Dylan Estrella put together an ample defense of the front and held off the normally unassailable Dave Darling over the closing laps of Pro Stock competition and came home with his third trip to Victory Lane for the season. Estrella had been cutting-edge throughout the feature, scaling his way past Mike Brightman, Fred Astle, Angelo Belsito, Rick Martin and Daryl Stampfl to get to the front on lap ten.
Likewise, Darling came up from starting tenth through the same crowd and then some. He began visiting Estrella’s back bumper on lap 27 of the forty in the race. Darling has been there before and the crowd expected a brouhaha at the front between the two top drivers. They got more than they expected and Estrella and Darling played a tight chess match on the circuit moving their pieces around in assault and defense. In the meantime, The Rocket, Ryan Vanasse slipped into third to watch for slip-ups ahead of him.
Only three cautions marred the matchup, two in the first ten laps and then one with thirteen to go. The result was high-octane driving with a good deal of pursuit.
Martin started the outside pole and went door-to-door with Stampfl then grabbed the lead. Belsito got under Stampfl and Fred Astle, Jr. went to the outside for a three-wide with Belsito grabbing second behind Martin. Brightman got under and into third and Estrella followed Vanasse who grabbed fourth.
As Darling and Tom Scully, Jr dueled for position in the pack, Kevin Casper came loos and spun down the front stretch into the grass of turn one.
The lap four restart had Martin paired with Belsito ahead of Brightman and Vanasse. Behind them was a double-threat. Estrella in the low groove with Darling on his shoulder. They were followed by Scully and Astle.
The leaders were side-by-side out olf the box until Martin got his nose ahead. And next time around he owned the lead crossing the stripe. Brightman ducked under Belsito and Estrella got belwo Vanasse. Next lap, Scully got below Darling.
Estrella ducked underneath Brightman and Belsito for a three-wide, setting Belsito into a spin and bringing a lap eight caution.
Now Martin had Estrella on his shoulder, pairing up Brightman and Vanasse in row two again.
Martin grabbed the front and Estrella took a look under as Brightman went outside. Scully got under Vanasse and Astle under Darling.
Lap ten saw Estrella making an attempt on Martin, getting underneath and then taking over the lead. Brightman ran third with Scully debating fourth with Vanasse. Astle followed with Darling and then Dick Benoit.
Over the next three laps, the field stretched out single file and Estrella gained a two-car lead over Martin. Scully and Vanasse continued door-to-door.
Estrella had a six-car lead on lap fifteen. Darling moved in under Scully after Vanasse had moved ahead. He eased Scully out of fifth. Astle took over and got by into sixth. By now, Estrella had expanded his lead to fifteen cars.
Martin was still second, followed by Brightman, Vanasse and Darling, who was quick to look under The Rocket and steal the position in turn four. He pounced on Brightman’s bumper next and got under Brightman resisted and the ran wheel-to-wheel until Darling had third on the backstretch with fifteen laps remaining.
The field was running fast and single file and Estrella now was 20 cars up on the field. Martin was ten beyond Darling, who was pursued by Vanasse and Brightman. Scully now got under Astle Into sixth.
Final caution of the event came with thirteen to go, collapsing Estrella’s lead. Martin came alongside for the restart with Darling and Vanasse in row two. Brightman and Scully followed, ahead of Astle and Casper.
Estrella vaulted back into the lead and Darling drove under Martin. Vanasse then looked under Martin to grab third.
What followed were a dozen intense laps with the crowd holding its breath as Dave Darling emptied his bag of tricks to grab the win away from Estrella. Never more than a few millimeters from Estrella’s bumper, Dave applied pressure constantly. The bickering leaders pulled away, locked in combat but try as he might, this time Darling did not find a way around his opposition.
At the checkers, Estrella had his third win on the season. Darling settled for second and Vanasse completed the podium finish in third. Martin and Brightman rounded out the top five. Sixth went to Scully, followed by Astle, Belsito, Casper and Benoit.