by Dana Rowe

David Westgate left no doubts opening night: He’s here to defend his 2017 divisional championship. On the other hand, there was this rookie, Richard Murray who spent the first dozen laps demonstrating the value of Murray genetics by grabbing the lead from pole-sitter Arthur Meack and thrilling the crowd. Westgate pursued him for the distance, coming from the number three spot on the starting grid. Cliff Avila followed Westgate and held third from lap three until the finish. Alexander Manuel, a powerhouse over the second half last season, came up from a twelfth-place start to capture fourth and fifth went to Tough Tim Bolger.

Meack and Murray were door-to-door down to the stripe where Murray took the front. Westgate came in under Meack to seize second and the brawl was on. Murray led Westgate into lap two as Avila was getting under Meack and in the pack they were three-wide going through turn three. But two laps later, Tyler Dunancik spun in turn two.

Now Murray and Westgate were set for a drag race out of the box. Avila and Meack backed them up with Samantha Mattera and Bolger backing them up. Murray and Westgate came out dead even but Murray pulled his nose ahead coming out of turn two. Westgate continued to challenge on the outside but Murray pulled away. Avila settled in behind Westgate, followed by Bolger, Mattera and Timmy Ouellette. Meak was trying to hold on outside Ouellette.

Murray began to put some distance on his pursuers and was four cars ahead on lap 10. Behind Mattera, Michael Glad was battling under Manuel and finally gave way as Alex took over the spot. Mike LeFort was enroute toward the front and ran up to Jordan Lopes’ bumper bringing Ouellette along outside. LeFort deprived Lopes of eighth spot, then went on to take over seventh behind Mattera.

The big question on the night came to a head on lap 11. Westgate had edged up to Murray and was able to push past the rookie into the lead with an underneath move. It wasn’t easy and Murray continued to heap on the misery by challenging hard from his second spot. Behind him, Avila was pursuing with abandon, chased by Bolger.. Manuel was challenging Mattera and got by then began to challenge Bolger for position. He was able to secure the position with five laps remaining.

At this point, the finishing order had been established and the final laps were a high-speed pace-line all the way to the checkered flag. Westgate had sealed his defense with the win. Murray showed great promise for the youngster who had won every one of Seekonk’s mid-season tricycle races he had entered.

Fifth place went to Bolger, followed by Mattera, LeFort, Lopes, Joey Wordell, Jr., Mike Glad, Glen Leduc and Tim Ouellette.