Mat Williamson was second across the finish line Saturday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (NC) in the Can-Am World Finals, but that was enough to make him the first driver since 2015 to beat Matt Sheppard for the Super DIRTcar Series championship.
Williamson finished two spots ahead of Sheppard, adding to an 18-point lead entering the finale to secure the series title. With the championship, Williamson became the first Canadian to win the Super DIRTcar Series title.
The title contenders started on the front row for the 40-lap feature, with Sheppard leading early before engaging in a thrilling battle with Billy Decker.
That battle had Williamson’s heart in his throat, knowing there was little room for error on his behalf if his championship rival took the win.
“After the re-draw, things took a turn,” said Williamson. “I had a great day, relaxed myself, did what I had to do, and then when we got to that re-draw I got a little nervous because [Sheppard] was going to start inside of us. We just did what we had to do and hung in there.
“I really didn’t know what to think when Matt got back by Billy there. I had to really keep my cool and stay with them. This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of and we got it done.”
Decker would hold on for the win, a particularly rewarding one for the last driver not named Sheppard to win the Super DIRTcar Series title before Saturday night. While Decker has lifted the championship trophy at Charlotte, he had never won a World Finals race.
The Unadilla, New York native seemed poised to end that drought on Friday night, but fell out of contention with a flat tire. There would be no such downfall on Saturday, as Decker scored the elusive win.
“I’d like to tell you Charlotte has been a pain in my side, but I have a little lower opinion,” said Decker in victory lane. “I feel like one got away from us last night. When that thing came out of the box, it was a rocket ship. It’s fun to be a part of. Last night, we felt like one got away from us and it had me down pretty hard. We came out swinging today. It feels good to finally get a win here at the World Finals.”
Decker spent plenty of time racing both championship contenders throughout the race, and knew he had to race them fairly while also battling for the much-desired win.
“I knew when I scooped [Sheppard] off of two, I better race Mat [Williamson] damn hard and show equal opportunity. We’re happy to be parked here in victory lane. Congratulations to Mat Williamson and that entire team. We’re not going to steal too much of their thunder, just a little bit right here.”
Williamson was incredibly complimentary of his Buzz Chew Racing team, as the duo hooked up for what proved to be a very successful 2019 season, complete with the Super DIRTcar Series title as well as wins at Super DIRT Week and Orange County Fair Speedway’s (NY) $100,000-to-win 100th Anniversary Race.
“What Buzz has put into this and what Buzz’s whole family has put into this has been underappreciated for so many years. They haven’t had the success and put into it and put into it, kind of like my racing career. It’s cool that we got together and put everything together and did what we had to do.”
Sheppard finished fourth, missing out on his eighth Super DIRTcar Series title as his car stumbled to the finish. Sheppard believed even a win wouldn't have been enough with Williamson's performance on Saturday night.
"We had a really good car tonight. Unfortunately we dropped a cylinder and the thing quit running on me. Even if we had won it, I think Mat still would have won the championship finishing second or third.
Sheppard was congratulatory of the Williamson team, crediting their championship run to stronger consistency over the 2019 season.
"Congrats to those guys, they really deserve it and had an awesome year. We had more wins but we also had more bad nights than they did. Consistency is what wins championships, and they were certainly consistent."
Race fans who missed Saturday’s Can-Am World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte can visit Race Day Now for updates from the event by clicking here.
Unofficial Results - Super DIRTcar Series Can-Am World Finals
|14||15||Billy Pauch, Jr.|
|27||37||Paul St. Sauver|
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo / Duane Canfield