Belcher Takes Sport Trucks Opener
Chase Belcher came away from opening day with a big win on his hands making the victory even sweeter with the knowledge that he’d won over 2016 champ Mike Cavallaro, who had edged him for the championship. Belcher started on the pole, but had to contend with some hard-chargers at the outset, including Josh Hedges, who had opened the season by winning his heat. Barry Shaw also took a hard run, and led the first five circuits before Belcher could reassert himself. Chase took the lead on lap six and was never headed after that.
Cavallaro, who had started seventh, passed Shaw into second on lap seven and spent the rest of the race making Belcher’s life miserable, along with Mike Duarte, who forged into second on laps 13 and 14. If misery it was, Belcher seemed to be romping home in the face of adversity. Cavallaro came home second, a second off the pace, followed by Duarte. David Lougee fought back from an early-race spin which sent him to the rear to finish fourth, just ahead of Ed Perry, who had suffered the same fate.
Shaw surged past Belcher into the lead at the outset and Hedges came around him. Belcher held him off and it was Shaw-Belcher-Hedges. Belcher began looking under Shaw, but it too until lap 5 for him to push his nose in. Shaw and Belcher went wheel-to-wheel and then Belcher grabbed the lead crossing the stripe. Hedges began nosing under Shaw but spun going into turn three.
Belcher and Shaw came off the line on the restart but Lougee and Perry got locked together and spun, then went to the pits for repairs under the caution. A second try saw Cavallaro move into third with Duarte on his bumper. Cavallaro navigated under Shaw for second. Belcher was now three cars ahead. Shaw was caught on the outside as Duarte came through underneath to steal the position.
Lap ten saw Perry tap John Robidoux in turn 3, sending Robidoux around. Perry was able to clear around the outside, but spun out of turn four. On the restart, Belcher nosed to the lead again as Duarte ran up to his bumper. But Darryl Church and Robert Jackson sun down the backstretch, collecting Bob Rainville, who went to the pits.
Belcher took the lead again with Cavallaro alongside. Belcher took a half car as Duarte came in under Cavallaro and then took second. Lougee spun again on lap 13, nosing into Perry, losing much of his front cowling and getting knocked out of fifth place.
Chase came away from the restart with Mike on his bumper. As Duarte fell back, Cavallaro stayed tight on Belcher’s bumper. But Belcher moved out to a 6-car lead and Lougee had been moving back up and got on Cavallaro’s tailgate. With four laps remaining, Belcher kept a comfortable distance ahead as Duarte got by Lougee and Perry moved into fifth.
At the finish, it was Belcher with the win. Rounding out the top ten were: Shaw, Hedges, Robidoux, Dutch and Church.