PJ EVANS WINS BANDOLERO BANDITS, SMILIN’ REESE TAKES THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
PJ Evans made good after last week’s two-spot demotion for a racing error took away a win. This week, he ran to the front on lap one and held off the ubiquitous Smilin’ Reese Bogue all the way to the checkered flag. Reese did not make it easy on Evans, and PJ had to use every skill he possessed to keep the soon-to-be champ in second place. He succeeded at that quest, however, and finished the Bandit season with a win. Bogue, who was assured the championship after the previous week’s win, earned a seat at the Banquet head table by simply starting his motor.
It was not an uneventful race, as The Smiler avidly pursued Evans and there was always the threat present from the runner-up. Colin Vanasse followed the leaders across the line for third, while Brody Monahan and Grant Harkin rounded out a top five. It was the high water mark on Harkin’s rookie season.
Isaiah Newcomb and Harkin started at the front and polesitter Newcomb was away into the lead as Harkin drifted uptrack on the start. The field took advantage and shot under Harkin. Coming around to the stripe, Newcomb led Colin Vanasse, Ryan Vanasse, Jr., Evans, Harkin and Adam Harrison over the stripe. Bogue, who started seventh, followed Harrison.
Newcomb fell off the pace in turn two, however, sending drivers scattering through turn two as Rob Murphy, Jr. was caught up and bounced off Newcomb. Richie Helger, Jr. and Ethan Dion finished their evenings pitside as a result.
The lap two restart had Colin on the pole and Harkin at his shoulder. Collin was away and then it was three-wide between Evans (diving underneath) Collin and Bogue who was looking around the outside. Next time around, Evans had settled into the lead and Bogue was investigating his back bumper. Collin was third, chased by Ryan and Harkin.
Ryan fell to fifth, just ahead of Brenden LeBelle and Monahan. Evans continued to run in the clear air and Bogue. was alternately closing on his bumper and easing back.
Lap six had the leaders bumper-to-bumper while Harkin had Ryan on his high side, looking to take over sixth. They battled into lap ten before Ryan could secure the spot. Unfortuatley, twice more around and he gave way to Helger and Harkin.
Evans and Bogue were still nose-to-tail at the front, and Bogue was repeatedly looking underneath. Evans shut the door and then they encountered lapped traffic, which kept Bogue in line while they passed. Collin continued in third with three laps remaining, followed by Ryan, Helger and Harkin.
Bogue was again looking under Evans as the twin sticks came up warning two laps to go, but the latter again shut the door. This continued all the way under the white flag but Ryan was slowing and he and Helger got together in turn four with Ryan’s tire going down. He went off on the hook while Helger got a push to the pits.
The caution brought a green-white-checker restart and Evans and Bogue lined up on the front row, ahead of Collin and Harkin. Monahan and LeBelle followed with Jaden Dib and LeBelle behind them. On the green, the leaders went door-to-door across the stripe before Evans nosed out in turn two, then had the lead to himself in turn three. Bogue again locked onto his bumper and started looking under, only to be denied. They came across the finish line nose-to-tail with Evans notching the victory and Bogue hauling down the championship.
Sixth on the evening went to Harrison, while LeBelle, Brent Robidoux, Dib and Newcomb completed the top ten. Just off the pace was Zacarias Kelley.