What is the best way for a former winning driver to taste victory again after he has made a career move into a different and very competitive stock car race division and the switch results in suffering a victory drought?
Usually dedication to the cause, learning, hard work and being persistent at beating the challenge are the keys as Mike Williams exemplified at Ransomville Speedway on Friday.
Williams, a former winner in other divisions, joined the DIRT.car Sportsman class at Ransomville in 2009 and came within a few laps of a victory one night last season at the track, only to let it get away in the late going.
Last Friday, while leading on the final circuit, Williams was determined to hold on and not let the win slip away again and he did just that, beating one of the superstars of Ransomville's Sportsman class, Don Spatorico, to the finish line by just inches in a 20-lap thriller.
Williams was filled with emotion after scoring his first career Sportsman race triumph. It was also his first feature race win since a Pro Stocks victory in 2006.
"Getting this win was like getting a big, giant monkey off my back," said Williams. "I've been looking for it. We've had good cars and second-place finishes and a lot of top fives. Finally [Friday] night it all came together."
Williams also did his homework.
"Over the last two or three seasons I've taken a lot of notes and I went back over them. I talked to some of the guys like Roy Susice. One of the things I've found out about racing in the Sportsman is that you got to find out what you like with your car and what it likes. Everybody's got a setup. They'll share it with you but it's not necessarily going to work for you. It's what works for Mike Williams."
Williams was leading Justin Wright with less than three laps to go in a Sportsman race last season, but Wright was able to snatch away the win. Williams said that experience helped him this past Friday.
"I couldn't see Spatorico as we raced down to the checkered flag but a moment earlier I saw him up in Turn Four, and I made my car as wide as I could," said Williams. "I lost one like that last year to Justin Wright. Justin drove me clean that night but I gave him a lot of room and in hindsight I thought I could have taken up a little more track and still made it a clean race.
"This time coming through the last corner on the last lap I made my car even wider."
Williams has dealt with the swings of fortune that the sport provides and says that he is set to press on with his racing career.
"I've been coming to this track since I was 4 or 5 years old so I don't see myself quitting any time soon," he remarked. "I have a grandson that's in a go-kart. I'll back it down someday but not for awhile."
Over the last two seasons, Ransomville fans have seen the track's defending DIRT.car 358 Modified champion Chad Brachmann really come of age as a driver. While always having the driving talent, he has been a far more patient driver now. Brachmann, a former Sportsman champion, pulled off an amazing late-season rally to grab the Ransomville 358 Modified title last summer.
So far in 2012, Brachmann is the only repeat victor in his class through six weeks of competition. Friday he came from 17th place to pass Richie Vinson for the win. Brachmann had a fast car and was aided by a late caution flag that allowed him to close in on Vinson, who had a 10-car length lead before the caution. Once the race went green, Brachmann blew by Vinson in the late going to score the win.
With Friday's win, Brachmann extended his leading points advantage over Pete Bicknell to 298-284.
*In all of area racing no form has had the series of hair-raising wrecks suffered by the TQ Midgets at Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex.
The very light 700cc, open-cockpit, open-wheel TQ cars produce the fastest lap times of any division there. Their speed on the large high banked Holland turns coupled with their open wheels and close competition has produced entertaining, exciting wheel-to-wheel racing but often with accidents severe enough to cause even the most calm of race-goers to gasp. For the record, drivers have rarely been hurt in one of these accidents.
For the second year in a row, TQ veteran Wayne Turnbull has suffered a huge accident. Last year he barrel-rolled his Midget down the backstretch at Holland. He bettered that this past Saturday night at Holland. This time he flew right over Holland's Turn Three guardrail and landed outside the track. He again was unhurt.
*Mike Fiebelkorn Jr. has won two NASCAR Pro Modified titles at Holland as well as several races there. This season, not wishing to race for points, he is racing at different locations.
Last Saturday night the Eden driver won his first career Dunn Tire Raceway Park Sportsman event.
*Drag racer Max Gross of Cattaraugus had quite the week. First he had dinner with noted NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Jack Roush, and on Saturday, Gross won his first career Hot Street class final at the National Mustang Racing Association event in Milan, Mich.