With the North Region of the Short Track Super Series now in the books, the focus now shifts to the South Region with six drivers having a chance at championship glory during the Mid-Atlantic Championship this weekend at Delaware’s Georgetown Speedway.
At the top of the points, Ryan Watt holds a fairly sturdy 43-point lead over David Van Horn, Jr. heading into Sunday’s 40-lap season finale, which was pushed back after the two-day schedule was moved with rain moving through the area Friday.
While the top two in points have both have been nearly equal in consistency, it has been Watt who has kept the edge since the very start of the season back in March, when the Pennsylvania driver opened up with a win at Georgetown.
“We always seem to run well at the two tracks in Delaware. It just took us a while to get to victory lane. Finally, this year we did to open the series up at Georgetown, so it would be awesome to close the season with a win there, and take the championship at the same time,” Watt told Speed51.com.
Not only has Watt put himself in the running for a third STSS South Modified title, he has the chance to put the bow on a tremendous season which has included many a number of “big money” wins and his third straight Big-Block track championship at Bridgeport Speedway (NJ).
“We’ve been very good. Just had a few races where we broke a shock or got a flat tire, something like that with a little bit of bad luck. For the most part we’ve been real consistent, we only struggled early in the season at Bridgeport other than that. We had a good season last year with 13 wins overall and the series championship, so we went with the same direction this year with a few upgrades, plus we added another car. It’s still working for us.”
Starting off the weekend will be a 30-lap open comp race for Small-Block Modifieds on Saturday night where Watt and the Ron Roberts No. 14w team hope to start off the weekend strong.
“We’re hoping the Small-Block portion goes better on Saturday than it did at the beginning of the year, but the Big-Block portion we feel comfortable.”
Even with the STSS South championship on the line Sunday “The Electric Company” hopes to light up victory lane at day’s end in addition to locking up the title.
“We’ll keep the championship in the backs of our minds some. I don’t know what the scenarios are. I know we have a little bit of a cushion. But, every time I go out there, I go for the win. Most times, like at Bridgeport I don’t worry about the championship, you get the wins, they’ll fall where they are. Being ahead with the amount of money that’s on the line, you got to keep that on your mind, but that’s the way I race too, you don’t put yourself in a situation that’s going to take you out of the race. You’ve got to race smart so you can be there at the end.”
Watt will certainly be keeping an eye on those in the points race, especially Van Horn, who nearly beat out Watt for the 2015 STSS South title.
“He’s been really good. When I won my first championship Van Horn happened to have bad luck, and we ended up getting the title. Hopefully it doesn’t go the other way. But he’s a tough competitor in the series. He’s consistent just like we are. We’ll have to be on top of our game to hold on to it.”
On the home track front, Van Horn claimed a title of his own in 2018 up at New Egypt Speedway (NJ), but is still searching for his first STSS win not only of 2018 but since 2015.
“It’s been a good season for us all year, from Saturday nights at New Egypt winning that championship. It’s been a good tour for us too on the South Series, so close to getting that first win. Usually we just either draw bad or something happens that puts us deep in the field,” Van Horn explained.
“But the Series Big-Block car has been fast, plenty of second’s and third’s; going through the pits everybody calls me the ‘bridesmaid’. But we’ve been consistent, the crew has worked hard, hopefully this is the weekend we break through.”
DVH will also be trying for the weekend sweep as well in both Small-Block and STSS competition, but while the Vahlco team has the No. 323 Big-Block ready for Sunday, Van Horn will have a different ride for Saturday.
“I’m actually getting back into my family-owned car for the Small-Block race, because the car we won the championship with at New Egypt just got sold off. So I’m getting back in my dad’s No. 71 car for Saturday, and he has an Open Small-Block engine to put in it. So I’m confident in our chances to win that.”
Despite being 43 points behind Watt heading to Georgetown, the 2015 championship chase has taught DVH that the points leader in this situation is far from safe.
“I feel really good, but Ryan is too. He’s got an army behind him for a crew, and he’s good driver himself. Going back to the first year of the South Series I was leading by 35 points going into the last race, running fourth pretty much had it locked up, and the motor blew up. A lot can happen, especially down there at Georgetown. It’s a fast place, hard on the motors, plus you got to stay clean.”
Since then, both Van Horn and Watt have found themselves locked in battle with each other the past few seasons, but the two competitors have also gained a good level of mutual respect in that time.
“We’ve been racing the Series since it started, we have a good friendship between us. We both race hard, we do our own homework, work on our own car, and we’re both lucky to have great owners behind us. We’re pretty similar, just comes down to the best man winning. Right now he’s got a 43-point lead, hopefully we can cut into that, and get the championship,” Said Van Horn.
Now it all comes down to one final assault. Being 43 points down, the New Jersey driver knows his best and possibly only shot at a first STSS title is getting that elusive Series win this very weekend at Georgetown.
“This year we did a lot of work and figured some stuff out, worked with Randy up at Bicknell. We really found something with the car and its been pretty consistent everywhere we went, including Georgetown. We got the same setup at every track, so we’ll just go back there with some fine-tuning and just go for it.”
Behind Watt and Van Horn in points lies Craig Von Dohren in third 65 points out of the lead, Duane Howard 73 points out, Matt Sheppard 74 back, and Ryan Godown who’s 100 points out.
You can see the Short Track Super Series live on Speed51.com this Sunday from Georgetown Speedway, the live broadcast is free for all Speed51 Network premium subscribers.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com