Curtin wins the night but Robidoux wins the Crown
Jesse Melberg fought his way up through an active, competitive field to grab the lead just two laps past the midpoint of the thirty-lap lap race, then held off the competition through the end for another win on the season. Unfortunately, he and Mark Boisvert ran afoul of the rules in postrace tech inspections and were bumped from the list and all awards. Instead, Earl Curtin III was declared the winner and all competitors moved up. He would have gained precious points in his quest for a second consecutive Pure Stock championship, edging closer to leader John Robidoux, who finished third behind Earl Curtin III and followed by Ed Flanagan, Jr. and Mark Boisvert. Instead, Robidoux’s second place pushes him well ahead. Melberg’s win also would have brought him the gold of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Championship. But the DQ will reshuffle the counting for the award.
Robidoux had started eighth, one slot up on Melberg and they foutht their way forward in unison. Meanwhile, polesitter Ed Flanagan, Jr. and Daniel Massa, Jr. started things off with a door-to-door drag race down the frontstretch which saw massa take the lead out of turn two. Joseph Fortin, starting fourth, outside the returning Thomas Blackwell, dodged under Flanagan for second and then under Massa to the lead. Curtin followed to second with Massa and Amy Arsenault in pursuit. Behind them Melberg was door-to-door underneath Flanagan, battling for fifth.
Caution flew on lap four as Blackwell bounced off the backstretch wall. Blackwell pulled away from the barrier and roared around the track, culminating on him slamming into Bill Doyle’s right side in turn two. Blackwell received the black flag for the hit under caution. He spun several 360’s before roaring off to the pits with his right front severely damaged.
Fortin was away at the front on the restart; Curtin came around Massa for second as Melberg pulled into third. By lap six, a tight pack of six cars wound around the track at the head of the field: bumper to bumper were Fortin, then Curtin, Massa, Melberg, Robidoux and Arsenault.
Two laps later, Curtin was looking underneath to take the lead but had the door slammed. Melberg was moving outside Massa and took third on the following lap. Curtin now jumped in underneath for the front and got into the lead. Fortin locked onto the outside and they battled hubcap to hubcap. Robidoux and Massa were door-to-door dueling over fourth. Robidoux squirted under to take the slot.
Now, on lap 12, it was Melberg’s turn, and he went under Fortin for the runnerup’s spot. By lap 14, he had closed to Curtin’s rear bumper. One lap later, Fortin was tight against his. Lap fifteen saw heading around Curtin for the lead. They went door-to-door for three laps, moving through lapped traffic. Approaching a pair of lapped cars down the back stretch, it seemed that they might block and affect the outcome. But they moved up the track in the nick of time and the challenge went on until Melberg finally had the front to himself. Curtin held second, ahead of Fortin, Robidoux and Arsenault.
With ten laps remaining, Robidoux made a bid under Fortin, who got loose in turn one. Robidoux went ahead for third, but Fortin was unable to get the car straight and bounced off the outside wall. He recovered, however, and was able to continue. By lap 23, Melberg continued at the front, with Curtin, Robidoux, Fortin, Arsenault and Ed Flanagan in pursuit.
Lap 27 saw Massa spin out of turn four to bring a caution. Melberg and Curtin lined up at the front with Robidoux and Arsenault behind them. At the green, Melberg charged back to the lead. Robidoux looked under Curtin for second and they were side-by-side coming back around to the stripe. Melberg was moving away to a three-car lead. But Arsenault spun out of turn four, ending up facing backwards on the grass, halfway down the backstretch.
A green-white-checker restart was due and Robidoux lined up outside Melberg with Curtin and Flanagan the second row Melberg bounced away out of the box and Curtin followed underneath, sticking Robidoux on the outside, unable to settle behind Melberg. At the white flag Curtin had second ahead of Robidoux and Flanagan trying for third underneath. But Robidoux was able to hold him off for the final lap and held on to third as Melberg crossed the finish line just .293 seconds ahead of Curtin and .672 over Robidoux Flanagan was fourth, just .169 off Robidoux. Mark Boisvert claimed fifth. Sixth through tenth went to Jamie Salley, Massa, Arsenault, Doyle and Daniel Johnson. The DQ’s raise all drivers one place in second, third and fourth. Salley, Massa, Arsenault, Doyle and Johnson move up two places each.