St. Louis welcomes the first ever Extravaganza Series race near the Mid-Western Mississippi River valley since the 1960's. Bonanza has held venue to this great facility for over two decades, producing outcast talent that helped turned near vagabonds into Extravaganza legends. Hometown hero Tim McDonnell turned his road-racing background into Extravaganza oval glory here. Expect his immortality to continue tonight at Gateway.
Bristol winner John Tharp leads the field to the green flag to commence the 240 lap event. Scott Jackson and Johnny Reed Foley would make the pass on Ryan Heuser for second and third place on the opening lap while Tharp pulled to a four car-length advantage. He would extend the lead further before a lap 14 caution bunched the field back together. Johnny Reed Foley would take the lead away after the restart.
The first caution othe night involved Michael Henson and Aaron Cummings after contact entering the first corner. Both would continue on and finish outside of the top-30, with Ben Geer suffering an engine failure under the yellow. William Perry and Dave Butterworth would crash in the same way entering turn-3 on lap 64. They would also finish outside the top-30.
Johnny Reed Foley led throughout the chaos in search of his league-leading third victory in 2022. It would become a difficult fulfillment with Ryan Heuser scurrying past Rick Jackson and John Tharp on the restart, making his way by Foley on lap 76 to become the third leader of the event. Heuser has still not earned a victory this season despite leading in all but two events that he's entered. Tonight might be the night.
Heuser would lead the field through lap 133, winning the half-way bacon bonus in the process. A battle for the 8th position one lap later sent Tim McDonnell and John Battista hard into the outside wall. Miraculously, both drivers would repair their damages and limp to a 16th and 18th place finish.
Ken Pettit inherited the lead when Heuser dove to pit road just before the yellow flag. Unfortunately, an accident in the pits involving Geno Sphere and Markell Murphy took out the struggling Champion and destroyed the entire front end of his Bob Marley automobile. He would finish 41st for a miraculous 5th time this season, dropping to 30th in points just 11 races from the cutoff.
Heuser regained the lead coming to the restart. He would be forced to battle with drivers trapped one lap down from ahead, while contending with Donald Stewart and Matthew Dominique from behind. A three-wide maneuver through the middle by Stewart placed the #55 Clorox machine up front with exactly 100 laps to go.
The #138 NOS Energy chevrolet found itself dropping back to the 5th position within 10 laps before another devastating blow occurred for the team. He and Randy Dobbins were battling for the fourth spot when the two tangled into the turn-1 outside wall. Ryan suffered minimal damage and remained competitive, finishing 8th on the night after leading 61 laps. It was one short of Rick Jackson's race-leading 62. Dobbins wasn't so fortunate, as the accident ended his race.
Leader Donald Stewart was involved in a caution flag accident with Markell Murphy, leaving the Geer-5 team with no other option but to pit. His car would work the rails, passing 20 racecars in 73 laps en-route to a 9th place finish. Rick Jackson and Dave Miller would swap the lead multiple times during the last portion of the event, awaiting green flag stops to determine the final outcome.
Jackson pulled out to a three second lead over Bill Werkheiser and five seconds over Dave Miller after the stops. The #44 crew entered the pit lane four laps earlier and seemed to be maintaining enough pace to cruise to the victory. A late Tony Pizzaro spin would damper Jackson's hopes, leading to an 8-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Dave Miller would exploit his four-lap tire advantage and pass Jackson coming towards the white flag lap.
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