By KEN BRUCE
There are certain tracks that when you go to or have gone to over the years that you know when you go through the gates that there is that one particular driver that you know will put on a show and be the one to beat or that nights checkered flag.
At Flemington Speedway it was Billy Pauch Sr., at East Windsor Speedway it was Jimmy Horton, Albany-Saratoga Speedway it’s Brett Hearn. There are many others, but you know what I am talking about. It’s that one driver that you just know will be up front battling for the win. They didn’t win every week, but you definitely knew they were there.
In 2018, I think it’s safe to say that Ryan Watt is now that driver at Bridgeport Speedway. Watt has won six races this season thus far at the speedway in 2018 in a season that has been decimated due the number of rainouts the track has suffered. To put it in perspective, Watt has won over 50% of the features run this year so far on the spacious 5/8’s mile dirt oval.
Saturday night Watt continued his mastery at Bridgeport coming home the victor in the third annual 50-lap “King of the Big Block” show. After dominating his heat from the pole, Watt was not satisfied with how the car was working so he and the crew made changes for the feature event. Whatever changes they made worked to perfection.
“This car here at Bridgeport just keeps on working,” cited Watt in the teams trailer after the race having a cold one. “It seems like no matter what we do with it, it just keeps working. We weren’t that good in the heat but we’re rewarded with a good starting spot after the draw. So we made some changes after heat and the car was very good for the feature.”
Watt started the 50-lap affair in the eighth spot and was on the charge early making his way into fourth when the first yellow of the night was displayed on lap four. When the race restarted Watt made a rare mistake as he slipped up allowing the cars of Pauch Sr., and Craig Von Dohren to move underneath him. Another yellow flag was thrown before the lap could be scored saving Watt and putting him back up to fourth.
As the race resumed Watt once again did not get off to a good start losing spots putting him back to around the seventh position. With the race starting to get in a groove with some continuous laps being run Watt regrouped himself and went back to work as he started to pick off cars one by one to get him up to the third spot behind leader Horton and Pauch. As the two veteran drivers were battling for the lead, Watt was quickly reeling them in.
“I knew we had a good car and we didn’t want to break anything,” mentioned Watt. “The outside isn’t where I wanted to be on the restarts because when you went into turn one there was a hole on the outside and you had to bounce through that. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t get crossed up and get out of shape and get hit or something. I kind of took it easy through there and would lose a couple of spots. Once I could get to the bottom, I could get rolling again and make some passes.”
A red flag stopped the action on lap 22 when Von Dohren looked to have something break on his car as he hit the turn one wall and did a slot roll. During the red flag stoppage, Pauch’s good run came to an end as his car started to billow smoke from up under the hood forcing him to be pushed to the pits.
“We got to third there behind Jimmy (Horton) and Billy (Pauch) and I really wasn’t pushing it too hard at that point in the race because I didn’t want to blister a tire,” said Watt. “But I was still starting to catch them because I could see Jimmy’s car start to hang a little and then I started to see some moisture and steam from Billy’s car. I didn’t want to get too close to him in case something let loose so I backed off just a little more.”
When the race resumed, Watt blasted by Horton on the restart to take the lead and for all intensive purposes the race was over. The only thing that was going to stop the 2018 Bridgeport track champion on this night was a mechanical failure which is a rare occurrence for the Ron Roberts Racing No. 14w.
Watt raced out to a big lead and although it looked like second place runner Ryan Godown was starting to close the gap ever so slightly, there was never really a doubt on who was going to win as Watt raced under starter Kenny Golden’s checkered flag to win his second “King of the Big Block” race along the $10,000 first-place prize.
“This key was saving the tires and actually we’ve had worse tires on the car after a 25-lap race than we had tonight which is a good thing,” mentioned Watt. The track was tacky tonight for the most part tonight but it still had some dry spots coming out of turn two and in the bottom of three and four it got a little slick so you could roll the middle where it was brown. It wasn’t hammer down all night but if didn’t slick up like it usually does.”
As Watt heads North to compete at Super DIRT Week this week at the Oswego Speedway, winning last night’s race goes a long way in boosting him and his team’s confidence as they prepare to compete at DIRTCAR’S premier event.
“It definitely gives us a boost heading up there,” an excited Watt proclaimed. “We can go up there now and celebrate a little bit and then prepare for it and have some fun and see what happens.”
Satisfying Second for Ryan Godown
The main goal for Ryan Godown and the Dieter Schmidt owned No. 5 was to bring the car home in one piece with little or no damage. A win would be great, but the main thing was not to tear the car up. Mission accomplished!
With only one big-block car available to Godown, it was either stay home or take the chance with Super Dirt Week looming only two days ahead. The team made the right choice as the Troyer TD4 chassis was loaded into the trailer at nights end in one piece after a strong second-place finish.
Godown started the race from the outside pole and stayed close to leader Horton early on. A couple of restarts later Godown found himself back in the fifth position and trying to hang on. As the race reached the lap 20 mark, Godown could feel the track coming to him as he started to make his way back to the front.
