by Dana Rowe

Giovanni Ruggerio led the first two laps of the Bandolero Bandits division race, but more important, he led the final two. Most of the remainder of the race, he spent in second, snarling after Devin Deshaies – the winner of both previous features in this early season. Giovanni looked under Deshaies coming to the stripe with the starter holding the two sticks out for two laps remaining. In the chaos with Nathan Smith and Riley Caron buzzing around them, Ruggerio pushed ahead and surprised Deshaies, piling on through into a sudden lead as they passed the flagstand. Devin fired up and got his nose ahead in turn two but Ruggerio charged back and Deshaies was forced to drop onto his bumper. Ruggerio charged on with Deshaies trying every trick in the book over the next two laps but, though he was able to get his nose underneath, the checkers flashed past and Ruggerio was enroute to Victory Lane with a .115-second margin of victory. Smith and Caron followed – the entire top four crossing on the same second. Ryan Arieta rocked in for fifth.

Isaiah Newcomb took command from Ruggerio going into lap two and led him and Deshaies into lap 7 before being claimed by mechanical ills which sent him pitside. He was suddenly plagued with handing problems and limped out the pit exit. In the shuffle caused by his sudden veer, Deshaies seized the front then drove out to a two-car lead over Ruggerio and Smith. Arieta followed, ahead of Caron, Joel Newcomb and Collin Vanasse.

Lap eight saw Nikolas Frechette spin in turn four, bringing caution and setting Deshaies and Ruggerio side-by-side for the restart. Smith and Arieta made up row two. At the green, Deshaies jumped ahead and Smith dodged under Ruggerio. Giovanni powered up and retook second, but Deshaies had put some distance between them and went out to an eight-car lead over the next two laps. Another circuit and he was 15 lengths up on the field. But on the next circuit, Frechette went around again and was required to sit down under the two-spin rule.

Deshaies and Ruggerio went at it again and after some side-by-side dueling, claimed the front. Ruggerio dropped in, trailing Smith and Caron with three laps to go. One more time around, and Ruggerio looked underneath and charged into the lead he would not relinquish over the final two laps.

Sixth on the event went to Joel Newcomb and Frechette was awarded seventh with Vanasse and Newcomb becalmed in the pits.