by Dana Rowe

Scott Bruneau opened his Sportsman championship defense with a commanding win over the division, dueling Sparky Arsenault for most of the distance. Kyle Casper jumped in ahead of Arsenault for the final five circuits but he, too, was unable to conquer the indomitable champ. Kid Chaos (Corey Fanning) celebrated his birthday this past week by snatching third away from Sparky as well. Arsenault also fell prey to rapid Ryan Flood, who edged him back to fifth.

Smokin’ Joe Kohler had the pole with Sparky on his outside, while Bruneau and John Hanafin shared row two. Kohler and Arsenault went door-to-door through two laps, neither competitor willing to yield until Kohler came loose in turn two. The field scattered and dodged but Kohler took some damage and had to go off on the hook.

Sparky took the pole, but now Bruneau was on his shoulder and Tyler Lallier and Hanafin were backing them up. Ed Flanagan, Jr. and Rey Lovelace held down row three. As the green dropped, Arsenault nosed out but Bruneau erupted and went by outside. Sparky dropped in and Hanafin grabbed third, followed by Lallier and Flanagan. Ryan Souliere came up behind Flanagan but Flood ducked under Souliere cutting off his access. Al Clements then slid in underneath and Casper followed suit. Lovelace was next to slide him back with the underneath move.

By now, Bruneau had engineered a six-car lead and Hanafin ran second with Sparky and Lallier giving chase. But Kevin Rioux took a 360 near the stripe and the yellow came out.

Bruneau and Hanafin prepared for the restart challenge; behind them came Tyler and Arsenault. Bruneau nosed out and Tyler ducked under Sparky for a three-wide. Tim Watson spun amid the chaos and the retry was called back. Second time, Bruneau got a nose ahead in turn two leaving Hanafin in the runnerup slot. Arsenault was competing under Tyler for third and grabbed the spot in turn four. Flood followed Lallier. By lap 13, Bruneau was waltzing along with a five-car lead. Then Rioux looped in turn four and Watson did the same in turn two.

Bruneau went back to the lead followed by his antagonists, but Casper had arrived on Flood’s bumper, looking to wrest fifth from his grasp. But Donald Perry lost power and limped slowly up near the wall. Caution was called and he edged into the pits. On the restart, Bruneau went ahead and Sparky took a look underneath him but was unable to go. Bruneau continued to a five car lead before Joe Melberg spun and they lined up again.

Next restart: same results. Sparky and Hanafin dueled over second and Casper dropped in behind flood. Now Kid Chaos had arrived at his rear bumper and ducked under. Captain Fun – Craig Pianka – added to the injury by following him through. With ten to go, Bruneau was rolling with three cars over Arsenault A short distance back, Casper led a four-car pace line which also included Flood on his bumper, Fanning and Pianka. Lallier was next followed by a door-to-ddoor between Dick Benoit and Hanafin. Benoit won out, and Lallier and Chris Gomes ran up behind Hanafin.

But Ed Perry took a spinout in turn one with five laps to go.

Bruneau and Arsenault lined up with Casper and Flood behind them. Fanning and Capt. Fun made up row three while Benoit and Hanafin followed. On the green, Bruneau nosed out and took the lead in turn one. Casper bolted in under Arsenault while Fanning ducked under flood. Next time around, Casper claimed second while Fanning and Arsenault went door-to-door with Sparky in the second groove. Flood took a look under Fanning, but it was a no-go.

Gomes was under Pianka, looking for seventh but was held off and they ran to the checkers with Bruneau claiming the trip to Victory Lane.

Sixth went to Benoit, followed by Pianka, Gomes, Watson, Tyler Lallier, Clements, Paul Lalier and Hanafin.