OSWEGO, N.Y. (Courtesy: Michelina Friss) –
Mat Williamson drove his way into Victory Lane for the second time in a day at Oswego Speedway after taking the checkers in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 Monday afternoon.
His third victory of the prestigious race followed his first ever DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150 win, making him only the fourth driver in history to sweep both titles in the same year. And now the first to do it on the same day.
The Billy Whittaker Cars 200 42-car field was loaded with talent. Three of the top six starting spots were filled by current top five contenders in the Super DIRTcar Series points race – including current Series points leader and reigning ‘200’ winner Matt Sheppard.
Jimmy Phelps sped his way to the top time in Thursday night’s qualifying round, securing the SRI Performance/Stock Car Steel Pole Award for the $51,000-to-win, 200-lap Feature. Williamson missed the top qualifying time by .014 seconds, making him the Fratto Curbing Outside Pole Award winner. Sheppard locked into fourth, while five-time ‘200’ champion Stewart Friesen started from fifth place.
At the drop of the green flag, Phelps shot out in front to start the marathon race. Williamson followed behind him in second, while Sheppard moved up one spot into third on the first lap. Phelps paced the field until Lap 21, when the Baldwinsville, NY driver was overpowered by both Williamson and Sheppard. The defending champion won the battle for the lead, but it was to be short lived. Williamson found his way around him two laps later, finding clean air on Lap 24 for the first time.
He continued his drive forward, showing no signs of weakness, with Phelps and Sheppard trailing successively behind. The competition for the lead stayed fierce, as Max McLaughlin became the next driver to challenge, moving up two positions to second by Lap 49.
After a multi-car pile-up around Turn 3 and 4 on Lap 51, the red flag was brought out, giving the drivers a chance to reset.
Several laps later, McLaughlin found a second wind, juicing by Williamson for the lead on Lap 56. The Mooresville, NC driver approached the first optional pit stop of the race on Lap 75 with his lead still intact.
“I was really good (before the Lap 75 pit stop),” McLaughlin said. “I just wasn’t as good after. I don’t know if the tires were different or what, but it was different.”
As the competitors lined up to resume competition, Williamson asserted his dominance on the restart, passing McLaughlin to regain the lead on Lap 81. McLaughlin dropped back to second, while Sheppard trailed in third.
Williamson continued to charge forth knocking laps of the counter, crossing the race’s halfway point comfortably out in front. Peter Britten passed into third on Lap 111, charging all the way from 14th place, hungry for a shot at his first Super DIRT Week title.
As the second optional pit stop approached on Lap 125, the contenders in the top five positions opted out, retaining their position. Sheppard rolled into the pit area from seventh place to take the opportunity, changing his right rear tire and making shock adjustments.
“Track position (was the reason we opted out of the second pit stop),” Williamson said. “I think that if I had pulled in and no one else did, we were screwed.”
After a series of cautions and restarts that slowed the race’s momentum, Williamson and McLaughlin continued full steam ahead once they finally saw green. Britten battled relentlessly to stay in step with the frontrunners back in third, but his resilience met it’s end on Lap 178.
In heartbreaking fashion, the Aussie pulled into the infield and rolled to a stop with mechanical issues, permanently sidelining him. Mike Mahaney moved up into third after Britten’s exit.
The King Ferry, NY driver started from 13th place, slowly picking off drivers, one-by-one, to put himself in position for a podium finish.
“We just had a really balanced car,” Mahaney said. “On restarts, guys just started getting really tight. Then there were times they were getting really loose. Throughout the race, ours stayed steady. I had sensations of being a little tight or a little lose, but not as bad as other cars looked…I certainly think track position was important. We got it by the end, but just not early enough.”
Williamson held steady, as the last 10 laps ticked down, never wavering in his Buzz Chew Racing machine. He held on to take the checkers, scoring his third career Billy Whittaker Cars 200 victory and first since 2021. McLaughlin crossed the finish line in second, and Mike Mahaney finished in third to round out the podium.
Sheppard ended with a fourth-place finish while Friesen finished in fifth place.
Williamson became only the fourth driver in Northeast Dirt Modified history to win both the Big Block Modified and Small Block Modified titles in the same year. Brett Hearn, Danny Johnson, and Sheppard are the three other drivers to accomplish the feat.
“It’s very cool (to win both races in the same year),” Williamson said. “Just to win both of them now is cool, to win that Big Block race three times is cool, but I really can’t say enough about
my guys. I really wanted to win it for them. We had to work hard for it. I really appreciate them. When you sit and look at who is in the field, there’s a lot of guys who don’t race the Series that are really good race car drivers. That shows how deep the field is. It’s tough to win these races. You never feel comfortable when you are leading because guys like that always work harder to try and win. Thankfully, we got it done.”
The second-place finish is McLaughlin’s second podium performance in a row in the ‘200’. He finished third in last year’s matchup.
“We were just a little bit short,” McLaughlin said. “We were pretty good, just not quite good enough. It was a decent end to the day, just have to be a little better to beat (Williamson)… I almost got him again there again at the end, but I just fell a little bit short. We finally have our equipment in line, and hopefully we can finish off the year strong because of that.”
With the win, Williamson shaved off 25 points from Sheppard’s points lead – now 72-points back – in the battle for the 2023 Super DIRTcar Series title heading into the World of Outlaws World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, Nov. 1-4.
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series will travel to Concord, NC for the World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Nov. 1-4 – the final event of the 2023 season where the Series champion will be crowned.
Billy Whittaker Cars 200 (200 Laps): 1. 88-Mat Williamson; 2. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 3. 35-Mike Mahaney; 4. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 5. 44-Stewart Friesen; 6. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 7. 25-Erick Rudolph; 8. 9-Marc Johnson; 9. 4V-Billy VanInwegen Jr; 10. 2-Jack Lehner; 11. 4*-Anthony Perrego; 12. 91D-Billy Decker; 13. 3H-Justin Haers; 14. 26-Ryan Godown; 15. 34-Kevin Root; 16. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 17. 5H-Chris Hile; 18. 12-Darren Smith; 19. 15-Todd Root; 20. 29-Ryan Krachun; 21. 3RS-Dalton Slack; 22. 215-Adam Pierson; 23. 37S-Gary Lindberg; 24. 14-CG Morey; 25. (DNF) 99L-Larry Wight; 26. (DNF) 7D-Tyler Dippel; 27. (DNF) 21A-Peter Britten; 28. (DNF) 9X-Tyler Trump; 29. (DNF) 62S-Tom Sears Jr; 30. (DNF) 91-Felix Roy; 31. (DNF) 66-Tim McCreadie; 32. (DNF) 17-Marcus Dinkins; 33. (DNF) 22T-Tanner Van Doren; 34. (DNF) 19-Tim Fuller; 35. (DNF) 28-Jordan McCreadie; 36. (DNF) 49-Billy Dunn; 37. (DNF) 15X-Justin Stone; 38. (DNF) 32R-Ronald Davis III; 39. (DNF) 66W-Derek Webb; 40. (DNS) 54-Steve Bernard; 41. (DNS) M1-David Marcuccilli; 42. (DNS) 7Z-Zachary Payne