By CAMDEN PROUD
Mat Williamson will be as busy as any dirt modified driver this season. The St. Catharines, Ontario pilot has over 100 events circled on his calendar including the full Super DIRTcar Series slate with Buzz Chew Racing.
In his first four events behind the wheel of the Buzz and Bryan Chew owned No. 88 at the Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, Williamson showed speed, but was not able to finish any better than tenth place.
Now fast forward two months to the Super DIRTcar Series regular season opener at Can-Am Speedway this past Saturday. Williamson and Buzz Chew Racing were quick yet again, but this time took home some solid results to show for it.
The Buzz Chew Cadillac sponsored ride with Billy the Kid power was tenth fastest overall in group time trials. Williamson then finished fourth in his qualifying heat race, falling short of the redraw by only one position. After lining up fifteenth for the 100-lapper, Williamson methodically worked his way through the field and by the final restart of the night, had a shot at race-long leader Matt Sheppard.
“We struggled a little bit in Florida, but the nice thing about that is it doesn’t really matter now,” Williamson said. “It definitely took some time getting used to everything and getting comfortable in the car. We changed a few things since Florida to try to make ourselves a little bit better and I think that certainly showed today. I can’t thank these guys enough for thinking of me and putting me in the seat.”
Williamson’s 2019 schedule will show that a lot of people “thought of him” when it comes to filling their respective seats for the year. Along with competing on the full Super DIRTcar Series tour with Buzz Chew, he will return to the Short Track Super Series piloting the Behrent’s No. 3. Williamson will also make Utica-Rome his Sunday night home driving the Roger Heroux No. 24. On Fridays, he will take over for Scott Kerwin as driver of the Pete Cocco and Paul Wendt No. 7 at Ransomville while also appearing at Merrittville for as many Saturday night events as possible driving the family owned No. 6. If you’re keeping track, that is five different cars for four new car owners. What is ironic is that outside of his time in the Behrent’s car last season, Williamson has little to no racing experience away from family equipment.
“I drove for Mike Payne for a bit, maybe two or three races and then the Behrent car last year, but that is pretty much it,” Williamson recalled. “We have a bunch of awesome rides this year between Buzz with the tour, Jeff Behrent for the Short Track Super Series, Roger Heroux at Utica and Pete Cocco and Paul Wendt at Ransomville so I feel pretty lucky. Those are all really great rides and that makes my job a whole lot easier.”
Does driving someone else’s equipment place a little bit of added pressure on a driver’s shoulders? Williamson thinks so. He was hired to win races and beat the very best of the best. Mat certainly hopes to live up to those expectations and knows its really going to be a tall task to beat names like Sheppard, Friesen, and so on.
“The tough part is that there are really some pretty tall expectations now,” Williamson explained. “They understand there are going to be bad runs, but I have big expectations myself. I was hired to do a job and these guys want to win, so you need to perform. Today was a good way to start that. Now I just want to beat Matt Sheppard.”
What some might consider even more unbelievable than the magnitude of Williamson’s schedule itself is the fact that he has a regular day job on top of it all. A Canadian, Williamson lives just a short distance from Bicknell Race Products where he spends most of his weekdays from 8 to 5:30. The car he is driving for Buzz Chew Racing is in fact a brand new Bicknell which Williamson had a small role in piecing together himself. He did cosmetic work to prepare the No. 88 car and shipped the pieces to Buzz Chew crew chief Ron Ste-Marie, who also goes by ‘Spot.’
“I had a role in some of the work to get it ready to go,” Williamson said. “I did some stuff with the bodies and shipped them to Spot, then he put all of it together. I mounted a seat in it before it left the shop too, but didn’t really do anything too crazy. The Buzz Chew guys are really, really awesome about preparation.”
Preparation. Something that was undoubtedly the key to success this past Saturday night at Can-Am. The track conditions were challenging. There were a lot of things that could and did go wrong for a lot of teams. Maybe it was flat tires, broken parts, or run ins with those pesky yuke tires which bit a lot of drivers in the Rockstar 100. Through all of the cautions and mishaps in a race that would seemingly never end, Williamson remained confident in the piece he had underneath him. He spoke very highly of the Buzz Chew Racing team and the importance they hold in maintenance and attention to detail.
“To do 100 laps on a track like that on April 13 is tough. Its very, very challenging track conditions and a whole lot of time out there,” quipped Williamson. “Even with all of those factors, there was never a concern that I was going to break a drive shaft or u-joint or anything like that. The thing is built properly. They work hard to do their job and I just try to do my best as well.”
The next hurdle for Williamson and Buzz Chew Racing will be the 100-lap Highbank Holdup at the Fulton Speedway in two weeks. Its a place that Mat has always run well at and right now, momentum and confidence are on his side. He feels as though he can contend for his first Super DIRTcar Series win at the highbanked Oswego County oval.
“It’s pretty big to start the season this way,” commented Williamson. “After Florida we were second guessing what we were doing with the cars, but I just kind of convinced Spot to stick with me and we’ve really kind of run the same setup I’ve had everywhere we’ve been so far and had success. That’s what we did and we stuck with it tonight, so it gives us some really good confidence going into Fulton in two weeks. That’s a place I run good at so I don’t see why we can’t go there and contend for a win.”
Before taking on the next Super DIRTcar Series event, Williamson will remain busy these next couple of weeks first with the Spring Sizzler at Merrittville on Saturday, April 20 and later his first test and tune in the Coco No. 7 at Ransomville on Friday, April 26. He will also make his debut in the Heroux No. 24 one day after the Fulton 100 in what is a scheduled regular show for the 358 Modifieds at Utica-Rome Speedway.