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BEST FOR LAST: Mat Williamson captures Big Gator championship with second win

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Mat Williamson makes last lap pass to win for the second race in a row, while Jack Lehner lands second DIRTcar Nationals podium finish

Mat Williamson quite literally “saved the best for last,” for a second race in a row at the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals. The St. Catharines, ON driver made a last lap pass around leader Jack Lehner who was caught behind lapped traffic to capture the win.

The Buzzchew Racing driver started ninth on the pole, leave his work cut out for him from the start. But with a finely tuned secondary car that brought him the win on Thursday night and a few more laps to work with to chip away at the field, Williamson was up for the challenge. After steadily moving his way through lapped traffic, he made his way into fourth place by the half-way point of the 50-lap matchup. e caHe

While some cars struggled to keep up their pace, the #88 machine kicked it into high gear. After passing Erick Rudolph to move into third on Lap-27, he set his sights on the “Ginja Ninja” Jack Lehner in second. The two traded the lead three times in four laps after passing leader Rick Laubach on Lap-39, setting the stage for a spectacular finish. Lehner went into the final 5 laps in the lead, looking to hold on to capture his first DIRTcar Nationals victory.

“With seven or eight to go he kind of left me a little bit,” Williamson said. “Then I caught some more lapped cars and got back up to him to put myself in a position where we could win.”

Still neck and neck going into the final lap, Lehner ran the bottom with Williamson in hot pursuit on the top. The instantaneous choice proved to be the deciding factor in the final moments. Going into the back stretch, Lehner found himself caught behind lapped traffic, stifling his speed and mobility.  Williamson seized the opportunity, riding around him on the outside groove, and drove to victory for the second time in as many races. With the victory, he secured the 2023 Big Gator championship.

Mat Williamson hoists his Big Gator trophy in the air after winning the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals with two victories in three nights. (Photo: Jacy Norgaard)

“The year we came down and won two races, we won the championship,” Williamson said. “There was a few things that we did this week that we improved on that we never really did a lot of before and that was being good early in the night. I think we’ve got something that we can keep continuing and hopefully Time Trialing good because at the end of the day, when you come to these races, the cars are so good that you compete against.”

Lehner settled for second place, notching his second career DIRTcar Nationals podium finish.  

“Lapped traffic was just tough,” Lehner said. “I always prefer the bottom and that’s where they all were. I had to venture around to find somewhere to get around them. The middle worked a little bit here and there to pick off some guys. At the end there, I saw that Jimmy (Phelps) was the next lapped car and there was one lap to go. In my mind, I figured Jimmy’s fast. I’ll tuck in behind him… but by doing that, Jimmy was struggling tonight. I got caught behind him and Mat got around on the outside.”

Erick Rudolph finished in third for the second race in a row, giving him an overall second place finish. Max McLaughlin finished fourth and Peter Britten finished fifth.

UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks are back in action at Atomic Speedway Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 for two Super DIRT Week Qualifiers, $10,000 on Friday and $12,000 on Saturday.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every Super DIRTcar Series race live on DIRTVision – either at DIRTVision.com or by downloading the DIRTVision App.

Feature 50 Laps | 00:27:18.323

1. 88-Mat Williamson[9]; 2. 2L-Jack Lehner[1]; 3. 25R-Erick Rudolph[4]; 4. 8H-Max McLaughlin[5]; 5. 21A-Peter Britten[8]; 6. 9S-Matt Sheppard[16]; 7. 7-Rick Laubach[2]; 8. 44-Stewart Friesen[11]; 9. 9-Marc Johnson[15]; 10. 30-HJ Bunting[6]; 11. 15X-Justin Stone[7]; 12. 39C-Kyle Coffey[19]; 13. 111-Demetrios Drellos[12]; 14. 215-Adam Pierson[14]; 15. 12S-Darren Smith[22]; 16. 28-Jordan McCreadie[24]; 17. 118-Jim Britt[21]; 18. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[3]; 19. R70-Ryan Arbuthnot[17]; 20. 14-CG Morey[25]; 21. 25P-Michael Parent[20]; 22. 27J-Danny Johnson[10]; 23. (DNF) 99L-Larry Wight[18]; 24. (DNF) 8-Richard Scagliotta[13]; 25. (DNF) 6S-Matthew Stangle[28]; 26. (DNF) 66M-Corbin Millar[26]; 27. (DNF) 70A-Alex Payne[27]; 28. (DNF) 16X-Dan Creeden[23]