In most races, Danny Johnson’s last lap pass of Ryan Watt for sixth place at Bridgeport Speedway’s would have meant a couple hundred dollars. But on Saturday, the pass cost Watt the card he needed to win the track’s annual Poker Series.
Before taking the green flag from the 12th position in the big-block Modified feature, Watt knew he had two choices to maximize his earnings. Finish first and get $4,000 or sixth and get $700 and the $2,500 Poker Series prize.
“I knew coming into tonight I had to finish sixth to have a ‘straight’ and win the Poker series,” said Watt. “Our deal was either try to win the race or finish sixth. That was our two options to make the most money tonight.”
Watt wanted to win and tried his best to so. With 11 laps to go in the race, the caution waved and he was sixth. It was decision time. Go forward or try and defend where he was?
“On that restart I went to the outside and figured if I could get a few spots I’d still have a chance to win,” said Watt.
“I didn’t get a good start and dropped back to seventh. That’s when I figured I’d better try and finish sixth.”
Watt dropped back to the bottom groove with a new focus.
“I got back to sixth and was side-by-side with Neal (Williams) for fifth,” said Watt. “I figured if we just stayed that way I’d let him beat me back to the line and I would have sixth wrapped up. I could have cleared him several times.”
Danny Johnson was the only New York state invader in the race. He wasn’t part of the Poker Series and could care less which cards would be dealt afterwards. On the final corner, he passed Watt, finished sixth and took away his winning Poker hand.
“It almost worked out,” said Watt. “Neal came down to the bottom on the last lap to protect his spot. It slowed me up enough that Danny went right around the outside. He beat me right at the line.”
Watt’s a charger who usually races every lap to be a race winner. Trying to finish sixth wasn’t something he had ever done before.
“It’s tough,” said Watt.
“I never had to race like that before. I let Craig Von Dohren go at one point and could have passed Neal several times, he was hanging off the corner, but I’d back out of it and let him go. I don’t enjoy racing like that.”
Watt fell behind in the race at the start. When the green flag fell, he uncommonly went backwards.
“We had a bad start, the car was way tight and I got hung up on the outside,” said Watt.
“I fell back from 12th to like 17th or 18th. It was tough just to get back into a position to finish sixth.”
With a last lap pass, Duane Howard won the race, his third of the Poker series. That gave him three aces, which Watt’s straight would have beaten had he finished sixth.
Watt ended up seventh and collected $650. Howard got $4,000 for the win, $2,500 for the Poker series title for a total of $6,500 for him and car owner Norm Hansell to split up.