Williamson makes late race charge to score fourth win of the championship season and cuts into Matt Sheppard’s points lead
Mat Williamson and Matt Sheppard opened SummerFAST with a duel for the ages at Brewerton Speedway Monday night.
From nose-to-tail to side-by-side, Williamson and Sheppard left fans at the edge of their seats in the closing laps of the Super DIRTcar Series event before Williamson fully cleared Sheppard for the lead on the final lap.
“Any time you actually just race with Matt (Sheppard) is something to be said,” Williamson said in Victory Lane after scoring his fourth win of the championship season. “He’s set the bar for 10 years now. So, just to be able to pass him for one win is something I’ll remember for a while because he’s… like I said, he’s set the bar for a long time.”
When the green flag dropped on the 60-lap, $7,500-to-win, race, Danny Johnson shot out ahead of SRI Performance/Stock Steel Pole Award winner Jack Lehner. Sheppard, the nine-time and defending Series champion and defending SummerFAST champion, also made a quick move forward, passing Lehner for second on Lap 4.
As the top two battled, Williamson was on a charge from his fifth-place starting position. He got by Lehner for third on Lap 15, but Lehner wasn’t giving up another spot that easy. After fighting and fighting, he edged back around the #88 Buzz Chew Racing machine on Lap 31.
However, the St. Catharines, ON driver still had a fight in him too. He persisted in his attempts to reel in Lehner, running both the inside and outside of the track to see what gave him an advantage. On Lap 41, his resilience paid off, as he passed Lehner once more. And he didn’t stop there.
Williamson continued his charge, passing third-place Danny Johnson on Lap 44. There was then only one driver left standing between he and victory: Matt Sheppard.
Sixteen laps to go. That’s all the time Williamson had left to get it done. And he used every bit of every lap to make it happen.
He nosed closer and closer to Sheppard’s bumper. Sheppard worked high. Williamson worked low. Then Sheppard worked low, and Williamson went high. With two laps to go, Williamson threw his car to the top of Turns 1 and 2, while Sheppard dove low. This time, Williamson got enough traction off the corner to pull side by side with the #9s down the backstretch.
In synchronized fashion, the two drifted through Turns 3 and 4 in tandem, but, again, Williamson got a burst of speed of the corner and definitively took the lead with one lap to go.
It was all Williamson needed to keep the #9s at bay and finish off the final lap to send himself to Victory Lane – his third at Brewerton with the Series.
“We came down the front straight away out of Turn 4 and (Dave) Farney was giving us two to go,” Williamson said. “I was hoping it was about five to go… At that point I thought I needed about 62 or 63. Fortunately, I went to the top and got a good run on Matt (Sheppard) and then got underneath him getting into three and four.”
Sheppard finished second, his fifth second-place finish in the last seven races.
“I was just a sitting duck there at the end,” Sheppard said. “I never thought this place would get this slick tonight. I was kind of living and dying by that brown ring down that backstretch and then once that disappeared, I started surging a little bit. I thought maybe the groove changed, but it didn’t. I was right where I needed to be. I just didn’t really tighten up enough tonight. I thought maybe we were going to sneak in another one here, but this place is tough.”
Third-year Series driver Tim Sears Jr. also had a memorable night, as he scored his second podium finish of the season in front of his home crowd, finishing third. The Central Square, NY native grew up honing his driving skills at the Central New York oval, logging hundreds of laps before tonight’s matchup. He put his experience to use tonight, showing his ability to run up front with the best in Big Block Modified racing.
“We’ve been really good here as of late, so it definitely made a difference in confidence,” Sears Jr. said. “We were feeling pretty good coming in. But those guys (Mat Williamson and Matt Sheppard) just have it going on. They’re hard to beat anywhere. To finish second to both (Mat) Williamson and (Matt) Sheppard, they both do it for a living. It’s definitely a good run for our home track, so we’ll definitely take it and move on.”
Danny Johnson finished in fourth, and Jack Lehner rounded out the top five finishing in fifth – his first top five finish of the season.
With his win, Williamson cut 10 points off Sheppard’s led, now 49 points behind the defending champion
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks head to Fulton Speedway in Fulton, NY on Tuesday, Aug. 15, to compete in a 60-lap, $7,500-to-win, spectacular on night two of the second annual SummerFAST.
RESULTS: Brewerton Speedway SummerFAST (60 Laps)
1. 88-Mat Williamson; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 4. 27J-Danny Johnson; 5. 2-Jack Lehner; 6. 4-Anthony Perrego; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 8. 60-Jackson Gill; 9. 5H-Chris Hile; 10. 62S-Tom Sears Jr; 11. 5-Amy Holland; 12. 19-Tim Fuller; 13. 3M-Chris Mackey; 14. 15-Todd Root; 15. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 16. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 17. 9X-Tyler Trump; 18. 12-Darren Smith; 19. 54-Steve Bernard; 20. 91-Felix Roy; 21. (DNF) 215-Adam Pierson; 22. (DNF) JS98-Rocky Warner; 23. (DNF) 91D-Billy Decker; 24. (DNF) 29-Matt Caprara; 25. (DNF) M1-Dave Marcuccilli; 26. (DNF) 35-Mike Mahaney; 27. (DNF) 99L-Larry Wight; 28. (DNF) 32R-Ronnie Davis III