From the dehydrated grapevine fields of Sonoma Raceway to the lush forests of Nashville Tennessee, Extravaganza teams are prepared to race. The long 2,500-mile journey back to the east coast proved weary for some, not prepared for the qualifiers last week and missing the big show. Regulars Tony Long and Jonathan Skrabacz are out of this event with Markell Murphy buying a ride from Old Farts Racing starting in 32nd place.
Bill Werkheiser and Rick Jackson start on the front row with the Crown Royal #44 getting the jump on the green and leading the first lap. It was three-wide action from eigth on back during the first few laps, though somehow the field remained in tact as we drove into a long green flag run. Championship contenders Scott Jackson, Zakk Miller and John Tharp would all have to navigate through the potential chaos after starting outside the top-30.
The initial run was dominated by four racecars. Jackson, Craig Lee, Zach Michael and Ryan Heuser all pulled away from the pack as the battle for 5th heated up from behind. Jackson and Heuser swapped the lead several times while meandering through lapped traffic after the first pit stop.
The first caution flag came out after Scott Jackson's ATEUP car stalled on the backstretch. Miraculously he would re-fire and only lose one lap, though the field would bunch up for their first restart of the event. Logan Sheets, Zach Michael and Craig Lee all took turns at the heap while Rick Jackson fell outside the top-10.
The middle portion of the event saw Alex Crapser leading his first green flag laps since Darlington. Donald Stewart would force his way by the #04 and remain at the helm for 35 circuits on the day, replacing Jackson as the most dominant car in the field. Zakk Miller and Johnny Reed Foley found themselves in the mix as well, keeping their recent dominant stretches in tact.
Dave Miller took the lead on lap 147, looking to steal the halfway bacon bonus away from the rest of the pack. Ryan Heuser took the lead one lap later, with Donald Stewart in-tow on the bottom lane. Crossing the line at lap 150, Stewart narrowly edged out Heuser for a couple of feet to re-take the bonus money that he deserved.
The first DNF of the event was caused by a blown engine by Matt Raboin. Aaron Cummings made contact with the Valvoline machine and sent him up towards Scott Jackson and the wall. Matt has been hit-or-miss all season, winning two races but finishing outside of the top-20 for an 11th time. Miraculously he would remain inside the top-21 in points despite an average finish of 22nd.
John Battista took his first lead of the day after the second round of green flag stops. He and Donald Stewart could not prevail for long as Johnny Reed Foley, Ryan Heuser and Zach Michael found the early-run speed to take them to the top coming to lap 200. A debris caution would put Bink Lucas and Dakota Wilkins in position for a miracle Cindarella story.
John Battista took his first lead of the day after the second round of green flag stops. He and Donald Stewart could not prevail for long as Johnny Reed Foley, Ryan Heuser and Zach Michael found the early-run speed to take them to the top coming to lap 200. A debris caution would put Bink Lucas and Dakota Wilkins in position for a miracle Cinderella story.
Ryan Heuser led the field through lap 277 before a hard-charge by John Tharp saw him pull into the lead coming to 20-to-go. Tharp has amassed six top-8 finishes in his last eight races, looking to catapault himself deep into the Championship running with a victory today. The two would race side-by-side multiple times with Heuser finally gathering the advantage with three laps to go.
Coming to the penultimate lap Tharp made a move towards the inside on the backstretch and cleared Heuser by several car lengths exiting turn-4. There was no turning back, as the #14 "Orange Man" catapulted to the checkered flag to earn his second victory of 2022, a modest two more than he did all of last season. Congrats to Tharp, crew chief King Joe Dawkins and the entire PHR Racing crew for an excellent victory!
2022 Bepis 400 Race Video