by Dana Rowe
Bobby Tripp showed his pleasure at being back in a firesuit by engaging Ed Gannon in a race long aerial dogfight over thirty laps, a battle he was happy to have led for the final eight circuits. He roared up from his fifth place start to edge Randy Burr out of second as the field completed its fourth lap and harassed Gannon all the way to lap 27, where he wrestled the lead away from the pole sitter. From there, he edged away from Gannon, who had to fight off the predations of Barry Shaw, Josh Hedges and Mike Duarte the rest of the way to the stripe.
Gannon’s thirty-eight laps in the lead started on the pole, where he nosed away from Randy Burr after the green fell. Darryl Dutch looked underneath from the second row but backed off and Burr dropped into second. Darryl Church had dropped from third to fourth on the start, just ahead of Tripp, who worked him over for three laps before moving in behind Dutch. Meanwhile, Burr was pursuing the leader as Gannon pulled out to a four-car lead by lap two.
Tripp ducked underneath and had Burr in his sights. But five laps in, Mike Duarte spun in front of the starter’s stand, to bring the first caution. Gannon had the pole, Burr on his shoulder and Tripp on his back for the restart. It was wheel-to-wheel as they broke from the box. Gannon pulled away in turn two and Tripp then went to Burr’s high side and Shaw was challenging Dutch for fourth.
Bobby claimed second going into lap seven and Shaw took over fourth the next time around. Back in the pack, Duarte began to scramble back toward the front, grabbing Johnny Silva III’s spot in 13th, the moving Brittany Campbell back followed by Church.
At the front, Tripp was working to pare down Gannon’s two-car lead and on lap ten was alongside and trying to nose ahead. Shaw was doing the same to Burr and on the following circuit, had taken him out of fourth.Dutch followed Shaw, just ahead of Josh Hedges, Mike Cavallaro and Lenny Guy. The run ended as Dave Simpson spun out of turn two, and the field realigned for the restart.
Gannon and Trip came out of the box wheel-to-wheel and the latter got a fender past as they swept the telemetry into lap 13, but Gannon was up to the challenge and had pulled in front by turn two. Burr took a run at Tripp then settled into third only to have Hedges looking underneath and Shaw going outside for a three-wide. Hedges backed out leaving Burr and Shaw in a side-by-side battle. Dutch was on Hedges’ bumper, under pursuit by Cavallaro and Duarte. The field brawled it’s way to single file as Gannon managed to put a few yards of space between himself and Tripp. Hedges rushed up from fifth to third but Burr battled back to retake the position. Hedges then pushed him back and the duo battled of the slot for the next ten laps.
Tripp was now on Gannon’s bumper, looking high and looking low. But Hedges grabbed Bobby’s tailgate and Shaw did the same to him, making a high speed freight train out of the front four. Dutch, Cavallaro, Duarte and Burr followed.
Dutch closed up to the group as they lapped Tom Watson with eleven circuits yet to run. They ran in a tight pack for two laps until Hedges attempted an opportunity on Tripp’s low side and pushed in. Behind them, Cavallaro and Burr got sideways, corrected and both continued. Hedges was solid below Tripp but the latter battled back into second, just as Maddie “Mad Dog” Harkin went around out of turn two.
The restart featured a half-dozen prime antagonists in order: Gannon, Tripp, Hedges, Shaw, Duarte and Dutch. A grid three rows long went wheel-to-wheel until Tripp got his nose ahead on turn two, then a half truck and was three-quarters past at the stripe into lap 28. He completed the pass of Gannon on the backstretch then began to build a lead. Hedges began to assault Gannon, further helping Tripp to gain distance, while Shaw watched the duel and considered his next option. Duarte, Dutch and Church churned along behind them.
With five to go, Tripp was cruising along, five lengths to the good as Hedges was working the outside on Gannon and Duarte was on Shaw’s high side. Church followed and behind him, Guy and Dutch were side-by-side. Gannon pulled ahead and Shaw darted under Hedges.
Bobby’s lead was seven cars with three circuits remaining and Gannon pursued, trailing Shaw then Hedges. The single file field stayed in order into the white flag lap then swept under the checkers with Tripp in the win column. Gannon fought off Shaw for second with Barry finishing three tenths of a second behind him. Another 0.3 brought Hedges, Duarte for the top five. Church claimed sixth, just ahead of Lenny Guy and Simpson, Kun, Burr, Cavallaro and Dutch. Campbell, Silva, Harkin and Watson completed the field.