Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Mat Williamson is now $100,000 richer.
The driver from St Catharines On, Canada showed why he should be considered one of the best young talents in Dirt Modified Racing Saturday night at the Orange County Fair Speedway as he claimed the $100K-to-win Centennial Weekend victory at the Hard Clay.
When the night started for Williamson and crew, they were looking to put on a good show. With a strong showing in his time trials and heat, Mat was in the redraw and drew the pole for the 160-lap main event. That’s when things got interesting.
As cars were pulling off of pit road to to start the main, it began to sprinkle and the weather stayed the same as the green flag fell. About lap 6, the precipitation picked up and by the 12th circuit, it started to downpour.
Unfortunately, it was for a huge pileup in turn one.
After a lengthy delay, and some controversy, we were back racing under green with Williamson leading Billy Decker and a host of others.
A few cautions plagued the early laps of the restarts, but by lap 40, Decker had made his way around Williamson to assume the top spot. and had the lead.
However there was no quit in the driver of the #3 as he once again passed Decker to take the top spot. That was until the Doctor came calling. Williamson was passed by Danny Johnson. It was a back and forth battle in lap traffic during the middle stages of the event with Williamson holding the upper hand.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from there for Williamson, though, as defending track champion Anthony Perrego passed him with about 30 laps to go.
“Anthony was banging the cushion,” Williamson said. “He was fast…really fast, but it took someone to show me that lane. I think we could maneuver and it kind of saved us.”
Once he got back around Perrego with just under 20 laps remaining, it was another Canadian driver, Stewart Friesen, who was coming and coming fast. The battle was heavy into lap traffic, but with three to go, Friesen rode the turn one wall. He was able to keep going, however.
The caution flew setting up a three-lap shootout for $100,000.
As the restart happened, Williamson protected the low line and drove away, capturing the crown Jewel event win.
“I can’t believe it really,” Williamson said. “It’s amazing. I had to take a minute in the race car to soak it all in. The opportunity I have to drive for all these great car owners, I’m the luckiest guy in the pit area. I say thanks as much as i can leaving the race track, but this win makes it all worth it and i honestly can’t thank them enough.”
When the caution flew with three laps to go, however, Williamson was as cool as cucumber
“I knew what we had to do to win,” he said. “I just didn’t know if we had the car to do what we needed to do. I knew I had the roll the middle of turns one and two and leave the bottom open for a slide job.”
The guy in second at the time was none other than Stewart Friesen.
“I said earlier that Stewie is the greatest guy to run with,” he said. “I knew he wouldn’t do anything dirty. He would throw a slider but you know it is always going to be clear. We rolled the middle, protected the slider and then rolled the top of three and four. I went into the middle and it’s amazing we won.”
With some comical relief during the rain delay, Williamson tweeted out:
‘Unpopular Opinion, I think we should call the race now’
However, leading from the drop of green is not easy.
“I was scared,” he said. “This is a huge race and a huge deal. It’s the biggest Modified race in history and I’ve had dreams about moments like this my whole life. Clinton Geoffrey told me about 10 years ago, ‘If you picture yourself doing something you want to do and you work hard at it, it will come true.’ We were sitting there on the red and I kept thinking about how we were going to win…what I had to do…what to do after…what to do in victory lane and it’s just amazing we are here.”
Some fans who went to Orange County on Saturday may have never of heard of Mat Williamson before the evening started, but just like when Brett Hearn won Super DIRT Week in 1985, they know who he is now.
“Here’s a funny story for ya,” Williamson said with a laugh. “We were sitting in the autograph session earlier tonight. It was Matt Sheppard, Danny Johnson, Billy Pauch Jr., myself, Chris Hile, and Anthony Perrego in that order. People would go to Pauch Jr. and skip over me and Chris. I honestly think a lot of them didn’t know I drove race cars. For them, I would have signed a poster today, was more than willing, but truthfully, this is what puts us on the map.”
The youngster from Canada, Mat Williamson, won the Centennial Weekend and in this part of the country, this victory just made him an instant legend. This win makes up for all of the seconds and thirds this year on the Super DIRTcar Series, along with every big race he was oh so close to winning.
Mat Williamson is now a household name and should be. He just won $100,000.