MALTA, N.Y. — Mat Williamson added another accomplishment to his resume Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
The St. Catharines, Ontario, driver slid past Mike Mahaney on a lap-19 restart and never looked back, leading the final 31 laps to grab the inaugural DIRTcar 358 Modified Series win at “The Great Race Place.”
Marc Johnson and Matt Woodruff led the field of 358 Modifieds to the green on night one of Malta Massive Weekend, as Johnson, a two-time Albany-Saratoga Speedway track champion, grabbed the top spot.
Johnson held off a challenge from Mike Mahaney before back-to-back cautions slowed the field on laps four and five.
On the lap-five restart, Williamson started working his way to the front, moving past Mahaney for second and setting his sights on Johnson. “Money Mat” dove to the bottom and pulled even with Johnson as they completed lap 10, but the No. 3j held onto the spot. However, Williamson only needed two more turns to take the lead away from the “Dark Knight,” nosing ahead as they raced down the backstretch on lap 11.
While running the outside lane, Mahaney took advantage of the battle before him, moving around Johnson for second two laps later. Then, he pulled the same move on Williamson, thundering around the #6 on the outside of turn two on lap 16.
But as Mahaney started to pull away from Williamson, another yellow flag came out as Noah Walker stopped on lap 19, giving Williamson another shot at reclaiming the lead.
On the next restart, Mahaney slid in front of Williamson as the two entered turn one. However, Williamson saw the opportunity he needed, swiftly switching lanes to the bottom as they exited turn two.
Williamson returned the favor as the two drivers waged war into turn three, sliding his No. 6 past Mahaney to retake the lead on lap 19.
From there, Williamson survived three more cautions to score his second DIRTcar 358 Modified Series victory of 2023—one worth $5,000.
“I just got good momentum in [turns] one and two,” Williamson said. “He fired off on the bottom and slid me. And then I got the run off two to give it back to him. It was a really good race between the two of us. It was fun to race like that, and hopefully, it put on a good show for the fans.”
The win is Williamson’s 27th overall victory this season and second Malta Massive Weekend win after earning a 358 Modified triumph at Albany-Saratoga in 2021. He quickly thanked his primary sponsor for how well his car runs anywhere in the Northeast.
“I really have to thank S&W Service Center and Wayne Conn,” Williamson said. “He puts this thing together and gives me a really good piece that I can compete anywhere with.”
Mahaney crossed the line second after setting quick time, winning his heat and a dash earlier in the night. It was a strong night for the driver of the George Huttig-owned entry, but he said he felt Williamson was better on restarts toward the end.
“I think we had a pretty fast car, but Mat was a little bit quicker,” Mahaney said. “In clean air, I think he was just setting a faster pace. We had a good race there going for a little bit, but the longer the race went on, I just didn’t stay side by side with him on the restarts. He’d get a good run right away, and that was about it.”
Johnson finished third—his second straight podium at the track after winning a Big Block Modified Feature at Albany-Saratoga on Labor Day weekend.
Despite leading a few laps early in the race, he said he knows what he needs to change entering Saturday’s Malta Massive Weekend finale with the Super DIRTcar Series.
“I think I picked the wrong tire,” Johnson said. “I’m happy. I mean I’m not happy, but it is what it is. You can’t be complaining about a third. So, we’ll take it and apply some notes for tomorrow and try to make the right decisions.”
Billy Dunn crossed the line fourth after starting 11th, and Chris Raabe drove from 21st to finish fifth.
Feature (50 Laps): 1. 6M-Mat Williamson; 2. 35-Mike Mahaney; 3. 3J-Marc Johnson; 4. 49-Billy Dunn; 5. 01-Chris Raabe; 6. 44-Stewart Friesen; 7. 91-Felix Roy; 8. 3D-Matt Delorenzo; 9. 55-Brett Haas; 10. 215-Adam Pierson; 11. 15X-Justin Stone; 12. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 13. 18-Ryan Macartney; 14. 21A-Peter Britten; 15. 3-Chris Mackey; 16. 4-Andy Bachetti; 17. 28-Jordan McCreadie; 18. 3B-Chad Brachmann; 19. 5-Amy Holland; 20. 31-Lance Willix; 21. 12-Darren Smith; 22. 117-CJ Castelletti; 23. 55W-Matt Woodruff; 24. 21B-Alan Barker; 25. 28M-Matt Meade; 26. 9-Brian Calabrese; 27. 435-Chris Bisson; 28. (DNF) 38J-Jarrett Herbison; 29. (DNF) 22-Noah Walker; 30. (DNF) M1-David Marcuccilli; 31. (DQ) 39B-Ryan Bartlett