Seven-time Late Model champion Gerry DeGasparre, Jr took the first big step in making it eight by battling his way to an opening night divisional win at the Cement Palace. He came off the outside pole to pull away from 2018 champ Ryan Lineham and then led all comers from green to checkers, posting a third-of-a-second win over a very pesky Mark Jenison. Along the way, Gerry set best lap time on the event. Chase Belcher finished in less than a second behind the winner for an impressive third place. Rounding out the top five came Mark Hudson and Tough Tommy Adams.
At the start, Lineham edged ahead of Gerry D down the front, but the latter fired back and they were door-to-door through turn four. It was too close to call the first time across the stripe, but the electronics gave the nod to DeGasparre. He got his nose ahead of Lineham in turn two. Lap three saw a half-car lead when Vinny Arrenegado pushed up to the leader’s bumper. Lineham fell back alongside Arrenegado easing Jenison back, who had been alongside.
Vinny looked underneath for the lead but was denied, instead claiming second. With Jenison on Lineham’s outside, Adams jumped forward underneath Lineham and Jenison dropped back. Five laps in, however, Tony Macrino spun.
DeGasparre and Arrenegado lined up with Lineham and Adams in row two. Belcher and Jenison faced off behind them. Hudson and Bobby Tripp made up row four.
It took two tries to get a restart with a spin by Paul Newcomb before a lap could be completed. Second try, DeGasparre nosed out and Lineham got under Arrenegado. Jenison and Adams were side-by-side and behind them came Hudson dueling with Belcher. Twice around and DeGasparre was three cars to the good over the Lineham/Arrenegado combo. Jenison was fourth while Hudson and Belcher continued to dispute fifth. But Arrenegado and Lineham got sideways and while fighting to recover, they started an accordion effect as the field behind them looked to avoid. This sent Mike Duarte dodging to the infield to avoid.
The lap eight restart saw Degasparre again escape Arrenegado and Lineham sneak in underneath looking for second. Vinny went to second and Jenison came alongside Lineham looking to take third. By lap eleven, DeGasparre had a two car lead.
Jenison, on the outside, began to edge past Lineham with Adams following and looking for openings. Belcher followed with rookie Derek Gluchacki following closely.
The leaders were the same on lap fifteen, but Lineham had fallen back to seventh. Just ahead of him, Gluchacki was now on Belcher’s bumper. He pushed in underneath and they ran door-to-door with Hudson in pursuit. Tripp had kicked it up a notch and now was on Hudson’s tail.
Twenty laps in, and the players were still the same: Gerry De continued to lead with Arrenegado in chase mode. Jenison covered third followed by Adams, who had Gluchacki and Belcher going wheel-to-wheel behind him. Then came Hudson, Tripp and Lineham. But Tyler Tomassi spun on the backstretch and headed for the pits. Tony Macrino followed.
The restart saw DeGasparre take a half car lead on Arrenegado, who stayed up on the high side. Jenison shoved his nose underneath while Belcher now worked undeneath Adams. Hudson got under Gluchacki and then Lineham as Hudson moved up. Hudson got by Arrenegado and Adams now engaged the latter in a duel for position.
With eight laps to go, DeGasparre was now focused on the finish and Jenison was determined to overtake. Belcher had moved into third and Hudson was moving under Arrenegado. He moved up and Adams was now below Vinny looking for position.
The field snaked around the third-of-a-mile twice again. Belcher was now on Jenison’s bumper looking to improve his place. Hudson, Adams, Lineham and Arrenegado followed.
With two to go, it was a straight, single file, save for Tripp and Gluchacki brawling over ninth behind Paul Newcomb.
They swapped twice enroute to the checkers.
The final lap went to DeGasparre for the win.
Rounding out the top ten came Lineham in sixth, followed by Areenegado, Newcomb, Gluchacki and Tripp.