The top-two in the Championship standings are mired in the top-2 qualifying positions. It appears that the remaining 40 cars will be in dire straits, though pre-race favorites Tony Pizzaro and Ryan Heuser linger loosely inside the top-12. We've seen some quality runs from drivers outside of the top-20 in points before. Expect a few more in this event, with a familiar face likely to still take the crown.
Points leader John Battista leads the field to the green with his fourth pole of the season. It is a welcome relief, easily earning a Bud Shootout entry in 2023 after missing it this year despite an eight-victory season. Ryan Heuser also earned eight wins in 2021, taking the lead on lap 14 after Tony Pizzaro earned his five bonus points.
The lead was swapped once more between Heuser and Pizzaro before Bill Werkheiser made his bid on lap 22. Craig Lee took the top-spot the next circuit and handed it back to the #6 one lap later. By lap 30, it was the Fenway Frank Fusion back at the heap.
Craig Lee regained the lead and stayed up front until the first green flag pit stop around lap 67. Cristian Torres had worked his way to 5th before the stop, coming out 2nd and taking the lead over Werkheiser. He would lead 5 laps before the Heuser-Pizzaro duo took back the reigns, tagging Alex Crapser along.
Points leader John Battista pulverized the engine in his Wendy's Chevrolet Monte Carlo. An enormous blow to the Championship chase, finishing last and dropping from points leader to 42-back in the standings after this event. Lucas Racing teammate Alex Crapser picked up the slack by taking the lead on lap 85.
A terrifying crash towards lap 97 started with contact between Matt Raboin and Tony Pizzaro. Chase contender Donald Stewart was wedged into outside wall entering the dogleg, with Johnny Reed Foley attempting to follow though unsuccessfully in the same tire-tracks. From behind, Michael Henson and Dan Johnston hit attempting to avoid the #12 and slid into newfound points leader Rick Jackson. The impact to the front-end destroyed the #44, though he was able to limp to 25th and miraculously keep his points lead due to the attrition of this wreck, as well as engine failures late in the go. John Tharp, Scott Jackson, Ben Geer, Rob Scarberry, Jimmie Stevens, and Aaron Cummings were also involved in the accident, with most unable to continue.
The lead was handed to Champion Ken Pettit just before the big crash. Craig Lee took over the spot for the third time on lap 108, though he gave it up to teammate Dave Miller five laps later. Dave would lead through the second green flag pit stop, currently with the title of 2022 points leader due to the misfortune of Battista and Jackson.
A spin by Brian Lowe brought out the first caution of the race before the big wreck, initiated by contact by his son Stephen exiting turn-2. An accident coming off the same corner between Bink Lucas and Alan Nesfeder brought out the next yellow right in the middle of green flag pit stops. Leader Dave Miller, Craig Lee and Alex Crapser were all trapped a lap down in the process, giving the points lead back to Rick Jackson.
Excellent pit stops per usual put Tim McDonnell up at the front for the first time all day. He came from outside the top-30 on the grid to clinch the Halfway Bacon Bonus, with miracle-man Stephen Lowe up to the second position. Ryan Heuser would find his way past the #24 and took another bid for the top-spot, giving himself the lead both before and after the lap 200 mark. He and McDonnell would swap the lead multiple times throughout the next 20 circuits.
The Busch Bonanza Championship stood at a standstill after a horrifying crash on the backstretch on lap 209. Rod Weston was having the race of his career in fourth position before contact with Ken Pettit sent him flying into the inside wall. Rod hit the concrete barrier at 198 miles-per-hour and flipped violently across the backstretch apron. Miraculously h
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