by Dana Rowe
Dan Cugini came off the pole in the Northeast Midget Association’s Lites division and did not surrender his spot at the front for the entire 33 laps of the feature, which also ran green-to-checkers. In fact, Cugini’s torrid pace and the rest of the field’s sterling, caution-free performance timed out the race in just 6:45 around the third-mile track. Ten miles in 6:45? The field averaged 97.49 mph while top time went to Seth Carlson at a whopping 101.267 mph. Nikki Carroll, Carlson, Jim Chambers and Matthew Swanson rounded out the top five
Cugini leapt from the starting box on the green, and Carlson shot under Kevin Iannarelli into second, leaving Iannarelli under Carroll. Cugini sprinted away, with Carlson in hot pursuit. Carroll shed Iannarelli and went after Carlson.
Cugini’s lead was eleastic and he kept stretching it further as Carroll homed in on Carlson. Iannarelli continued to pursue the leaders. Four laps in, the first casualty appeared as Christopher Lamb took it pitside with unknown problems. Chambers was hurtling along behind Carroll in fifth while being chased by Matthew Swanson. Then came Dylan Duhaime (5) and Jessica Bean (5b). The five cars parted ways on lap four as Anthony Payne nabbed a spot between them by edging past Bean. They continued to hold down seventh place for two-thirds of the race then took over sixth as Iannarelli pitted with nine laps remaining.
Ten laps in, Cugini was cruising on his own as Carson and Carroll argued over the runnerup spot and Chambers continued to pursue. Swanson was running at his back in sixth. Cugini, who had passed the first lapped car on lap eight caught up with Tyler Rivard, who attempted to keep from being lapped and they fought a spirited battle and they passed three cars, which put up a barrier for Carlson to surmount. It was here that Iannarelli took it behind the wall for the night.
Cugini was past Rivard, but Carroll, who had passed Carlson into second and Carlson were having difficulty with lapped cars and Tim Bolduc flew the blue passing flag to clear the way for top runners.
Lap 29, with four to go, saw Carroll looking around the leader after closing up the gap. But Cugini held him off by weaving tightly through more lapped traffic and grabbed his lead back. Behind Carloson, Chambers was pursuing in fourth after Iannarelli’s retirement, with Swanson holding on to fifth. This top five ran single file for the final ten laps.
In fact, the top dozen cars ran unchanged over the final third of the event. Sixth on the evening went to Duhaime, followed by Payne, Ryan Locke, Bean, Ray Parent, Ben Mikitarian, Chad Labastie and Richie Coy.