by Dana Rowe

Casey Call barged past race leader Shaun Buffington with five laps remaining in Opening Night’s Legends feature – after Buffington had led the previous 20 circuits and held on for the checkers to finish .05 seconds to the good in the final dash to the wire. Call had wound his way from a ninth place start while Buffington had leapt off the pole into the lead. Call was equal to the task, popping into second entering lap four and harassed the leader down the stretch. Noah Korner came from twelfth to pry call out of second on lap 15 and seriously challenged , then saw Call go by him and into the lead on lap 20. He got by Buffington into second but then was eliminated in a lap 23 wreck. The division went overtime and the ensuing start was single file, Casey preceding Shaun down to the green flag. Buffington wasn’t ready to relinquish the win and bitterly pursued but was unable to make the pass, as Call earned himself a victory lap. Buffington captured second, followed by Josh Parsons, Jake Matheson and Brendan Hammann.

Buffington – the division’s first-ever champion, had earned the pole with Mason Levesque alongside. Trenton Goodrow, starting behind Buffington, got under Levesque as Buffington shot away coming out of the box. But in the pack, Korner spun out of a three-wide and come to a stop in turn two.

The realignment had Buffington watching Eric LeBrun on his shoulder but Call was at his bumper with Levesque outside. The ever-dangerous Shileigh Martinez and Jake Matheson made up row three. 

Buffington was away and behind him Call nabbed second with Shileigh third and LeBrun in fourth. But Matt Grant spun and Reagan Parent was hard on the binders but unable to avoid and struck a glancing blow. He pitted to check his gear and returned. Grant returned to the action.

Cautions marred the next three laps but finally Buffington took a nose on Call out of a restart with 19 laps still remaining. Call, on his outside, came loose but recovered as LeBrun got by. Call dropped under to recapture, trailing Martinez and Connor Holderbach. Call put the pressure back on Buffington. Martinez, running under LeBrun, made contact and the pack scrambled, causing Dick Mattheson to lose a fender on the front stretch. Pursuers ran over it but were not damaged. Caution ensued.

Buffington was away again, but Call was glued to his bumper. Martinez, Lebrun, and Holderback followed . Shileigh dodged under Call for second but a lap later she was sideways in turn three, bringing another caution.

This time Buffington was away and Korner was back, getting under Call and into second. LeBrun was briefly on Call’s outside, but Matheson began to give him some trouble. With five laps remaining, a tight pace line at the front sported Buffington, Korner, Call and Matheson. But LeBrun spun in turn one.

Buffington and Korner faced off with call behind Buffinton and Matheson on his shoulder. Buffington nosed out on Korner but Call sneaked underneath for a three-wide then grabbed the lead and Korner went by outside so that with three remaining laps, the order was Call, Korner, Buffington, Matheson and Brendan Hamman who had worked his way up from a 22nd-pace start. But disaster struck Korner who spun he escaped but chaos ensued, collecting Holderback, Shileigh, Goodrow and Adam Avedision, setting up a long cleanup.

With the division’s time limit used up, the Race Director was forced to go to a single-file restart, with a warning that two more cautions would end the race.

Now Call had the front to himself, and Buffington was followed by Matheson and Josh Parsons with two laps remaining. Hammann followed and Reagan Parent had worked his way up from the back again.

It was a bloody battle over the final circuits with Buffington working over Call to retake the lead, running all the way to the checkers. But Call’s lead held by increments of a second, granting him the win..

Fifth through tenth went to Hammann, Parent, Brian Decandia, Eric LeBrun and Luke LeBrun.