you usually hear that he is a hammer down, balls to the wall driver who isn’t afraid to hang it out there up on the cushion and blast around the competition and honestly there is still some of that in him.
But this year the Boyertown, Pa., driver has honed his skills as a driver even more and has learned to use his car to get the absolute most out of it even if it meant changing up his driving style when needed. Since switching to a Bicknell chassis to house the team’s big block engines under the hood at the beginning of the season, Watt has simply been phenomenal winning big race after big race along with dominating the season at Bridgeport Speedway while winning the track title. I think it is safe to say that Ryan Watt is having a career year so far this season without a doubt. Watt has won some big races this season and is looking to add to his total as the 2017 winds down.
Coming into the 2017 season there were two races on Watt’s schedule that I know he badly wanted to win with both coming at his home track of Bridgeport. The first one was the Super DIRTcar Series race back in May and the second one was the 2nd annual “King of the Big Blocks” race. Well now Ryan Watt can put a checkmark beside both of those races after winning the second annual KOBB race last night.
“This was definitely one I wanted. At our home track with them giving out all this money, it’s a shame we broke last year.”
In the May SDS race Watt grabbed the lead early on and ran and hid from the field winning by a wide margin and it looked like last night the same scenario was going to play out as Watt took the lead early on from Rick Laubach and was hoping to do the same thing. However, Craig Von Dohren driving the Dick Biever #14S had other ideas.
A very strong running Von Dohren would run down Watt and start to pressure him for the lead. Knowing it was going to be a long race and tire wear could become a factor in the latter stages Watt didn’t put up too much of a fight as Von Dohren raced by him and into the lead. Instead of trying to get back by Von Dohren at the time, Watt was patient and content to run in second and keep the leader in his sights for the time being.
“I didn’t want to push it there, I knew I was slow on the bottom but I wanted to save that tire. I know what happens when we run the outside all of the time so I was kind of just riding there for awhile. I had in my mind we were going to wait until halfway before I started to push it again and start going hard again. I seen we were getting close to the halfway so I said to myself you better start going.”
As the field was given the crossed flags signaling the halfway point of the race Watt knew it was time to go. Lap by lap you could see Von Dohren’s lead start to shrink over a hard charging Watt. A caution flag for Anthony Perrego erased Von Dohren’s lead putting Watt right beside him for the restart. But the restart didn’t quite go as planned for Watt as Duane Howard was able to sneak by dropping Watt back to third. Watt was able to gather himself back in and move back by Howard a lap later and once again set his sights back on Von Dohren.
Watt moved in on Von Dohren quickly and had just pulled up to the leaders bumper when he made a mistake going into turn one getting out of the groove allowing Von Dohren to once again open up a small lead. Not to be denied Watt regrouped and started his charge back to the front once again. Watt caught the break he was looking for when the yellow flag was brought out for the slowing Halmar #43 of Jimmy Horton who had suffered a right rear flat.
When the race resumed, Watt was all over Von Dohren for the lead. The talented Pennsylvania duo put on a show for the fans for the next five laps as they diced back and forth for the lead. Watt would try the low groove then the high groove to get by Von Dohren but each time Von Dohren would block his advances.
Finally Watt was able to make his move going into turn three on lap 34 on the outside, when Von Dohren went up to block him Watt yanked the steering wheel to the left and crossed over Von Dohren coming out of turn four. This was the move of the race as Watt was able to pull alongside of the leader and out run him into turn one to take the lead.
Watt talked about the pass for lead. “I knew we had a good car and I felt I was faster than him but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get back by him. Then he switched to the bottom and I thought I could roll around him on the outside but the line he was using was he would go into the turn on the bottom and then slide all the way to the top so I couldn’t get there. I finally was able to cross him over coming out of four and then beat him down into the corner and slide up to the top like he was doing. I thought I had him a lap earlier coming out of two but he slid me up to the wall and if I didn’t back off it was going to get really ugly.”
Now that Watt had taken the lead for the second time in the race he wasn’t about to give it up again as he immediately put some distance between himself and Von Dohren. Watt motored away from the field and crossed under starter Kenny Golden’s checkered flag to take the big win and the $10,000 that went with it.
Unbeknownst to most fans was that after setting fast time in the first session of warm-ups on Friday night was that the team noticed a problem with the engine in the second session forcing them to have to change motors Saturday morning before heading to the track.
Watt explained what happened. “It just didn’t feel right during the second session last night and we thought we had to do it. We really didn’t want to because that engine we had in was from Morrison and we had six races on it and it had three wins and three seconds so it never finished worse than second and it was super fast last night. This is our Enders motor that we had in earlier in the year that we just got back from being freshened. We were hoping to save it for next year but I guess it was worth putting in.”
Strunk keeps it rolling
Jeff Strunk will tell you straight out that this hasn’t been the greatest of seasons for him and the Glenn Hyneman team. But it sure looks like the tide is starting to turn for the “Bechtelsville Bullet” as September rolls along.
Since crashing hard in the last points race at Grandview Speedway Strunk has been on a tear. It started by winning the Freedom 76 race at Grandview last Saturday and continued into this weekend at Bridgeport Speedway. Strunk started out the weekend by winning the 358 race on Friday night, and then backed that up with a strong third place finish in Saturday’s 50 lap big block race.
Strunk ran a smart and steady race on Saturday and talked about how well the car ran and how a bad draw hurt his chances of winning.
“We definitely need to draw better but it’s just one of the deals you know. We can’t pick for crap here for some reason. It was a good run, we’re happy with it. I wish it was another ten laps because I think we could’ve got second. But like I said it was a good run and we’ll take it and move on. We’ll just keep digging and hopefully we can get some more strong runs here in the next few races.”
Strunk talked about his team and the confidence they seem to have going right now.
“We had a couple of wrecks there a few weeks ago but you just have to keep digging and not give up on yourself and not give up on your team. They haven’t given up on me and I haven’t given up on them. We have all the ingredients to run good and we have the talent to run good so there’s no reason we can’t. We’ve had a couple of good finishes now to get my confidence back and that’s huge. Having confidence is worth extra horsepower, chassis set-up and the whole nine yards. It just makes you a better driver. We have that going right now an hopefully we can keep it that way.”
It was not a good night for the Pauch’s as both Billy and Billy Jr were involved in a hard wreck on the frontstretch very early in the race. Big Billy’s #15 ended up on its side and is destroyed. Billy Jr also had a hard hit and after contacting him this morning he said he was sore but otherwise okay. Ryan Anderson also flipped numerous times but was okay. Jordan Watson and Brendan Grosso were also involved in the hard wreck…
The Petruskas & Son’s Atlas Paving #66 with Ryan Godown behind the wheel failed to qualify for the main event. While running in a qualified spot in the heat race the thermostat stuck in the motor causing the engine to lose all its water which ended up all over Godown. The team was able to get the problem fixed but fell two spots short in the consolation race after starting dead last in the 15 car race only taking two…
Rick Laubach had his Oswego car at the track on Friday night turning some laps in it to make sure everything was ready before heading north in two weeks. Dominck Buffalino also had had his Oswego on hand on Saturday doing the same thing…
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.