WEEDSPORT — Twice a dangerous path to glory opened for Mat Williamson, and twice he didn’t hesitate to take it.
The first time was out of determination. The second was mixed with anger. There was no denying the Canadian of Wednesday night’s DIRTcar 358 Modified win at Weedsport Speedway for the NAPA Super DIRT Week Kickoff Party.
However, some uncertainty hovered over his confidence before the start of the 75-lap feature. He drew the pole in the redraw with a sunken face. To him, it would’ve looked better to start fourth and finish fourth, than to start from the pole and potentially finish anything less.
Even though he won at Weedsport with the Super DIRTcar Series earlier in the season, the 3/8-mile D-shaped track has not always meshed well with Williamson. You wouldn’t have known it after 75 laps around the facility, though.
“It’s one of the nicest facilities and I never ran good at it,” Williamson said. “Al and Jimmy have one of the best facilities in North America and I think I finally got it down pat where I can run decently when we come here.”
Williamson launched ahead of the field on the initial start with Tim Sears Jr. in tow, moving from third to second in the opening lap. And behind them, Larry Wight went from eighth to fourth.
An early caution on lap 1 gave little to tease of what was to come. Because what ensued after was a drama built for the silver screen.
While Williamson held command out front with ease for the first 15 laps, Sears, Wight and Jordan McCreadie argued over who would be the first to try and chase down the No. 6M Small-Block machine. Sears made a strong case early on but lost the argument when McCreadie snuck by him on a restart.
As McCreadie pulled away in his attempt to hunt Williamson, Wight was an annoyance in Sears’s right ear. Lap after lap, he edged closer and closer along the right side of Sears’s car. Eventually, Sears decided to give the top lane a try himself. When he did, he passed McCreadie for second and closed to Williamson’s bumper while traffic blocked his lanes.
Sears passed Williamson for the lead on lap 34 but couldn’t run away quick enough. The 2021 DIRTcar 358 Modified Hoosier Tire Weekly Racing champion kept Sears within reach for the next five laps before seeing the first dangerous path open.
With a lap car high and Sears low, Williamson used his run off the second turn to dive between them down the backstretch.
The three cars drag raced into the third turn with only the slower giving way into the corner. That allowed Williamson enough breathing room to accelerate where he needed and rocket past Sears down the front stretch on lap 40.
He wasn’t done with lap cars, though, and Sears wasn’t done with him. Neither was Wight done with Sears. For the next 20 laps, Williamson played the obstacle course of slower cars, while Sears and Wight waged a war for second not far behind him. Switching lanes almost every lap, Sears and Wight were throwing every attack and defense they could at each other, while never making contact.
On lap 61, the lap cars continued to plague Williamson’s drive and benefit Sears.
His No. 62X vehicle found its way around Williamson’s machine once again with the steam to potentially carry him to a victory. However, the calm Canadian had his fill of the way the slower cars were racing him and was not going to let them be the cause of a lost win.
Enter dangerous path No. 2. Not so dissimilar from the first one.
The slower car of Billy Dunn was high, and Sears was low. With another strong run off turn two, Williamson didn’t hesitate to fill the gap between them again. This time, when they got to turn three, he didn’t care if Dunn lifted or not, he was driving in with all the might and aggression he wanted and needed to make the pass.
“The way the lap cars were got under my skin,” Williamson said. “There was a time I was going into turn three where there was a lap car outside of me and I didn’t really care if they ended up in the wall or not because I got put in the front straightaway wall by multiple lap cars. I grew up in a different era and respected the cars that were having a good night. I have bad nights and have been in those situations many times. Obviously, I’m not perfect and done things like that but when I have an off night, I think I show the leader a little more respect.”
Williamson officially reclaimed the lead for the final time on lap 64 and held off Sears for the final 11 laps to claim his second NAPA Super DIRT Week win in two days in two different cars — he won the Super DIRTcar Series Demon 100 at Brewerton Speedway Tuesday.
“We had a heck of a race with Timmer (Sears, Jr.). Fans probably enjoyed it. We’ll take them when we can get them,” Williamson said.
While Sears had to settle for second, the thrill of the battle wasn’t lost on him.
“That was probably one of the most fun races we’ve had here all year,” Sears said. “Hats off to the track crew. It was really racy and put on a good show for the fans. … We were all kind of the same through lap traffic. It depended on who got the breaks and who didn’t. Matty ended up getting the better end of that stick. Second, we’ll take it. We put on a heck of a race. That was fun.”
Wight, the defending winner of the race, rounded out the podium — his fourth straight top-five finish in the event.
“Every time we seemed to get a run on those guys, we hit lap cars and the lap cars were never in my favor,” Wight said.
Ronnie Davis III got by McCreadie for fourth in the final three laps, forcing McCreadie to settle for fifth.
Momentum is now firmly on Williamson’s side as he looks to defend his 2019 Billy Whittaker Cars 200 championship and go after his first DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150 victory. If he can win it, he’d accomplish a rare feat of winning in three different cars during NAPA Super DIRT Week as he runs for another 358 Modified team at Oswego.
“The Small-Block race is one of those that I haven’t won. It’s a prestigious event,” Williamson said. “It would be awesome to win. But we’ll also need some luck on our side at (Oswego Speedway) for the 150 race. You need a little bit more luck and skill. Hopefully, luck keeps riding with us.”