By BILL FOLEY
With less than ten laps to go it appeared the top three positions were locked in on night two of the DIRTcar Nationals for the “Beasts of the Northeast.”
However, when the 30 laps had finished, what appeared to be a Demetrios Drellos, Mat Wiliamson and Larry Wight podium was changed to a Williamson, Drellos and Erick Rudolph top three.
It was a wild and crazy ending to a green to checker event.
Williamson had made up a three second, nearly straightaway lead in a matter of a handful of laps to pass Drellos on the final circuit.
Mat was still in a state of disbelief as he stood inside the Buzz Chew hauler 15 minutes after crossing the line.
He said, “I didn’t think I was going to get that one. I was backing up at the beginning and just laying there in three and four where I could get the car to turn. I just rolled with it.”
During the early stages of the race while Drellos was pulling away Williamson and Matt Sheppard were having a battle royale for third. Mat said, “Early in the race he threw a slider on me in two and we came together on the back straight away and I just got my wheels turning. I started racing pretty hard as I was going backwards at that point and knew I had to get up on the wheel and try to get these guys a gator here.”
He eventually got to second and saw a three second deficit.
How did he do it?
Mat thought, “I think he just got screwed by being the leader. He was checked out at that point. He had nothing to worry about. We had nothing to lose and tried to hit six or seven good laps and put ourselves in a position to win. About lap 22 I could see him enough where I thought I could probably get him. This is two races in a row we’ve unloaded with the back-up car and won with it. Just goes to show you how good the team is, and I am so happy just to drive the car.
“I’m on cloud nine. It’s just one of those nights I didn’t expect to win. It’s only $5,000 to win. It’s not a big 100 lap race. It’s not the Fulton 200 or Oswego. It’s Florida and you get a little gator for it, but it means so much to Buzz and that is all I care about in getting him all the wins he deserves.”
Drellos was heartbroken.
“Mat did a phenomenal job as far as I could tell. My car the last two laps just went away. That’s all I can say. I got a little snug up top and I had to baby it. He got better. He’s a super team and he should get better. Congrats to them he’s a phenomenal driver and did his job.”
On how he felt, Drellos said, “It stinks. It stings. Every way you can put it this is awful. Second sucks, but we are here, and we are putting it to the man, so we are doing our job and it was good in the points.”
Erick Rudolph was fast throughout the race and took advantage of contact between Larry Wight and Alex Payne that resulted in the bead lock coming off the right front of the No. 99L.
Rudolph said, “It felt really good the first 15 laps. It got tight and then later on it just got worse and worse, but we held on.”
Wight picked up 18 positions as he came out of the Last Chance Showdown, started 22nd and ended up fourth. However, he was third with just a few laps to go.
Talking to Dirt Track Digest afterwards, Larry said, “I had a flat right front with two to go. We made it but didn’t have a good enough lead on Rudolph to keep him behind us.”
It was a highlight reel run for Wight as he lived on the outside on the racers edge.
Looking back on the run, Larry explained, “We’ve been playing catch up this whole week and didn’t know what we were missing from three years ago when we were so dominant down here. We just kept throwing things at it and went back to our notes from two years ago and we finally got the car to turn. Once I get a car that can turn I can usually make up the rest of it. Tonight, the track was perfect. Nobody else was going up there so they left the lane wide open for me.”
When did he know that the car was what he needed it to be?
He said, “Right at the drop of the green. I went into turn one and everybody tried to fight for the bottom and the middle, and I just drove around the top. I think I got five guys by the time I got to turn two. It was then I knew I had a good piece. I probably ran around there the first five laps without ever lifting.”
In conclusion he said, “I think now we have a platform to work with and just don’t touch it, wash it, polish it and put it to bed.”
Max McLaughlin rounded out the top five and said, “Starting deep in the field is a little tougher. I don’t think we had the same car as we did yesterday. It was a much better drive last night. I still fought the same tightness. We just struggled. We got to get it to turn a little better. It was all right when we could use the whole race track, but when you have to pass cars it’s a different story. We have to regroup, come back tomorrow and try again.”
“Mad Max” had issues as he explained, “That tire (right rear) was starting to come apart. We were on it so hard to get by people early we just used it up. I really didn’t have much tire at the end. I think it sealed over more than anything.”
Night two might prove to be one of the most exciting Modified races of the week.
Williamson after two nights of being fast timer rallied from a huge deficit to pull off the win.
Drellos suffered major heartbreak.
Wight has found his rhythm again.
Who knows what the final two nights will bring.