By BOBBY SWEENEY
Over the past few seasons, Mat Williamson has been a frequent visitor to Volusia Speedway Park victory lane. After collecting a small army of “Little Gator” trophies, Williamson added a father figure to the mix, winning his first “Big Gator” trophy and the DIRTcar Nationals championship on Saturday night.
Wednesday was the first run for the Super DIRTcar Series at the DIRTcar Nationals, and Williamson’s title chase immediately went into jeopardy. After a handful of laps early in the race program, the primary car was shelved, and the backup car was put into play. After a car change Williamson started eighth and finished sixth in a calm feature.
Williamson ran his backup car for the remainder of the week, but even then, Williamson and team had cause for concern.
“We’ve had a weird noise from this car the last few days,” Williamson said. “We don’t know what it is, it could be motor, transmission, fan blade, anything. We’ve searched over everything, and we figure if it was something with the motor it would’ve blown up by now. Hats off to Billy The Kid, he builds a reliable piece. We came down here with two good ones, but unfortunately we had to unload the backup car because of mechanical issues.”
Even with odd sounds, the car was fast. On Thursday, Williamson reached second around the midpoint of the event, then chased down Demetrios Drellos in the late stages. Williamson got a great bite through the middle of turns one and two to slip by Drellos on the last lap to take the win. On Saturday, Williamson continued his late-race heroics, driving around the outside of Jack Lehner with half a lap remaining to score another close victory.
In all, Williamson only led about a half mile of DIRTcar Nationals feature competition, but it was enough to take two of the three wins and the week’s championship with it.
“It was a great race,” Williamson noted of Saturday’s main event. “Honestly, when I was running second, if it was Stewart, Matt, or anyone I race more often, you race them really hard and race them hungry. When Jack was leading, I was excited to see them guys get a win down here because they would’ve burned this place down. It was a fun week with some really good racing.”
After a couple highlight-reel finishes, Williamson sat atop the DIRTcar Nationals points standings on Saturday night.
“We’ve run second here the past two seasons in points,” Williamson noted. “We’ve got like six or seven race wins, but it’s really cool to get the big trophy at the end of it all. Everyone always talks about having little families of gator trophies from here, but unfortunately I only have one of them at my house. Buzz and Spot like that stuff way more than I do, so it’s all up in the shop. Natalie and I’s house ain’t really big enough for all these trophies, maybe one year when I’m old and gray I’ll be able to find a place for it all.”
The Super DIRTcar Series is off for a little more than a month, returning at Ohio’s Atomic Speedway on March 31st. There, Williamson will go after a bigger title than the DIRTcar Nationals, chasing his second Super DIRTcar Series championship.