Ryan Watt didn’t win Sunday’s 40-lap Short Track Super Series feature event at Bridgeport Speedway, but to the fans in the grandstands he was the star of the show.
Rick Laubach won the $5,000 plus South Jersey Shootout, the first ever event of the STSS South Series, from the pole position while leading every lap.
While Laubach was hugging the inside rail and running away from the competition, Watt was banging off the outside third turn wall seemingly every lap. The fans quickly took notice and watched him progress towards the front.
Watt, who started 12th, got as high as second before fading to a fourth place finish.
“That was a little nerve-racking,” said Watt afterwards.
“We went with a harder tire on the right front, figuring the track might take rubber. It wouldn’t stick getting into the third turn so it was pretty difficult running the top.”
Watt’s exciting run ended an awesome weekend for him and the Ronnie Roberts No. 14w team. He won on Friday night at Big Diamond, then finished third on Saturday at Grandview behind two of the track’s super stars after leading for many laps.
Bridgeport, however, is his home base and with many outsiders on hand he was uncommonly struggling.
“We didn’t have any drive in the slick to run the bottom,” said Watt. “I found that top and that was the only thing working for me so I stuck with it until the end.”
While Watt started 12th, his progress to the front came from deep in the field. When the green flag fell, he first went backwards.
“I couldn’t see anything at the start,” said Watt. “I had no idea where the walls were or the cars it was so dusty on the outside. Once it cleared up I moved back up there and started picking some cars off.”
When Watt started his charge, every driver on the track was running the bottom. As he made passes at each end of the big 5/8ths, he showed the way to others. Unfortunately for Watt, he showed his hand to Laubach without pulling off the pass. The next time around, Laubach moved up and the race was over.
“I guess Laubach saw me to his outside,” said Watt. “Because he moved up and it was pretty much over for me.”
Craig Von Dohren was one of the drivers that also found the far outside groove. CVD had to run the consolation to make the race, so he started much further back then Watt. CVD passed a fading Watt in the final laps and made his way to second. By this time, however, Laubach was gone and the inside groove began to take rubber. David Van Horn then used the rubber to pass Watt and CVD to finish second. At the end of the race, all the cars were back on the rubbered up inside lane.
CVD and Watt finished a crowd pleasing third and fourth respectively.
“The car and the top both started going away at the end,” said Watt. “I went back to the bottom and I could feel it had taken rubber so I was actually better there at the end.”
Watt, as always, wore a smile afterwards. He knew he had salvaged a good finish on a bad day while putting on a show as well. Heck, it was fun from his seat as well.
“It makes it exciting,” Watt agreed. “It looked like the guys on the bottom were running crates and I had a big-block.”
With Bridgeport moving back to its regular Saturday night slot this week, Watt will not be able to race at Grandview as well this weekend.
“We’ve been fast up there,” said Watt. “I wish I could do both.”
Along with chasing another Bridgeport title, Watt plans to run the entire STSS South Series so Sunday’s fourth place finish gets him off to a good start in those standings.