Jordan Lopes appears to have edged past AJ Manuel into second and halved Mike Lefort’s 20-point lead in the standings with a big, Friday Night win in Sport Fours. Lopes did so by disappointing race leader Crystal Murray in a green-white-checker restart. Murray had held the lead since lap nine and had appeared headed for the win until caution flew with two laps to go. Lopes joined her on the front row, ducked under and stole the checkers with an adept move in turn two. Murray, who heads off to college on Sunday, grabbed second. David Westgate, Tyler Alemida and Samantha Mattera rounded out the top five.
At the getgo, Mattera nosed ahead of Christian Herman and into the lead. It took a complete circuit to disengage from Herman but then she generated a two-car lead as Tough Time Bolger ducked under Herman. Murray, up from her seventh-place start, awaited the results while behind her Westgate and Timmy Ouellette were side-by-side as well.
Dave Simpson was in Murray’s sights and she nosed under then got under Herman for third.
Ten laps in and Mattera was cruising at the front, five cars up on Bolger, who had Murray, Herman and Westgate trailing behind her. And then came Lopes, pushing in under Simpson.
Lap twelve saw Dylan Decoster around near the wall in turn two.
Mattera and Bolger lined up with Murray and Herman behind them. Mattera grabbed the lead and Bolger stayed on the high side and drove back alongside. Mattera had a nose on the back stretch but caution flew for a Kevin Finkbein spin which caught up Sabrina Beaulieu and Joseph Pilling. Beaulieu and Finkbein pitted, and only Beaulieu was able to return.
On the restart, Mattera was in front at the stripe but Bolger battled back and they went door-to-door through turn two. The battled it out for a pair of laps until Mattera finally had the front crossing the stripe into lap 13. Murray got under Bolger looking for second. She then rushed forward to steal the lead from Mattera as Bolger fell back and Westgate ran up under Mattera looking for second. Almeida came in on Westgate.s bumper. Murray had build an eight-car lead by this time.
Almeida then ducked under Westgate but Dave fired back into second. Almeida went back underneath.
With eight to go, Murray was enjoying a straightaway-length lead. Gajdowski, however, took a spin on the backstretch and they lined them up again for a restart with eight to go. First try, Arthur Meack took a spin and on the second try, Murray jetted away at the stripe on the second shot. Lopes was now in the zone, having started fifth, under Manuel.
As Murray went to a three-car lead, Westgate took hold of second and Lopes ducked under Almeida to challenge for third. Their duel was happening on Westgate’s bumper. With six to go, Almeida elected to drop onto Lopes’ bumper. Crystal now led by eight cars and five laps remained.
Lopes had gotten by Westgate and Almeida followed into thrid, leaving Dave in fourth. Manuel and Mattera were wheel-to-wheel behind Westgate. But as Manuel broke ahead of Mattera, Herman went around while crossing the stripe.
This reversed a good deal of passing and Murray again had Westgate outside in the front row for the restart. Lopes and Almeida followed, just ahead of Mattera and Manuel.
Crystal broke away at the stripe and Westgate stayed outside as Lopes was on her bumper. Westgate dropped into third on the next circuit as Mattera got under Almeida. They ran this way into lap 23, when Matthew Smith suddenly flew across the infield from the front stretch and brought out the green-white-checker situation.
Murray and Lopes had Westgate and Mattera in their mirrors. After a bad start callback, they went door-to-door over th stripe. Lopes grabbed the lead in turn one and Westgate took third. On the white flag lap, Murray took a look under Lopes, who closed the door. He held her off for the rest of the third-of-a-mile to the checkers for the win.
Sixth went to Lefort. Manuel, Bolger, Karlin Levesque and newcomer Sam Mesick completed the top ten.-0-