Outlasts Paiva on Final Restart

What had not been a surprising race for 23 laps became a jaw-dropper on the final restart in the Sport Trucks division. Two former division champions had come to the front: John Paiva and Mike Cavallaro. Paiva took the lead on lap 10, and Cavallaro became the challenger on lap 11. Cavallaro closed up a substantial lead and began making the frontrunner’s life miserable with incessant attempts to pass. Dan Johnson and Eddy Perry were likewise looking to get by the dueling frontrunners — and each other. But rookie Cole Jackson’s spin in turn four just as the white came out, brought it all back for a green-white-checker restart.
Paiva took pole with Cavallaro on his shoulder while Perry and Johnson were tight on their bumpers. Somehow it fell apart for a moment as they came through the starting box. Paiva and Cavallaro maintained an even speed through the box to the end line. Paiva held choice of when to accelerate in the box, but once at the end line, it became anybody’s game, and Cavallaro stood on it as he crossed the line. Paiva either bogged down or hesitated and Mike whisked away to the surprise of the crowd, who were expecting a virtual brawl. John recovered and retained second place, but Cavallaro was several lengths in the lead and held on despite a determined attempt by Paiva. This allowed Cavallaro to capture his second win in three starts. Perry and Johnson brawled all the way to the stripe with Dan taking third by a nose over Ed. Chase Belcher, the current division champ, collected fifth place, and the returning Rob Murphy crossed on his bumper.
Johnson had kicked things off from the pole, taking the lead from a stubborn Darryl Church after a brief duel. While Church battled on the outside, Lenny Guy latched onto Johnson’s bumper, while Perry was on his. Church and Paiva, who started outside the second row, were stuck on the outside while Mike Duarte was looking underneath Perry. Guy was looking for the lead underneath Johnson as Bob Rainville, Duarte, Paiva and Church settled in for the run.
Lap 3 saw Mike Lopes’ tire go flat and he did a heroic job of keeping the truck off the front stretch wall while his front end trailed sparks. He swapped rubber and returned.
Johnson and Guy lined for the restart in front of Perry and Paiva. Duarte and Cavallaro were row three, ahead of Murphy and Barry Shaw. The leaders went door-to-door over the stripe before Johnson nosed out with Perry glued to his tailgate. But Lopes’ handling problems continued probably due to the grinding against the ground; he and Shaw were sideways between turns three and four. John Robidoux made contact, sending Shaw to the pits. Darryl Dutch, Lopes and Robidoux soon followed him in. Shaw, Dutch and Lopes were finished for the night.
Johnson and Guy led off again with the former edging out while Perry tailed Guy with Paiva underneath Church behind him. Johnson gained a quick, two-car advantage over Perry as Guy faded while Church was decidedly going backwards. Paiva and Cavallaro chased Johnson and Perry while Murphy and Belcher went wheel-to-wheel behind them. Paiva tightened up on Johnson and Cavallaro latched onto Perry.
Lap 10 saw Paiva nose under Johnson and take the lead in turn four. Cavallaro dropped off Perry’s rear to follow Paiva through into second. Perry then nosed under Johnson for a duel over position. Duarte followed, pursued by Murphy and then Belcher. Cavallaro began closing Paiva’s lead as the field went single file. By lap 15, he had cut the gap down to 2 lengths. Two laps later, the margin was one carlength and then they were bumper-to-bumper. Perry, Duarte, Murphy and Belcher ran close together and single file for the next five laps with Johnson in a serious duel with Perry for third until the lap 23 caution. Behind them, Belcher and Murphy ran side-by-side, swapping position by inches until the caution flew.
Cavallaro added points to his championship lead in the early season as Belcher’s fifth kept him in second.
Following Murphy under the checkers were Duarte, Josh Hedges, Rainville, Shawn DeMello and Guy.