CONCORD, N.C. – In the battle for the Super DIRTcar Series championship, Mat Williamson fired the first shot during Thursday’s Can-Am World Finals preliminaries at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Williamson, who trails point leader Matt Sheppard by six entering the two-race weekend, set the fastest time of the day during qualifying for Saturday’s program at 15.712 seconds (88.671 mph) before going on to win his Saturday heat race, placing him into the top-10 redraw for the final feature of the year.
It was Williamson’s first time topping qualifying all season long and couldn’t have come at a better time as he chases his first series championship.
“Man, I’m just excited to be able to do what we do here,” Williamson said. “To be in the position that we’re in is cool and I hope that we can take advantage of it through the rest of the weekend. Obviously to be in the redraw for Saturday is a good start to what we need to do to catch (Matt) Sheppard, and hopefully when we get to run Friday’s heats we can do the same thing there and take a shot at it.
“It may work out; it may not, but we’re going to give it all we’ve got and have fun trying.”
Saturday’s group qualifying session was followed by four eight-lap heat races, each of which was won from the pole and all of which ran caution-free, save for a crash on the initial start of the first heat where Phil Vigneri climbed the outside wall and nearly flipped in the first turn.
In heat one, Mike Maresca led all the way and beat Chris Hile, Anthony Perrego, Brian Swartzlander and Billy Dunn to the checkered flag, as the top five from each heat locked into the main event.
Heat two saw Williamson hold off a hard-charging Max McLaughlin for the victory, with Billy Pauch Jr., Mike Mahaney and Gary Tomkins also transferring on.
The third heat went to Demetrios Drellos, over Erick Rudolph, Brett Hearn, Tyler Siri and Ryan Godown, with heat four being won by Billy Decker over Matt Sheppard, Tim Fuller, Jimmy Phelps and Danny Johnson.
During the group qualifying round for Friday’s racing program, Billy Decker went out in group two and turned in a lap of 15.739 seconds (88.519 mph), good enough for his sixth fast time of the season.
Rain drenched the speedway before Friday’s heat races could be completed, leading series officials to cancel the Last Chance Showdowns for the opening-night program and replace them with the still-to-be run heat races – which will kick off Friday’s on-track activities.
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