Ryan Flood achieved his first career Sportsman win in a 30-lap feature but the first career win was a much bigger achievement than one might imagine. He accomplished what might seem impossible by holding off a pair of seasoned veterans, not to mention a former champ and current points leader. Flood had wrested the lead from polesitter Jesse Melberg on Lap two. But two circuits later, Vinny Pangelinan forged his way past Melberg into second and then Scott Bruneau arrived on Vinny’s bumper in lap 10. For the remainder of the feature, the duo ran wheel-to-wheel behind the beleaguered race leader, both threatening to steal the front from him. Pangelinan was outside and continuously dodged forward, while Bruneau (in the low groove) kept putting his nose in underneath. Somehow, Flood shook off his nerves and held them both at bay, going under the checkers for the win. Bruneau and Pangelinan raced each other down the final stretch to a photo finish with Bruneau edging his opponent for second by just 22 thousandths of a second. Sparky Arsenault roared in fourth, just ahead of Craig Pianka as the entire top five finished just .754 of a second apart.
Melberg and Gill Bradstreet faced off with Ed Flanagan, Jr. and Flood backing them up. As the green dropped, Melberg ran ahead. Bradstreet held onto second while Flood bored in under Bradstreet. Pangelinan was under Flanagan, Flood then dodged under Melberg while Pangelinan and Bradstreet now battled it out. Vinny left Bradstreet to take over third while Flanagan held onto fifth.
By lap 3, Flood had taken over the lead, which he would not relinquish for the remainder of the feature. Vinny went under Melberg into second. Pianka came loose, putting Paul Lallier hard on the binders, whereupon he came loose and made contact while Pianka came to a stop in turn three near the wall.
Flood had Pangelinan on his shoulder for the restart, while Melberg and Bradstreet backed them up. They were wheel-to-wheel out of the box but Flood nosed ahead in turn two. Melberg held third with Bradstreet and Flanagan in pursuit. Ryan Souliere worked on Flanagan’s bumper and they battled while Bruneau was moving in behind them.
Souliere and Flanagan dueled side-by-side as Bruneau went below Melberg and Souliere claimed third with Bruneau coming up to his bumper. By lap ten, Flood continued to lead Pangelinan while Bruneau was working under Flanagan and then Souliere to take over third.
Lap twelve saw the shakeup continue as Kid Chaos, Corey Fanning, Lallier and Melberg finagle a three-wide for seventh. Fanning went forward while Tom “The Bomb” Adams got under Lallier with Melberg on his bumper.
Flood had seven cars on Pangelinan in lap 14, while Vinny was a straightaway ahead of Bruneau. Flanagan and Soulier followed. Two more circuits and Lallier was door-to-door with Bradstreet and Adams locked onto his bumper. Lallier went to seventh while Soulier and Flanagan continued to fight it out and Souliere went to fourth.
Pangelinan closed up to Flood’s bumper while Bruneau remained a quarter-lap back.
Lap 21 saw Souliere maintaining fourth ahead of Flanagan, Fanning, Lallier, Adams and Rob Murphy. As the leaders began lapping the field, Melberg was around in turn four. Brenden Nutter tried to duck into the infield to avoid him, but was unable to avoid. Melberg came back ontrack but Nutter had to pit.
The lap 24 restart saw Flood escape Pangelinan into the lead, but now Bruneau was chewing up his back bumper. Vinny brawled along with them on the outside and they flew like a fighter jet squadron on the tarmac. Flood tried to stay low but Bruneau nosed under despite his efforts. The latter seemed poised for the pass but caution flew as Danny Cabral became stuck while trying to go pitside. Melberg helped saved the day as he, too, wanted to pit and gave Cabral a push up the chute.
Four laps remained and Floods problems with Pangelinan and Bruneau became exacerbated by Paul Lallier restarting in fourth, Rob Murphy in fifth with Flanagan alongside. It was a drag race down the front with Bruneau looking ever underneath and making it three-wide with flood and Pangelinan on the outside. But caution flew again, for debris in turn two. They went back to the same lineup for the restart. And Flood took a half-car lead over Pangelinan while Bruneau continued to look underneath but could not go. Flood was now keeping it on the low side and Bruneau remained on his bumper. But Murphy, running fourth, was around in front of the field, which began to scatter but not with a great deal of success. Murphy took the brunt of it as Tim Watson, Cabral, Flanagan and Kyle Casper all joined the wreckage. Red flag came out for the cleanup crew to facilitate the removal of broken vehicles.
A green-white-checkered restart followed on lap 28. Flood nosed out of the field into the lead a final time. Pangelinan cannonaded on the outside and they went door-to-door into the white flag lap. Flood was keeping it low to hold off Bruneau, who was being pursued by Sparky Arsenault.
Flood pulled away from Vinny coming down the stretch and the latter locked into a dogfight over second with Bruneau, who grabbed the gauntlet by inches.
Souliere nabbed sixth, followed by last week’s winner, Chad Baxter, Joe Kohyler, Dane Saritelli, Fanning, Lallier and Corey Medeiros.