Points leader John Battista and the rest of the Extravaganza crew looks to conquer the fastest 1-1/2 mile racetrack in the entire United States. Matt Raboin becomes the fifth pole winner in five races thus-far. With many of the Extravaganza elite currently without a victory, we could see our fifth different winner as well at the bullring of Atlanta.
Rick Jackson started on the outside front row and wasted no time passing the #87 Valvoline Viper. Matt would become the rare pole sitter who did not lead a lap all day, crawling to an honest 9th place finish by the races end. It was a dominant effort by the Race-2-Win and Lucas Racing brigade early on in the going.
The Crown Royal machine would dominate the first green flag run, with only minor attempts from Tony Pizzaro and Craig Lee to take the top-spot away. It was smarter to stay behind him, as they pulled away from some of the dominant cars who were mired back in traffic after a bad qualifying run. Johnny Reed Foley, John Tharp, Bill Werkheiser and Zakk Miller all seemed to have the speed of the leaders if they could just find the track position.
The excellent crew work of the Lucas Racing teams propelled John Battista and Alex Crapser out to the front. The two would work traffic together while Craig Lee lurked eerily from behind. The other former leaders scurried over three seconds behind in hopes of finding their earlier speed to re-catch the lead group.
Craig Lee would interrupt the Lucas Racing strategy to pull away from the field and race himself to the front, grabbing his five bonus points but helping Rick Jackson crawl towards the lead. He re-took it prior to the halfway bacon bonus, and took the $100,000 check and racking his led lap total to 137 by the end of the race.
A big crash by the leaders after the halfway mark saw Craig Lee blow a right-front tire on the quad-oval. Mark Guthrie slammed into him, spinning the NOS Energy machine into oncoming traffic. John Battista tried to pass him high but slammed into Craig head-first, sending him down the racetrack and into Ken Pettit's Marley mobile. Pettit, Guthrie and Lee would finish 41st through 39th and unable to continue. Battista would drop from 1st to 4th in the points, continuing the race but limping to a 35th place finish.
The only caution of the event was over as the remaining Race-2-Win drivers battle it out for the lead. Both drivers are looking for redemption, as Pizzaro looks to re-earn the points advantage that was lost at Rockingham. Rick Jackson has been the most dominant driver all season, averaging over 50 laps led per race though earning three DNF's in four events so far. A victory today will help both of their causes.
Crossing the 250-lap mark, Zach Michael had arrived to break-up the Race-2-Win domination. He would lead 33 laps en-route to possibly becoming the first two-time winner of the season, battling Pizzaro for that right. From behind, Tony Long, Bill Wekheiser, Johnny Reed Foley, Dave Miller and Zakk Miller were all in a frenzy trying to catch the remaining three up front.
Tony Pizzaro was the first of the three leaders to come in for a stop just 15 laps to the finish. Rick Jackson came in the following lap, with Zach Michael making his way to the pits two circuits later. Pizzaro came out with a 1-1/2 second lead. All drivers took on two tires, including Johnny Reed Foley who had miraculously found his way to the front after an unbelievable stop from his AC Delco Top-Gear crew.
Johnny Reed Foley suddenly had the fastest car out of the four. Michael came out ahead of Rick Jackson in an attempt to run down the #12 machine, though his three lap tire advantage could not pull the mustard. Foley was able to scatter by the #20 and make his way towards the Fenway Park mobile with just a handful of laps to go. He would catch him on the final lap, and run side-by-side to the finish.
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