“The bottom was actually better early,” cited Godown. “But I thought the top would be better and I thought I was gaining on Jimmy there then Billy got me on the bottom so I went to the bottom and I missed it and hopped the car and went through the hole and dropped back there. I knew the car would be good later on and we started to get back up there. I just had to figure out the right lane.”
After the red flag stopped the race on lap 22 Godown found himself in the fourth spot. On the restart Godown made his way back around Brandon Grosso in the third and two laps later rocketed past early leader Jimmy Horton and into second.
However, that is where Godown’s charge stalled as the leader Watt had built up a big lead. As the field approached the ten to go signal it looked like Godown was starting to move in a little on the leader but Godown knew that Watt was slowing his pace a little to save his tires in case of a late race restart. Unfortunatly for Godown, he never received that chance as the balance of the race rain caution free. Godown flashed across the line in second place and was quite happy with the result.
“The most important thing is that the car is in one piece,” mentioned Godown. We ended up with a good finish for the night and for Dieter (car owner, Dieter Schmidt).”
A happy Godown also knew the team had a lot of work ahead of them in the next two days to get the car turned around for competition at Oswego as the team prepares to leave on Tuesday.
“Yeah, we have a lot of maintenance to do on this car in the next couple of days to get it ready for Oswego,” explained Godown. “The biggest thing we have to do is get the quick fill system put in. I’ll do some work on the motor tomorrow and change the oil and stuff. We’re going to run the same motor and take a spare motor up just in case. We have a new outer skin all ready to put on and then just go over everything else with like we always do. It’s a lot of work but we’ll be ready to leave on Tuesday.”
Solid Fifth Place Finish for Ryan Krachun
Since debuting their new TEO ProCar big-block Modified at Georgetown Speedway back I August, the RKR team with third year Modified driver Ryan Krachun behind the wheel has started to turn some heads. The car has had impressive speed since it has hit the track and Krachun is getting more and more comfortable driving each and every time out.
Saturday night at Bridgeport Speedway for the King of the Big Block race, Krachun was fast all night as he posted the fastest speed during hot laps. Krachun lined up sixth in his heat but with a very heavy track due to all the rain the track had taken on the previous day making passing difficult Krachun could only manage to hold his position and finish sixth making the cut to lock him into the 50-lap main event. Krachun started the feature way back in the 18th starting spot and worked his way steadily towards the front. By lap 40 Krachun was up to fifth and waging a torrid battle for fourth with good friend Brandon Grosso. Grosso ultimately won the battle with Krachun finishing a very solid fifth.
“Tonight, and at Georgetown last week we’ve been very good,” cited Krachun. “We struggled heavily at Georgetown last week in the heat and in the consi and my father and Cody (crew chief Cody Hager) realized that and we outsourced for some help and changed a bunch of things on the car and that’s the set-up we used today. At Georgetown we started 23rd and ended up fourth after suffering a flat and tonight with the same set-up came from 18th to fifth. We are starting to figure this car out and hopefully we’ll keep getting faster and faster with it.”
31 Big Block Modifieds signed in for the night’s event. Pauch, Watt and Grosso won the three heats with Travis Hill winning the consi…
With Wade Hendrickson behind the wheel of the Rio Brothers R10, the Michaels Brothers No. 51M was piloted by Hill who managed to come home with a nice 10th place finish at night’s end…
Jim Britt suffered motor troubles in his heat forcing him to scratch his #118 for the night. With an available provisional for the feature, Britt jumped into the backup #0 of Neal Williams…
Pauch set a new single lap track record in his heat race posting a lap of 19.350 breaking the old record previously held by Stewart Friesen. Pauch also set an 8-lap heat race record during the night…
Speaking of Pauch, it looked early on that he would be the only one that would be able to run with Watt on the night but unfortunately for Pauch they had small hole develop in a hose allowing the water to escape and the motor to overheat causing Billy to suffer a DNF…
Rick Laubach made his return to the Bridgeport Speedway after lengthy absence due to the unfortunate situation that took place back in May. Laubach debuted a brand new TEO ProCar that will be used for SDW this coming week. Laubach qualified the car but elected to start at the rear in the feature and pulled out after a few laps…
Richie Pratt elected to use his backup car after his motor went flat in his primary car during his heat race. Pratt drove the backup car to a ninth-place finish…
Horton had a solid top five feature run going until his tires went away late in the race. Horton led the first 22 laps until passed by eventual winner Watt and eventually settled for a sixth-place finish. Look for Horton to debut a new DKM chassis big block modified this week during SDW at Oswego Speedway…
Bridgeport owner Bryan Ramey addressed the teams at the drivers meeting to dispel rumors of the track not running a full season in 2019. Ramey said the track will run a full points paying schedule next year…
Good luck to all the local teams heading to Oswego Speedway this week to compete in Super Dirt Week #47. As of this writing, those teams include tonight’s winner Ryan Watt, Billy Pauch Jr, Ryan Godown, Rick Laubach, Jimmy Horton, Jim Britt and Jojo Watson…
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.