We are halfway through the chase, and so far nobody has had any less than two bad finishes. It is even closer then the 1994 Championship, when Ronnie Presley defeated Harrison James by 3 points to swipe away what could have been his fourth-straight championship. Here are the points with five races left:
Action Ice Motorsports is done for the season after losing primary sponsor Team Activision. The Texas crash that put promising star Russell Charneski in a coma defeated their spirits, but a 3rd place at Martinsville in the spring with Tyler Scott looked to resurrect the organization. Unfortunately, it's been a turn for the worse since, barely keeping their top-35 status that has been a given for the last few seasons. They will reportedly sold the team to Old Farts Racing, who is looking to add a third team to their stable in 2020.
Randy missed last week's race at Charlotte with a concussion caused by a practice crash on the frontstretch. His car slammed off the dogleg and flew into the infield pit lane wall. In redemption, he was able to stay on the lead lap all race long, get to the front on pit strategy, let the top-dog's race side-by-side, and navigated through lapped traffic perfectly to barely eek out a victory over his former long-time WASP teammate Rick Jackson. It was his 27th career Extravaganza Series victory, and possibly his last as the entire WASP team looks to be falling apart at the seams. What a job!
Matthew Dominique leads the field early on, and would lead 53 laps overall. Ken Pettit, Ben Geer, Ryan Heuser, and points leader Craig Lee follow in the footsteps of glory, hoping to overtake.
Things got dicey later on, with John Battista and Tony Pizzaro slicing Dominique three-wide on the frontstretch. Pizzaro would take the top-spot, leading his first of 97 laps on the night.
Chase contenders Ken Pettit and John Tharp make contact on the frontstretch and both slam hard into the inside wall. Ken would wind up four laps down in 31st place, 103 points back from the points leader. John dropped to last in points, 174 points back after finishing 29th.
The big one involved Scott Jackson's flipping car among others, who attempted to avoid the wreck by driving straight through it. It didn't work. The melee took away many promising finishes, including Ben Geer for the 30th race in-a-row it seems. Scott wound up finishing 33rd, dropping him back to 7th in the standings, 119 points back.
Points leader Craig Lee found his way up front again, with four of the best non-chase drivers right behind him. John Battista, who was lurking just a few car-lengths behind, would wind up in a crash with Dale Rosendaul later on and finished 28th, dropping him to 5th in the standings. Meanwhile Tim McDonnell looked to be on his game in his attempt to sweep Dover.
Tyler Scott had been struggling on horsepower since he re-joined the Extravaganza Series, and it caused the leaders to lose track. Leader Tim McDonnell spun him out, sending him across the racetrack and into Johnny Reed Foley and John Tharp. John stalled his car on the apron, needing a tow and finishing 29th. Foley ended up 27th after a masterful run.
Ryan Heuser, Tony Pizzaro and Matthew Dominique were the drivers to beat as per usual. Unfortunately, all would have bad pit stops that stymied their hard-racing efforts, and put a new driver to the top.
Tim McDonnell had the first four-tire pit stop under 14 seconds this season, clocking in at 13.8. It sent him from 6th to a 3+ second lead, and started to pull away from the field.
Dave Miller and Zach Michael, two drivers racing for that 11th place points money, made contact on the frontstretch with Bill Werkheiser. Dave spun on the narrow infield and slid into Brandon Raines who sent him flipping into the Steven Spears machine. Dave was okay, but was unable to continue on and finished 40th.
The final 50 laps saw Tim McDonnell and Rick Jackson stealing the show. There was a lot of lapped traffic, giving Tony Pizzaro trouble while Randy Dobbins and Ryan Heuser passed them with ease. Rick drove from 5th to 1st in five laps to re-take the lead with 2 laps to go.
Heading into the wonderful racing facility of Charlotte Motor Speedway, several have questioned the decision to run the oval instead of the infield road course. This would inevitably hinder the chances of Tim McDonnell and John Battista gaining valuable points, though the top-10 is so tight after 2 races that even the speedway-ringers will have trouble gaping anybody. The top-3 are only 5 points apart, and the top-10 are only 76...
The race started with the unlikliest of leaders. Aaron Cummings drove from 9th to 1st in only 8 laps to lead for three full circuits. It would be his first multiple lap-led race of the season, and he would've led more if not for a Walt Flowers and Johnny Reed Foley incident on the backstretch.
Ryan Heuser passed Craig Lee, Tony Pizzaro and Matthew Dominique all on the same lap to take the lead on lap 70. He would go on to lead the next 23 circuits before a no-tire pit call put Ken Pettit to the front.
After being mired outside of the top-15 for most of the day, Zach Michael found his opportunity for a big move on lap 84. His four-wide outside bonzai move exiting turn 2 was almost complete before getting tagged by Tony Pizzaro. Complete chaos ensued, as John Tharp was sent for a wild inside-wall spin as Tim McDonnell slammed hard into the left-rear of the #20. Rick Jackson slammed the front-end of Tyler Scott, as the rest of the field fell into complete obliteration spinning towards turn 3. Adam Crapser, Tony Long, Cristian Torres, Michael Henson, Donald Stewart, Glenn Kaufmann, Rob Scarberry, William Perry, Tim McDonnell, Johnny Reed Foley, Dan Johnston, Dave Butterworth, Aaron Cummings, David Courtney, Rick Jackson, Dalton Lucas, John Tharp, Zach Michael, Tony Pizzaro, Tyler Scott, Jonathan Skrabacz and Matthew Dominique were all involved in the incident.
It was back to reality up front, as Bill Werkheiser, Alan Nesfeder, Craig Lee and Dave Miller swapped the lead several times during the middle portion of the race. All four drivers would finish on the lead lap, with Bill and Craig continuing to be a factor all day long.
Bill and Ken Pettit swapped the lead twice around the halfway point, with Craig Lee in view the entire time. Craig stayed out under caution on lap 183 to secure the top-spot and kept it for 24 laps before John Battista drove by on the inside of turn 1. Craig crossed him over twice in only three laps, until Battista finally cleared him for good on the third attempt. He led for 21 laps, only for Craig to beat him out of the pits during the next yellow.
Death and destruction occurred for Ryan Heuser on lap 234. He and Tyler Scott made contact exiting turn 2, sending Ryan's car flying into the access-gap on the inside wall. His car ricocheted off and screamed onto the racetrack. Walt Flowers hit him head on. Then Brandon Raines smashed his drivers-side door and flipped him upside-down in front of traffic. To cap it off, Tim McDonnell smashed him on the right side, officially ending both of their dismal nights. Miraculously, Ryan was able to walk out under his own power and waved to the crowd. He and Tim would wind up 9th and 10th in the points standings after all was said and done.
Despite a good run by Tony Pizzaro late in the race, the second-half show continued to be dominated by Craig Lee and John Battista. Battista re-took the lead on lap 255 before the #12 took it back. Craig re-took the lead again after another fabulous pit stop under yellow. With 40 laps to go, they were neck-and-neck.
The #101 and #39 swapped the lead a miraculous four times between 35 and 25 laps to go. Craig took it three-wide underneath Battista and lapped car John Tharp for a fifth attempt, and things got scary. Battista and Tharp made contact and sent the #39 for a tailspin, miraculously saving the racecar and staying in contention for the win. He would lose only a second and run him back down in a matter of laps.