by Dana Rowe
Evan Marchand is just a shade away from the Bandolero Outlaws championship after hauling down his fifth win at the Cement Palace on Friday night. His win set him up to clinch next week, especially after his closest rival, Tyler Tomassi, who led the division a few races ago, before landing afoul of bad luck.
Still, Marchand has to look back to Tomassi as his main rival, running second, twenty points back. Connor Souza who was runner-up to Marchand this week also still has a mathematical chance, two points back of Tomassi.
Racing kicked off with Samantha Dell coming off the pole to take the lead over Michael Cooper. Marchand started fifth and ducked under Hailey Brightman and Souza ran past them both. But Brightman got loose and Wesley Heard drifted in as she spun and they brought out the first caution in turn four. Brightman retired for the evening. On the restart, Dell and Cooper faced off with Dell taking the lead. Marchand came from the second row to get under Cooper. But he was a bit loose and then Tomassi went into a spin.
On the second try at the restart, Dell went to the lead out of the starting box. Marchand went outside Cooper for the pass but Cooper held position as Souza was very wide. Five laps in, Dell was one car up and pushed it out to two cars the next time around. Cooper pushed hard and closed in, but there was contact and Cooper did a three-sixty and keeps on. However, yellow had flown. Souza went to the back with Cooper on the assist. Wesley Heard was very slow through turns three and four, then pitted..
Dell and Marchand lined up for the restart and Evan nosed out, grabbing the lead going down the backstretch on lap six. Dell hung on to second with Cooper at her back. Marchand quickly went to a half-straightaway lead over Souza, who was pursued b y Cooper, Tomassi and Dell.
With four remaining, Marchand’s lead was a full straight. Tomassi lost speed and fell back going into the final lap and Dell took advantage and slid ahead of him.
Coming under the checkers, it was Marchand 2.2 seconds ahead of Souza, followed by Cooper, Dell and Tomassi, final car still running.