by Dana Rowe

            IF you’re a sophomore driver leading the division early in the race, perhaps the last person you want to see at your rear bumper is Late Model Champ Ryan Lineham.  That’s the way it was, however, for Ryan Kuhn.  After he had wrested the lead from Charlie Rose on lap two (the duo had started on the front row), Kuhn saw Lineham come from behind Rose into second on lap sixth.  Twenty-nine long laps remained in the feature for Kuhn to worry over.

            Granted, the youngster was able to stay ahead until lap 30 and took it back on the next circuit.  However, Lineham had four more laps.  After battling outside for three of them, he elected to make a quick drop-under move, something he’d done to grab the lead on lap 30.  He nailed it in turn two.  Kuhn had been showing some signs of slight looseness in his trajectory and Lineham took advantage of it, surging alongside.  They rushed toward the checkers dead even and barreled across the line just .084 seconds apart – with Lineham taking the advantage and the win.

            Kuhn grabbed second just ahead of Vinnie Arrenegado, Gerry DeGasparre, Jr. and Dan Johnson.  The entire top five was less than a second apart.  The next five cars – Jeramme Lillie, Nick Uhrig, Rose, Tom Scully, Jr. and Mark Hudson encompassed the next seven tenths of a second, making the top ten finish a cacophony of howling engines.

            Rose jumped off the pole at the outset and Kuhn followed. DeGasparre was under Lineham while Tom The Bomb Adams ran fifth. Adams snugged up to DeGasparre’s bumper and Lineham dropped into fifth behind him before Louie Romiza spun to bring caution on lap three.

            Rose nosed out on Kuhn again but Ryan came back to poke his snout into the clear air.  DeGasparre and Lineham were side-by-side as before.  One lap around and Kuhn was almost past Rose, who was doing his best to hang in.  Lap 5 saw him halfway past and he completed the pass on the backstetch.  Lineham then began to push ahead of Rose on the outside. Uhrig then spun to bring out caution.

            Kuhn now faced Rose from the pole while Lineham had the low side of row two with DeGasparre to his high side.  It took two attempts to make the lap 5 restart, but Kuhn got his nose ahead into turn two and came out with the lead down the backstretch.  Lineham got under Rose again with DeGasparre then Adams in pursuit.  Adams went to fourth while Uhrig wiggled in under Rose.

            Kuhn now had Lineham as a permanent attachment to his game and it seemed a race of its own.  Behind the combatants, the rest of the field battled it out.  Vinnie Arrenegado had arrived from his start at thirteenth place and lap ten saw DeGasparre in possession of third, Uhrig, Rose, Adams Arrenegado, Lillie and Dan Johnson in order.

            The field was stringing out but running close. Arrenegado exchanged places with Adams, who fell prey to Lillie on the ensuing lap.  Chase Belcher edged him back another slot.  Lillie then looked under Vinnie for fifth and Uhrig looked to get below DeGasparre which Gerry rebuffed.  Into lap 24, the field stood:  Kuhn, Lineham, Uhrig, having gotten by DeGasparre, Arrenegado, Rose, Lillie, Johnson and Adams.  But then, Colby Lambert spun at the stripe, bringing out caution.

            Kuhn and Lineham went side-by-side for a lap before Kuhn could nose ahead.  Lineham looked to cross under but Kuhn pulled ahead and managed to get clear down the backstertch.  DeGasparre had taken second back from Uhrig, and they were followed by Arrenegado and Rose. Charlie was momentarily loose in turn four but recovered and kept on.  Chad Baxter retired to the pits with 11 to go.

            With eight laps remaining, Lineham was pulling out all the stops and Kuhn kept him at bay.  However, Lambert went around on the backstretch and at the same time, Stephen Potter spun in turn two.

            Kuhn pulled ahead on the restart and Lineham made a quick drop-under move and got alongside.  They whipsawed the lead while behind them came a cluster of DeGasparre, Arrenegado, Uhrig and Johnson.  Vinnie knocked Gerry out of third and Johnson got underneath looking for fourth. Uhrig, Lillie and Adams pursued. Entering lap 33, Kuhn was recorded with a slender .036-second edge over Lineham and when Jeremy Lambert spun on the backstretch, he was rewarded with the pole.  Lineham took the outside.

            They were even coming out of the box and again, Lineham went to the drop-under tactic in turn two.  Kuhn fought him off but Lineham persisted and edged forward. Kuhn still held the lead as they battled under the white flag, and they traded blows all the way to the finish line. It took the electronic system to reveal that Lineham had won the challenge – and the feature – by a mere 84 thousandths of a second!  And the remainder of the top ten brawled across in a mob.  Just off the top ten came Rey Lovelace, Belcher and Adams.