BRIDGEPORT, N.J. — After a 50-lap, caution-free main event, Ryan Watt captured the South Jersey Shootout at Bridgeport Motorsports Park Tuesday night. The feature ran nonstop in just over 14 minutes.
Watt held off Matt Sheppard’s late-race charge to grab his sixth career Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco triumph and his first since Oct. 12, 2018 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway.
“We’ve been close at this new track a lot, I think we had six seconds before tonight,” Watt said. “The car was fast in hot laps and we never really changed anything all night and it worked out.”
Watt’s win was worth $5,300.
Watt fired from the outside pole, next to fellow Keystone State driver Rick Laubach.
The two PA drivers paced the field for much of the early going, while Sheppard trailed patiently in the third position.
The driver on the move was Stewart Friesen, who drew 12th in the redraw, but quickly made his way into the top five on lap five. By lap 10, Friesen had worked by Mike Mahaney to take the fourth position.
Friesen’s charge appeared to have more in the tank, as he quickly reeled in and began challenging Matt Sheppard for the third position on the 15th trip around the speedway.
While Friesen continued to pressure Sheppard, Watt – who had quietly been working in second – was suddenly closing on Laubach’s back decklid as the leaders carved through traffic on the 20th circuit.
Friesen and Sheppard began another classic battle for the third position, trading slide jobs and crossovers as they navigated the high banks at Bridgeport.
While the two titans waged war for third, even trading rub rails at one point, Alex Yankowski had suddenly entered the fray, making it a three-car race for the third position.
While the race for third was intensifying, Watt had found his rhythm on the topside of the high banks, racing around Laubach in lapped traffic on lap 26.
As Watt raced to the front, suddenly Sheppard shook off Friesen’s bid for third, and began to catch the lead pair. Laubach’s handling was beginning to fade, as Sheppard quickly caught and slid by for second on the lap 32.
Sheppard would use the remaining 18 circuits to zero in the back bumper of Watt’s No. 14w as the duo continuously navigated lapped traffic.
Friesen and Yankowski swept around Laubach as well but appeared to be a step behind the top two in the late stages.
As the laps dwindled, so did Watt’s lead. With lap traffic becoming heavier and heavier with each passing lap, Sheppard closed within striking distance with five laps to go.
“I thought I had a good chance at him with two to go, but I picked up a real bad push, and I couldn’t get back to him on the last lap,” explained Sheppard following his runner-up finish.
Friesen finished third, with Yankowski and Laubach rounding out the top five.
Ryan Godown Jr. won the crate sportsman feature.
Feature (50 laps): Ryan Watt, Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, Alex Yankowski, Rick Laubach, Mike Mahaney, Anthony Perrego, Ryan Godown, Max McLaughlin, Dominick Buffalino, Andy Bachetti, Billy Pauch Jr., Dillon Steuer, Jeff Strunk, Mike Gular, Joseph Watson, Frank Cozze, Neal Williams, Danny Bouc, Jordan Watson, Brandon Grosso, Sammy Martz Sr., Jim Gallagher, Tyler Dippel, Billy Osmun, Ryan Krachun, Matt Stangle, John Willman.