The first short track of the season produces it's 7th pole sitter in the first seven events of 2022 in the #30 Team Danger Zone Bepis Mustang. Zakk Miller comes into the event 32nd in points, just one year removed from a near chase birth and a peek into top-tier status by some Extravaganza experts. He looks to turn his season around today, with short track masters Alex Crapser and Matt Raboin surrounding him on the starting grid. Bonanza regular Brian Lowe pulls off a miracle 5th starting spot, a career best for the veteran.
The initial laps saw Zakk Miller clear the Alex Crapser machine and sail off into the sunset while the rest of the field battled for second-place supremacy. Crapser, Tony Pizzaro, Matthew Dominique, Matt Raboin, Adam Crapser and Ryan Heuser all lurked into the distance as Miller meandered through lapped traffic. By the lap 100 mark, Miller had led every lap.
Lap 98 saw the first caution of the event entering turn 3 between Geno Sphere and Donald Stewart, winding up with Sphere mired into the outside wall. 100 laps later, Kevin Corbat and Jimmie Stevens deja vu into the same barrier, with both drivers suffering minor contact. The ensuing restart saw the third yellow flag, starting with Dalton Lucas hitting the outside turn-2 wall and tagging Dakota Wilkins. Both were sent into a whirlybird backstretch extravaganza. Neither driver would finish inside the top-20, with Stewart dropping from third to fifth in the standings after a 32nd place effort.
After a seemingly infinite struggle and a hard-charging grind to the front, Tony Pizzaro finally took the lead away from the #30. Zakk Miller had led every circuit from lap 1 to lap 165, hoping to cap his usual one dominating short track performance of the season with a Richmond victory. Despite the overwhelming domination of the Bepis machine, Pizzaro could only handle the load for 58 laps. A mistake attempting to pass lapped traffic forced John Battista, Johnny Reed Foley, Miller, Adam Crapser and Matt Raboin to fly by in style, marking the third lead change of the night.
Battista remained at the helm for five laps before Johnny Reed Foley took the top-spot on lap 229. Foley had entered the event with a victory at Atlanta and leading a lap in his last three Extravaganza Series events. This would be the third race of 2022 that he would only lead one, getting re-passed by Zakk Miller just after he crossed the stripe.
With Miller and the Team Danger Zone Bepis crew adding to their lap-led total on the evening, many drivers were on the opposite end of the spectrum attempting to find their short-track luck. Both Tim McDonnell and Steven Spears made multiple unscheduled pit-stops, with Brian Lowe and Bill Werkheiser also four laps down after the halfway mark due to loose lug nuts and tire problems. Logan Sheets and Scott Jackson were the other primary problem-getters, involved in a lap 112 melee off of turn-2 that sent them both into the outside wall. Rick Jackson also suffered, blowing a right front tire and finishing the event in 27th place.
Zakk Miller was still up front crossing the lap-250 mark, leading a total of 192 laps on the night. Unfortunately, a loose lug nut and a horrid vibration sent him into the pits during the next caution flag, dropping the #30 Bepis Mustang to 19th on the restart. He would manage to race through the field and record a ninth place finish on a day that he dominated, proof that the team is back to form and ready to add to the victory column for 2022. After the restart, John Battista had found his way back up front with Johnny Reed Foley in tow.
Matthew Dominique flied through the field and pulled past Battista for the lead on lap 327. His teammate Matt Raboin followed the path, as the first and only green flag stops of the event were about to commence. Battista had exited the pits after his tire change and yielded a little to soon, clipping Randy Dobbins and flying into his teammate Dalton Lucas. Lucas went for a half-flip after a hard impact into the outside turn-3 wall, while Battista destroyed the back end of his Wendy's Chevrolet. William Perry slammed into the #88 in the aftermath, destroying his automobile. Battista would limp to 17th after an excellent run, with Lucas and Perry finishing 37th and 41st. Dalton would drop out of the top-10 in points for the first time all season.
Only nine cars remained on the lead lap with the Quantum Racing brigade on top with less than 50 laps to go. From behind, Quantum Racing's rookie Logan Sheets and Markell Murphy spun towards the inside wall, with Bill Werkheiser and John Battista attempting to scurry through the smog. 15 laps later, Dakota Wilkins, Donald Stewart, Bill Werkheiser and Geno Sphere go for a spin exiting turn 4. There would be 14-to-go on the final restart.
Leader Matthew Dominique endured a struggling battle with the lapped car of Ken Pettit and could not clear him on the green. When the Bob Marley machine made it by, