Giovanni Ruggerio made it two straight wins on the new season in Bandolero Outlaws with a hard-fought win over a fast and persistent Nathan Smith. Meanwhile Samantha Dell survived an opening-lap trip to the rear after a spin between turns one and two which sent Nicholas Rose diving to the infield in self defense. In fact, on the final circuit, she took a hard shot at going around Ruggerio as Smith was nosing under her for second. She got wide in the turn and Smith made the pass to claim second, relegating Dell to third. Ethan Heilborn made his second top-five appeareance at fourth with Joey LeMay rounding out the top five.
The first lap was characterized by intensity as polesitter Riley Caron popped out ahead at the green and Dell, starting behind him in row two, ducked under Smith. Going for a little extra speed between turns one and two proved to be her undoing as she snapped loose and spiraled up the embankment sending Rose ducking into the grass.
On the second try, Caron zipped ahead but Smith pressed on and ran past him into the lead on the backstetch. Heilborn, LeMay and Isaiah Newcomb zipped by going into lap two, but there was contact and Newcomb went around in turn two.
Smith and Heilborn lined up with LeMay and Caron behind them. Row three was Ruggerio and Cameron Tavares. Smith took the front under green, Heilborn settled into second ahead of LeMay but Joey went by and grabbed second. Ruggerio got under and into fourth. Next time around, he stormed past Heilborn onto LeMay’s bumper while Caron grabbed fifth.
Another time around and Dell was returning, arriving in sixth behind Tavares. She challenged him on the outside and Newcomb joined in to make it three wide. He pulled ahead leaving Tavares on the low side of Dell.
Six laps in, Smith was enjoying a half-straightaway lead over LeMay who was wrestling with Ruggerio on his bumper. Gio ducked underneath and they ran side-by-side, pursued by Heilborn and Newcomb. Caron was now pestering Dell over sixth.
Lap nine saw Newcomb ducking under Ruggerio but Newcomb’s back end snapped out. Caron and Tavares made contact trying to dodge LeMay who was avoiding Newcomb.
Now Smith had Ruggerio on his shoulder for the restart with LeMay and Heliborn in row two. Dell shared row three with Tavares. Smith leapt away from Ruggerio, who was followed by LeMay. Dell went by Heilborn into fourth and on the next lap, she edged LeMay out of third as Ruggerio took a nose, trying to steal the lead from Smith.
With 4 remaining, Rose spun in turn four and Giovanni’s snout advantage put him on pole for the restart, Smith on the outside while Dell and LeMay followed. Ruggerio outdistanced Smith and Dell slipped underneath and into second with three laps remaining. She had Smith on her bumper, and he was all over, looking to get second back. Heilborn had fourth just ahead of LeMay. They ran under the white flag and on the final lap, Dell pushed hard, forcing her wide. Smith pounced into second and got under Ruggerio and they drag raced to the line. Ruggerio held him off at the checkers by 28 thousandths of a second for the win, making him two for two on the young season. With last week’s .013-second win over Newcomb, Ruggerio has now won two races by the combined margin of just 41 thousandths of a second!
Sixth on the evening went to Tavares, followed by Stephen Bowden, Aubrey Keller and Rose. Newcomb and Caron were behind the wall, six laps down.