The opening round of the 2018 Short Track Super Series Modified season might have taken place in Delaware, but it was merely the battleground as two titans from New Jersey and New York went at it on a chilly and damp Georgetown Speedway Saturday night. In the end, the citizens of the Garden State toasted Ryan Watt’s hard-earned victory over Matt Sheppard in the 49-lap Melvin L. Joseph Memorial.
Watt took down his first career STSS victory at the historic half-mile after collecting a pile of runner-up finishes the past year.
“We’ve been so close here, been second so many times. Every race we ran down here last year we were second. Finally got the win here. I saw the new trophies they put out this week and I thought it’d be awesome to get one of those,” Watt said on the live Speed51 Network broadcast.
Despite a rain soaked track from a couple showers in the mid-afternoon, Georgetown’s new wider and progressively banked turns proved to be a success after two years of work by Brett Deyo and his staff.
Watt was one of the drivers using every inch of the surface, at one time in the middle of the feature, a little too much. After losing the lead to Sheppard on a Lap 13 restart, Watt immediately gave chase and looked to have Sheppard in his sight, until he went into turn three too fast on Lap 27 and went over the top of the banking. Somehow he maintained control and momentum, holding second place over David Van Horn.
“The track was awesome; you could run the top and the bottom. The top really widened out there, you were right on the edge, but it’s on the edge,” Watt explained. “There’s that one time I went over the edge and I was catching Matt and just went over in three and four, lost all that ground.”
Watt used some patience after going off track, getting the yellow he needed on Lap 34. But by this time his car had equalized with Sheppard’s. Just when it seemed Sheppard had the space he needed, a pair of lapped cars got in the way while having a race of their own, pinning Sheppard on the inside. It allowed Watt to blow past on the outside in turns three and four.
“Kind of just rode there hoping for a caution, because I don’t want to use my car up coming back up to get to him. Got our opportunity in lapped traffic, traffic is tough anywhere you go, everybody’s fast. Matt got bottled up a little and I just took advantage of it.”
Watt would hold off Sheppard for a final single-file restart to win the first round of the STSS South Region schedule.
After getting blocked in turn three, Sheppard showed his displeasure to Tyler Boniface, the driver who had pinned him down, during the final yellow flag. During post-race interviews, Sheppard looked on the positive side of the situation after a successful first race with the Shawn Ward owned Hurlock Auto & Speed team, with which he will run the full STSS North and South schedules with.
“Congratulations to Ryan, he was superfast. Man this place is fast, you’re up on the wheel running as hard as you can the whole time,” Sheppard stated. “I thought we had a good shot at it there and just got caught up in lap traffic, you’ll have that sometimes. But this gives us a lot to look forward to, this is a little different deal than I’m used to, but the car was fast and I’m looking forward to coming back again.”
A hard-charging David Van Horn came home in third with Billy Decker and Billy Pauch, Jr. rounding out the top five.
The next round for the Short Track Super Series Modifieds will be the North Region opener, the Hard Clay Open at Orange County Fair Speedway, on Sunday, April 8. You can watch that race and every round of the 2018 Short Track Super Series schedule live on Speed51.com. Click here to see the full schedule and join the Speed51 Network today.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos
Short Track Super Series South Region Unofficial Results
Georgetown Speedway (DE) – March 17, 2018
|3||323||David Van Horn|
|5||51||Billy Pauch Jr.|
|7||14s||Craig Von Dohren|
|8||1||Billy Pauch Sr.|
|18||17||Scott Van Gorder|