After a wild Friday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (NC) Super DIRTcar Series, Mat Williamson carries an 18-point advantage over Matt Sheppard, who rallied to limit the damage to his title hopes.
Williamson, three times a winner on the series since September, continued his momentum with a fifth-place finish in Friday’s 40-lap feature event. Meanwhile, Sheppard overcame an early flat tire to salvage a 10th-place run.
Sheppard entered the feature with a three-point advantage, courtesy of a heat race win earlier in the afternoon. Now, he trails the streaking Williamson entering the decisive race on closing night at the Can-Am World Finals.
Williamson is confident entering Saturday’s championship decider, relying on the team’s strength in the fall and a strong showing last night.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Williamson told Speed51. “We’ve been pretty good the last couple of months and have put ourselves in this position by being that good. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and hopefully we can capitalize on this deal.”
Williamson doesn’t feel the pressure to win Saturday night, knowing a strong showing will be enough to maintain his points advantage built from Friday night.
“It’s a race where we’ve got to put ourselves in a position to win a championship,” said Williamson. “Not necessarly win, we’ll go out there and try to get a top-three or top-five out of it. Hopefully, the chips lie where they fall. We had a good car last night. We could pass some cars and we learned some stuff where we’ll be better tonight. I’m looking forward to it and it’s cool to have an opportunity like this.”
Sheppard is entering with the approach that he must win the race and put as much pressure as possible on Williamson.
“Our best shot is going to be if we win, so we’ve got to try to win tonight. That’s pretty much all there is to it.”
Sheppard considers himself fortunate to score a top-10 run on Friday night, considering the size of the field in the evening’s feature race.
“I passed 10 cars and I think I was still 25th. A little bit unfortunate, we run 28 cars all year long and then we get to the biggest weekend of the year, points battle on the line and they start 10 extra cars. We were very fortunate to come home 10th.”
Sheppard, seeking his eighth Super DIRTcar Series title and his fifth in as many seasons, is pragmatic entering the final race.
“We’re going to go out and run hard. If we win it, we win it. If we don’t, we’re not going to be disappointed. We’ve had a great season, won the championship seven other times. We’ve been in this boat before. We’ve won some tight ones and lost some tight ones. The same thing is going to happen tonight, either way.”
Meanwhile, the “challenger” Williamson hopes to score what would be a meaningful title, which would be his first in the series.
“It would be amazing. There are no words to describe how much this means to me and to my team. To all the guys that work so hard on this deal, it would be a dream come true.”
Speed51 will have Race Day Now coverage of the Can-Am World Finals starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo / Duane Canfield