For the first time in his career, Mat Williamson will bring the DIRTcar 358 Modified field to the green Saturday in the 43rd running of the Salute to the Troops 150.
The six fastest drivers from Thursday’s Time Trial sessions have locked themselves into the Salute to the Troops 150. Williamson is joined by Zachary Payne, Erick Rudolph, Dalton Slack, Tim Sears Jr. and Derek Webb in the first three rows of Saturday’s main event for a shot at the $20,000 grand prize.
Later in the evening, both Williamson and Payne went on to win their respective Heats, as well as Rudolph, picking up the additional $1,000 bonus checks as part of the Thursday Night Thunder program.
Coming into October, Williamson – the 33-year-old Big Block Modified ace from St. Catharines, ON – has triumphed twice in Super DIRT Week’s crown jewel, the Billy Whittaker Cars 200, but has never been to Victory Lane in the year’s biggest 358 Modified event despite over a decade’s worth of attempts. In fact, he’s never been on the pole of any Super DIRT Week Feature event.
He changed all that Thursday afternoon, laying down a lap of 21.965 seconds around the dirt-covered, 5/8-mile of Oswego Speedway – the only sub-22-second lap recorded out of all 78 cars to participate in Time Trials – and picked up the $1,000 SRI Performance/Stock Car Steel Pole Award.
“It’s cool – between the Big Block and the Small Block, I’ve never put it on the pole,” Williamson said. “It’s cool momentum; hopefully we can get some luck on our side and be good on Saturday.”
Starting to his outside on Saturday – a new face to the 358 Modified front row at Oswego, Zachary Payne. The 22-year-old from Stanley, NY, turned a lap of 22.098 seconds, good enough to earn him the Fratto Curbing Outside Pole Award.
“I could never imagine us being in the top six,” Payne said. “We joked about it yesterday. We knew we had a fast car, and I had to just run one really good lap, and I did.”
A graduate of the Sportsman Modified ranks, Payne has been a constant presence in weekly Big Block Modified action this year, scoring a Feature win in July at Land of Legends Raceway. As one of numerous racers pulling double duty at Oswego with the Big Blocks and 358s, he was all smiles after his first big success of the week.
“I couldn’t be any happier and prouder of our team,” Payne said. “We’ve been working for this the last couple years now. To even be in the top six with the other guys in there is just crazy.”
Heat 1 – Mat Williamson
After the Feature win Wednesday at Brewerton and the Pole Award Thursday afternoon, Mat Williamson showed exactly why he’s been the most dominant 358 Modified in the field this week with a flag-to-flag win in Heat #1.
The former Super DIRTcar Series champion drove 20 clean laps around Oswego untouched in his final tune-up before leading the Salute to the Troops 150 to the green on Saturday.
“We’ve certainly got a good car; we’re not in the wrong direction by any means,” Williamson said. “We’re gonna work hard, and we’re gonna try and stay on top of the racetrack.”
Heat 1 (20 Laps): 1. 6-Mat Williamson; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 3RS-Dalton Slack; 4. 44-Stewart Friesen; 5. 22-Brandon Walters; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 7. 91-Felix Roy; 8. 3-Chris Mackey; 9. 9C-Brian Calabrese; 10. 18R-Brad Rouse; 11. 19-Tim Fuller; 12. 215-Adam Pierson; 13. 91D-Billy Decker; 14. 713-Tommy Collins; 15. 25P-Michael Parent; 16. 38-Kevin Stevens; 17. 74-Dave Flannigan Jr; 18. 63-Jarrett Herbison; 19. 1NY-Gregory Atkins; 20. 16-Aaron Jacobs; 21. 37S-Gary Lindberg; 22. 2J-Robert Bublak; 23. 5H-Amy Holland; 24. 14S-Brian Swarthout; 25. 26-Michael Mandigo; 26. 427-Carter Gibbons
Heat 2 – Zach Payne
Following his Outside Pole Award-worthy performance in time Trials earlier in the day, Payne led all 20 laps of Heat Race #2 untouched – the first of his 358 Modified career at Super DIRT Week.
Thinking about the day he had as a whole, Payne was still over-the-moon with the success in his second 358 Modified venture to Oswego.
“I don’t know if it’s really set-in yet,” Payne said. “It might tomorrow, next week, next month, I don’t know. I’m just doing what I’m told right now and doing my best.”
Heat 2 (20 Laps): 1. 7Z-Zachary Payne; 2. 49-Billy Dunn; 3. 3J-Marc Johnson; 4. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 5. 9-Tyler Meeks; 6. M1-David Marcuccilli; 7. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 8. 12-Darren Smith; 9. 83-Danny Johnson; 10. 21A-Peter Britten; 11. 32R-Ronald Davis III; 12. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 13. 31-Lance Willix; 14. B2-Bob Henry Jr; 15. 28-Jordan McCreadie; 16. 18W-Scott Webb; 17. 01C-Chris Raabe; 18. 27W-Nick Webb; 19. 11S-Steve Lewis Jr; 20. 01-Robert Gage; 21. 21R-RJ Tresidder; 22. 50-William August; 23. 115-Montgomery Tremont; 24. 21JR-Jeffrey Reis; 25. 29-Matt Caprara; 26. 24-Zach Aubertine
Heat 3 – Erick Rudolph
In what was likely the most dominant performance given in a Heat Race all night, Erick Rudolph led wire-to-wire for the win in Heat Race #3.
The veteran racer from Ransomville, NY, stretched his led out to almost five seconds at its largest before second-running Larry Wight slowed and brought out the caution in the closing laps, taking it pit-side where the crew made adjustments underneath the hood.
Back to green with two laps left, and Rudolph aced the restart to bring the field around to the checkered and score the win.
“All practice is was two laps at a time, then Time Trials was two laps at a time, so this was the first time we ran it any more than a couple laps,” Rudolph said. “We didn’t really do much; we were just more curious to see what it was gonna do in a longer run.”
Heat 3 (20 Laps): 1. 25-Erick Rudolph; 2. 35-Mike Mahaney; 3. 4*-Anthony Perrego; 4. 60-Jackson Gill; 5. 66-Tim McCreadie; 6. 66W-Derek Webb; 7. 70A-Alex Payne; 8. 19C-Brandon Carvey; 9. 14B-Jack Lehner; 10. 8-Rich Scagliotta; 11. 26R-Corey Cormier; 12. 21C-Taylor Caprara; 13. 58M-Marshall Hurd; 14. 28T-Michael Trautschold; 15. 92-Andrew Buff; 16. 4V-Billy VanInwegen Jr; 17. 28H-Brett Hearn; 18. 99L-Larry Wight; 19. 28F-Alan Fink; 20. 15X-Justin Stone; 21. 02-Roy Bresnahan; 22. 4SL-Bob Hentschel; 23. 5-Tanner Siemons; 24. 117JR-CJ Castelletti; 25. 39-Ryan Bartlett; 26. (DNS) 18S-Sean Beardsley
The 358 Modified action continues Friday, Oct. 6 at Oswego Speedway, with Last Chance Showdown events to lock-in six more drivers into Saturday’s Feature. Get a ticket at the gate or on SuperDIRTWeek.com, and stream live on DIRTVision.