For every driver there is a race that needs to be triumphed. This race has been won by John Tharp and Alex Crapser in the last three years, looking for a new face and perhaps an underdog story to make it's mark on the Great American Race. Three of the last four restrictor plate races have been won by a Lucas Racing driver. With Adam Crapser, Dalton Lucas, and Chauncey Redmond Jr. all winless in the field with high-powered equipment, today could be their day in the moonlight.
The early part of the event was dominated by Ryan Heuser. He started in 6th position, and threw his way past Alex Crapser and John Tharp on the inside lane to lead lap 2. He remained peaked at the front of the railway through lap 8, where Tony Pizzaro led his first laps of the evening with draft help from Johnny Reed Foley.
Foley, Tim McDonnell, Markell Murphy, Zakk Miller, Steven Spears, Rick Jackson and Randy Dobbins all nabbed their bonus points early, one lap after the next of intense lead swapping. Heuser took back the helm on lap 22, giving way to Dan Johnston, Matthew Dominique and Rick Jackson only to re-take it once more.
Heuser and Pizzaro swapped the top-spot one last time before green flag pit stops. It became a Heuser, Dominique and Michael Henson getaway train, pulling away from the second pack with only three cars. Heuser was clearly the class of the show, showing no signs of speed all week only to propel when it mattered the most.
Trouble on lap 70 after the second pack finally caught up. Bill Wekheiser and Adam Crapser made contact in turn two, in shades of the Dakota Wilkins incident during the Daytona Duels. Bill slid violently up the banking and slammed Michael Henson, who went head-on into the outside wall. Both cars would fail to finish the event, and start their seasons void of a top-40 finish. Randy Dobbins also suffered front-end damage in the accident, finishing 36th.
20 of the next 21 laps were led by the #138, monopolizing the field as they stretched three-wide behind. John Battista and teammate Craig Lee used the lapped car of Dobbins to take advantage of the Rocket Man, with Tim McDonnell leading the Halfway Bacon Bonus lap. By the end of the run, it was a Heuser and Rick Jackson lead swap with Dalton Lucas lurking morbidly behind.
Probably the greatest Superspeedway performance during the first three-fifths of an event that we have witnessed on over a decade, Heuser was easily the king and it is worth reiterating. He led 73 of the first 118 laps in a series that is recognized for constant lead changes at Superspeedway races. Even for Quicksilver, this came as a shock to crews and fans alike.
Lucas would lead the field to the second caution of the event caused by debris from the #96 machine. The restart saw Alex Crapser up front, with an immediate pass from Rick Jackson on the first green lap. Mark Murphy, Dan Johnston, Dave MIller, Rob Scarberry, Zakk Miller, Joh Battista, Craig Lee and Scott Jackson swapped the lead at least a dozen times while Heuser was marred back in traffic, struggling to secure the slim-stream back to the front of the pack. There was 50 laps to go.
The horror story of Speedweeks was shown on lap 154 with a display of immense sorrow and detriment from the enormous Daytona crowd. Aaron Cummings and Ryan Heuser were mired back near 30th place and came together, galloping both cars up the racetrack and hard into the outside wall, taking Zakk Miller with them. The grandstands stood in silence, watching the hero of the night sit motionless in the turn-4 banking. Even sadder of a story, Glenn Kaufmann caught the tail-end of the accident with the right-front of his Clorox chevrolet, ending his night and his tri-decade Extravaganza career. Bets of luck to Glenn Kaufmann and his newfound New Jersey Amishland Bonanza team.
With Heuser out of the event, it became anybody's race for the win. A 41-lap shootout to the finish proved to be a fuel-strategy race if the caution didn't fly. Tim McDonnell, Markell Murphy, Alex Crapser and Craig Lee dominated the first 15 laps of the run, with Talladega winner Bink Lucas holding ground for the next 5 laps. Tim McDonnell held the lead until 16 laps to go with a hellacious draft pass between
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