Bobby Tripp bookended the season with an opening night win and closed the season with another big win at the Venditti Memorial. Tripp waged an early battle with Chase Belcher who was back in a truck (on loan from Darryl Church) after a season in Late Models. And late in the feature, Tripp was pursued avidly by Josh Hedges, who had unseated Tripp from the 2018 championship with a win on the final points event.
Tripp started behind polesitter Ed Gannon while Belcher battled from the outside pole. He stuck his nose in front and kept it there while running in the second groove. Gannon worked to hold him off and Tripp looked for a way past them both. Hedges was outside row two.
Tripp took a shot to get under Gannon, which would have made it three-wide but Hedges, caught in the same mix, spun out, bringing caution on lap 3. Belcher came of the poll with Gannon outside. Two Westport drivers – Bobby and Radical Rick Martin – were row two. Belcher rushed ahead and Tripp ducked under Gannon. He then went below Belcher and on the following lap pushed ahead out of turn two. Mike Duarte, meanwhile, was following through underneath Gannon. Andrew Kun then kept Gannon stuck on the outside by following Duarte.
Seven laps in, Tripp was cruising, four cars up on Belcher, who was being chased by Duarte followed by the side-by-side duo of Kun and Gannon. He doubled the lead over the next two laps while Kun took over fourth. Behind him, Martin and Lenny Guy were door-to-door. Martin moved to fith a lap later and Lenny dropped in with Gannon at his back.
Ten laps in, Guy performed a maneuver only a seasoned veteran could handle. He was knocked loose in turn four and came out sliding at a 45 degree angle. He fought his steering, kept the truck sliding evenly, recovered and continued to run – all without losing his place amid the chaos.
With seventeen laps to go, Trip now had a half-straightaway between himself and Belcher, who was trying to fight Duarte off his bumper. Kun, Martin, Hedges (returning from the back of the pack after his spinout) and Gannon. Next time around, Duarte was looking underneath in turn one and got alongside Belcher in turn two. But Kun spun down the backstretch, calling out the yellow flag. Tripp’s comfortable lead collapsed, and he and Belcher lined up for the restart.
They came out of the box wheel-to-wheel and brawled through a full lap until Bobby could secure the lead. Duarte and Martin chased Belcher while battling over third; Hedges followed with Guy side-by-side with Gannon behind him.
A dozen circuits remained as Tripp barged ahead to a ten-car lead. Belcher, stuck on the high side, saw Duarte sail underneath, then Hedges ran under Duarte. They battled as Martin roared up looking for room to pass but could find none. With ten to go, Duarte still edged Hedges for second but they stayed wheel-to-wheel.
Going into lap 25, Tripp was eight cars up on the pack. Guy got loose, made a great save, but then tangled with Gannon and Lenny spun. He and Gannon pitted for repairs then returned.
Tripp had Duarte alongside and on the green nosed ahead, taking the lead in turn two. Hedges again got in under Duarte. They waged a battle of this year’s champ vs. last year’s champ and Hedges won out. Belcher had recovered from his freight train rearward and now was troubling Duarte over third place. As Hedges roared after Tripp, one length ahead, Martin got in under Belcher and with three laps to go took over third. Kun returned from his trip to the rear after spinning and was working over David Simpson, trying to steal fifth. Kun pushed through with one to go.
Hedges was attempting to get by for the win, but Tripp held him off and the barreled across the finish line in that order. Martin claimed third; Belcher was fourth and Kun completed the top five. Sixth went to Simpson, followed by Manny Dias, Jr and eighth came Jordan Lopes,m driving his Sport Four car in the event, versus the V-8s of the Trucks. Duarte had dropped from third to eighth over two laps and finished ninth. Just ahead of Brittany Campbell and Lenny Guy. Behind Lenny came Fast Fridays starter Mike Belanger, driving his Sport Four championship car which had been sitting in the garage for the three years since his championship season.