It was a fast-paced race filled with several surprises. The top-11 drivers would all lead a lap, and the winner needed their victory more than anyone in the field. Unfortunately, the race also ended in a life-threatening injury, leaving us all left to wonder whether the speeds have gone to high.
The race started with Rick Jackson at the point with a 210.461 mph qualifying lap. The race pace was intense from the start, with Jimmie Stevens and Ben Geer (twice) ending up in incidents. There would be 19 lead changes before green-flag pit stops on lap 69, between Rick, Craig Lee, Alex Crapser, Matthew Dominique, Scott Jackson, Ryan Heuser, John Battista, Matt Raboin and Johnny Reed Foley.
On lap 120, Kevin Corbat and Jonathan Skrabacz made contact on the backstretch. Kevin hit the inside wall hard, flying back onto the racetrack. The smoke from the incident was so bad that Tony Pizzaro hit him head-on, flying Kevin into John Battista's hood. He then pirouetted 11 times in 4 seconds before Zach Michael's hit forced his car to stop. Corbat, Battista and Pizzaro all suffered minor injuries, while Michael would remain hindered for the rest of the race.
William "Tex" Perry, Johnny Reed Foley and Tim McDonnell would end up in incidents quickly, with Tex the only one suffering severe damage. Afterwards we would see a lot of good racing, including a rare appearance by Michael Henson up front. Ryan Heuser, Matt Raboin, Alex Crapser and Randy Dobbins all led a lap during this period.
Rick Jackson and Ryan Heuser were pulling away from the field when disaster struck. Alan Nesfeder and Ben Geer made contact out of turn 4, spinning Alan out. Dave Butterworth and Zach Michael hit him hard, sending Alan's car straight into Rick and Ryan. Both were damaged after the incident, Rick severely, and each of the top-6 were involved. It would be the wreck that changed the outcome of the race.
Michael Henson crashed on lap 313, leaving Alex Crapser and Dave Miller to race hard for the final 16 laps. Tim McDonnell, Ken Pettit, Johnny Reed Foley, Ryan Heuser and Scott Jackson would all duke it out behind them, but it easily became a two-man race up front. Alex would take the point from lap 321 to 329, and Dave from lap 330 to 332.
On the final lap, Alex and Dave were side-by-side coming out of turn 4 trying to avoid the slow Michael Henson. Crapser used his skills to force Miller outside so he couldn't avoid having to slow, giving Crapser the lead coming into the final lap. Steven Spears, however, was not as patient as Dave. With a small three-wide opening, Spears took a chance to ensure his top-15 finish and it backfired dramatically. Scott Jackson hit the wall head-on and suffered a cracked collarbone. Spears himself ended up with his second concussion in five weeks. Russell Charneski ended up flippiong 20 times in 6 seconds and is currently in critical condition suffering from severe head-trauma, a fractured skull, broken collarbone, three broken ribs, two collapsed luings and a bruised heart. Only Alex, Dave, Tim McDonnell, Ken Pettit and Ryan Heuser would be able to cross the line on their own power, the only five drivers to finish on the lead lap.
After all of that, Alex Crapser was able to fly by the ensuing carnage to grab his first victory in his only flag-to-flag competitive race of the season. After finishing 10th in points last season during a sub-par chase, everyone figured he would bounce back this season at full stride. Unfortunately, good qualifying results have resulted into poor finishes every race so far, until now. He is currently up to 19th in points, and very much in chase contention after this win. Congrats to Alex, crew chief Jeremy Hebel and the entire Lucas Racing team for an excellent victory!
O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Part 1
O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Part 2