by Dana Rowe
Alexander Manuel had put together a fourth and a second on the early season, and on race number three was able to come through with a victory lap, holding off division champ and this season’s points leader, David Westgate enroute to the win. David Gargaro nabbed third, followed by Cliff Avila and Richie Murray. Murray had come to the feature after winning a conci race – the first conci held in the Sport Four division. (Richie had outrun last week’s winner Mike LeFort, Gargaro, Nicholas Alves and Justin Rioux in the consolation event.)
Tyler Almeida had a great start from the pole, claiming the lead from Christine Simpson at the outset and running at the front for nine laps. He was pursued by Simpson, then Mike Glad. Manuel had run wide around the field from a tenth-place start and landed in second going into lap five. But Glad pushed back in front on the next pass and then Westgate, rusing up from eleventh, pushed into the lead going into lap ten. He dueled Manuel for the next four laps with Almeida in third, looking for openings and being harassed by Tough Tim Bolger, who had come to fourth on lap ten.
Murray had started eighteenth, based on his elevation from the conci, and climbed rapidly through the field, arriving in sixth on lap eleven, then easing Glad out of fifth.
Kristopher Kay spun with ten laps remaining, bringing the field to a restart. Manuel had gotten past Westgate, and into the lead, on the previous lap. Now they faced off and Manuel stamped his claim on first place. Westgate dropped in, pulling Glen Leduc behind him and Bolger in fourth. Cliff Avila and Murray were battling over fifth until Murray broke past Bolger into fourth; and Avila sailed along behind Tough Tim.
Manuel decided to move along and began opening up a big lead over Westgate, which totaled eighteen cars with seven to go. Leduc harangued Westgate from third and had Murray working him over for position. Bolger, Avila, Gargaro and Glad were in hot pursuit.
Murray took the opportunity to get under Leduc and into third and began to close the distance to Westgate. By lap 22, the rookie was just a couple laps behind the veteran champion and closing. Bolger had closed on Leduc’s bumper. Leduc spun but was able to keep going. Unfortunately, it took him and Bolger out of the top ten and they finished eighteenth and nineteenth, respectively.
In the smoke and chaos, Gargaro and Avila took over their slots.
Manuel swept under the checkers with Westgate five-eighths of a second back and Murray followed. However, he had a two-spot penalty for a bad restart early in the race, which elevated Gargaro into third and Avila to fourth. Richie still brought down fifth place.
As Manuel stopped to pick up the checkers for his victory lap, LeFort slid alongside for the clenched fist salute.
Sixth overall went to Glad, followed by Matthew Smith, Joey Wordell, Jr., LeFort, Samantha Mattera and Almeida.