By Bill Foley
Mat Williamson won two feature events and led probably just over a lap and a half as he stole the lead in the final two Modified races at the Volusia Speedway Park DIRTcar Nationals.
He said, “Buzz loves these gators!”
So Mat got his owner Buzz Chew a little gator on Thursday night as he broke Demetrios Drellos heart with a last lap pass and stole victory from Jack Lehner in the second turn, of the final lap, to clinch the big gator for the championships. Mat made sure his car owner went home with two gators.
What a start for the 88 team as he was fast the first two nights and won the mains the last two.
The final feature of the week certainly was interesting as the track held up well with many drivers running the outside way up against the wall while mechanical or accidents dropped some contenders by the wayside.
Thirty cars started the main event as C.J. Morey, Corbin Millar and Matt Stangle were provisionals. Alex Payne lost the rear end after hitting the hump that goes down the track where all the traffic goes in and out on the backstretch and hopped in Russell Morseman’s 44 backup for the main. Payne had a tough week with a blown engine and a broken rear end.
Once again DIRTcar loved those Modified Le Man’s line-ups. It was chilly and Florida damp, but from the time pole sitter Jack Lehner hit the track, to lining the cars up along the front stretch, doing intro, doing the parade lap, it was nearly 16 minutes before the green fell.
Danny Creeden, who had qualified through the consi, came to a complete stop on the backstretch as the field was in the four wide parade lap. The safety team four wheeler was there in seconds, pushed him around and he was done for the night.
When asked what happened an irritated New York driver said, “We drive 1400 miles to run a track that has a launching pad in the backstretch. I broke a bolt on the yolk. I think it happened in the consi when I hit that, but I’m glad it broke under the caution.”
Larry Wight had some damage in his left rear apparently hitting the inside wall and later he took a ride between three and four. He was a DNF in 23rd.
Demetrios Drellos had a similar situation from the current year strike again. He said, “I just missed it. We tried a 400 on the right rear and it never came in. We should have used a 300. Last year we ran a 300 and should have run a 400.” He settled for 13th.
Corbin Millar was an early exit with a shock bolt breaking.
Jack Lehner led the first 14 before Lauback took the lead on a restart. On the 38th lap Lehner went low out of two and at that point Laubach’s left front tire started going down.
The 2L was right there until the very final lap when he got jammed up behind Jimmy Phelps. The 98H was a bit off, pitted for adjustments that just didn’t work as well as the team had hoped. It was a nightmare for Jimmy as he started third and was tenth at the halfway point of the 50 lapper. However, it was about that time that the 98H went to the pits and returned to the rear of the field.
Erick Rudolph started fourth, ran third only to have Williamson get back just past the halfway point. He got to third on the 39th as he dove under Laubach and closed in to make the final laps with Lahner and Williamson very, very interesting. It was one hell of a show by Erick. He was so steady and he has been consistent early on in 2023.
Max McLaughlin had been fighting a tight car for the first two shows and on Saturday he came home fourth and was pretty steady throughout the main race after starting fifth.
Britten just can’t catch a break on draws. No matter what he does he manages, it seems the majority of the time, to be snake bit and he drew eighth out of eight. His fifth place run was a satisfying way to end the series.
Matt Sheppard started 16th and right off he decided the high side was the way to go. With 13 laps in he was 14th and a dozen laps later he had worked his way to sixth at the halfway point and that is where he finished.
Laubach thought this was going to be his, but he limped home seventh. He didn’t know what his problem was until he stopped and the left front simply dropped with the flat tire.
Stewart Friesen started eleventh and his high road racing throughout got him to eighth.
Marc Johnson and H.J. Bunting completed the top ten.
Justin Stone has one year of crate and a year of 358 under his belt, but came to Florida where he is being mentored by Dale and Brandon Planck of DIGS. He did quite well for never being in a Big Block before this past Wednesday. Many thanks for the offer of some Moonshine after the races were completed.
Matt Stangle noted that he runs Hoosiers only three times a year so the tires are a major battle for him.
H.J. Bunting and Jack Lehner were fast times of their respective groups with Lehner’s 17.404 the fastest of the night.
Ronnis Davis III saw the oil light flickering in his heat and said, “I hope I shut it down before it did much damage.” The motor is an Erb powerplant while his Gor-Den Motors, that will be his primary this year, are home in Memphis. They loaded up.
Heat two was loaded with Adam Pierson, The Doctor, Payne, Creeden, McLaughlin, Wight and Laubach.
Jessica Power made her big-block debut and the huge smile on her face showed how she felt about the experience. She didn’t qualify, but the goal was to get track time and get better. Also driving a big-block has been a dream of hers for years. They will do Can-Am SDS as she only plans on three races this year.
Many folks were surprised that there were so many drivers from Quebec who made the trip. This is the most I’ve seen here in all the time I’ve been covering this event for DTD. They included Francois Bellemare, Steve Bernard, Yan Bussiere, Danny Gagne, and Felix Roy.
Several stories will be coming up in DTD in the next few days regarding this past week of racing.
And, Oh, guess whose truck wouldn’t start on Saturday night?
If you guessed Ron Davis you were right.
He said, “I started it Friday morning and all was good. I turned the key this morning (Saturday) and nothing happened. They are letting me keep the truck here in the pits where I can work on it.”