by Dana Rowe

Doug Benoit served notice that he is early-season competitive with a convincing win in the season’s opener. He leapt off the pole and fought a withering battle with Max Bergstrom over the first half of the race. Tommy Blackwell and Danny Massa, Jr. brawled over third place as Greg Perry bided his time in fifth place before charging in to take over second and pursue Benoit to the finish. DJ Pires threaded his way up to command third overall and Massa took fourth. Dave Desrosiers started fifth and finished in that spot.

At the start, Benoit nosed away from Bergstrom and took the lead in turn one with Bergrstrom falling in ahead of Blackwell. Tommy looked underneath but couldn’t get there. Massa came up on Blackwell’s outside to duel as Perry watched from behind, followed by Pires, Desrosiers, Amy Arsenault and Mike Henriques.

Lap five saw Perry under Massa. By lap seven, Benoit had begun to edge away and Perry was all over Blackwell’s bumper while Desrosiers ran outside.

Benoit worked up to a half-straight lead on lap eight and four more circuits he was a full straight ahead ahead of Bergstrom. Perry continued to close on Bergstrom but Ava Chouinard spun in turn three on lap 14.

Benoit and Bergstrom went wheel-to-wheel across the stripe Pires pulled up on the outside for a brief three-wide but Benoit was out front in turn two. Perry seized the moment to take over second and Pires dropped into third ahead of Massa and then Desrosiers. Arsenault held sixth and Bob Moore came up to get under Bergstrom for seventh. Bergstrom lost power with six laps remaining.

Benoit held a four car advantage over Perry with five remaining and Pires behind them looking for an opportunity. Desrosiers looked under Massa and then went in. The two came down to the stripe dead even but Massa hung tough and reclaimed fourth with three remaining. Dave powered up and came back alongside trailing a hungry Moore. He got his nose past, but Massa fought it off. They battled through the white flag lap as Benoit led Perry to the checkers. Pires was third and Massa outlasted Desrosiers by the finest of margins for fourth: 0.46 seconds.

Desrosiers’ fifth led Moore, Arsenault, Henriques, Lenny Sousa and Blackwell to the top ten.