Cliff Avila and Alex Manuel came snarling out of turn four with the checkers flailing in the breeze halfway down the front stretch ahead of them. They accelerated down the front stretch, side-by-side, nose-to-nose and neither giving an inch. They rocketed across the line and the crowd looked up to the pylon, because it was impossible to tell the winner. The electronics shook out the truth and flashed it in lights: Avila had edged Manuel by .009 (nine thousandths) of a second ! ! ! It was Avila’s first win on the season, and Manuel rolled up alongside to salute him as he awaited the checkered flag for his victory lap. Karlin Levesque slid in for third, followed by Glen Leduc, Tough Tim Bolger, Jordan Lopes and David Gargaro: the entire top seven finishing within the same second as the winner.
Leduc, unfortunately, was under the ride height limit in tech and he gave up his fourth place, elevating Bolger to fourth and Lopes to round out the top five.
It was a green-to-checkers race, as Avila had held onto the lead for the entire 20 laps, which also ran caution-free, completing the 6 2/3 miles in just 5:23.92.
Avila stormed off the pole as Levesque got under Bolger into second. Arthur Meack held fourth for a lap until Leduc got by going into lap two. Lopes and Meack began trading ownership of sixth and seventh.
At the front, Levesque snugged up on Avila’s bumper only to find Bolger doing the same to him. The trio ran a couple fast laps nose-to-tail before Bolger went to the outside for a pass of Levesque, but Karlin put on some speed to hold him off. While he was on the high side, Leduc ran in to Levesque’s tail, freezing Tim on the outside. This let Manuel come up to Leduc and Bolger was stuck in the outside groove.
Leduc went high and Manuel was able to get under and into third with Bolger on his bumper, forcing Leduc to drop into fifth, where Lopes went to work on him. Alex then went after Levesque and at the 20-lapper’s midpoint, Manuel took over second.
Nine laps remained, and Levesque began looking underneath as Manuel looked for a way to strip Avila of the lead. Bolger continued to run fourth.
The leaders squeezed through lapped cars with five to go, but the lead trio remained entirely engaged with each other. At three laps to go, it was still a three car combo at the front with Manuel outside Avila, just a half-car back and Levesque another half car off in third. In a straight line behind them came Bolger, Leduc, Lopes, David Gargaro and Mike Lefort.
Twin sticks went up and Avila had Manuel dead even; Manuel got a fender by coming under the white flag, but Avila opened it up and rushed back even with his challenger. They hacksawed the lead by inches for the final third-of-a-mile, with a miniature drag race from turn four to the stripe and a paper-thinj margin favoring Avila.
Sixth went to Gargaro, followed by Lefort, Meack, Tyler Almeida and Crystal Murray to round out the top ten.