Barry Shaw, sporting a new ride in the Everett’s team Sport Truck, came home the opening night as a winner but took some strong challenges from newcomer Rob Bryant and former division champ Radical Rick Martin. Bryant and Martin ran at Shaw’s tailgate over the second half of the thirty-lapper. But he held them off and in the final tally, scored his fifty points for the win. Bryant, who had taken the lead after polesitter Andrew Kun had led the first seven laps, was ¾ of a second behind for second, and Martin finished on his bumper for third. Mike Cavallaro was fourth and rookie Richie Murray completed the top five, driving Josh Hedges former ride. (Hedges moved up to Late Models.)
Bryant, brother to former track standout Rusty Bryant, had started in the fourth row with Shaw on his shoulder, while Kun had Lenny Guy on the outside pole. At the green, Kun nosed ahead and Lenny stayed out for a half lap, then dropped in front of Murray. Cavallaro started outside the second row and as Guy fell back before dropping, Martin charged in underneath. Three laps in, the order was Kun, Guy, Murray, Martin, Bryant, and Shaw going door-to-door underneath Cavallaro. The field was stretching out into single file.
Four laps in, caution flew as rookies Connor Souza and Mikey Cooper made contact battling through turn three sending Cooper spinning.
Kun and Guy lined up again with Murray and Martin behind them. Bryant and Cavallaro followed while Shaw was paired with Brittany Campbell. Kun nosed ahead and Murray got under Guy, pulling Bryant along at his tailgate. Bryant pressed under Murray into second and Shaw dodged in to steal third with Martin on his bumper. Martin took a look underneath, but Shaw stayed tight to the berm.
Caution reigned again when Nick Testone III spun between turns three and four.
Kun now had Bryant on his high side for the restart, and the latter nosed ahead across the stripe. He dropped in on the back stretch and Shaw squirted under Kun into second, with Martin grabbing third. Then Darryl Dutch spun in turn four.
This put Bryant and Shaw side-by-side for the restart while Martin and Kun were row two. Shaw grabbed the lead off the green and Martin shot up along Bryant’s outside. Nine laps down and Shaw had a car-and-a-half on Bryant who had Martin, Cavallaro and Ed Perry clamoring at his tail. But Mike Belanger and Testone tangled between three and four.
The restart saw Campbell get sideways and collect Maddie “Mad Dog” Harkin and Testone. Second try saw the field away with Shaw and Bryant wheel-to-wheel down the front stretch. Shaw got away in turn two while Martin jumped in under Bryant. Radical Rick started to tighten the screws on Shaw and kept rolling up to his tailgate, but Shaw kept his composure and rolled on. Kun, running seventh on lap 13, spun in front of Murray and Guy. Murray escaped but Guy couldn’t. He joined Kun at the back for the restart.
Again, the Shaw/Bryant/Martin trio clustered at the front for the restart. Belanger had climbed to fourth and Cavallaro was fifth. Shaw won the drag race down the front and Martin got under Bryant while Cavallaro got by Belanger. The scramble between Martin and Bryant gave Shaw the ability to generate an eight-car lead, the longest of the feature.
Martin escaped Bryant and set out after Shaw. Belanger, Cavallaro, Perry, Murray and Campbell pursued. Over the next lap, Cavallaro edged Belanger out of fourth and another circuit saw Perry take over fifth.
With eight to go, Martin had closed to within a carlength of Shaw. They began to seesaw the gap as Bryant and Cavallaro gave chase. Murray got by Belanger into fifth. The field tightened as Bryant now moved back in to pressure Martin and they dueled with Cavallaro waiting for any opportunities. They brawled around the oval until, with three remaining, Shaw had pushed his lead back out to three cars and Bryant had sneaked in under Martin for another battle over second. They rubbed through turn one and then Bryant took a nose in turn two. He had second to himself going into lap 28, but Martin was on his back. Cavallaro was eight cars back in fourth with Murray on his bumper.
The white flag lap was a firefight to the checkers, but Shaw nailed down the opening night win.
Bryant, the newcomer, was an interesting surprise in second, while the two former champs, Martin and Cavallaro, showed they are looking to repeat. Murray’s fifth place proves that the racing genetics are still strong in the family’s third generation.
Completing the top ten were Perry, Belanger, Guy, Kun and Dutch, all veterans looking to the following week’s competition.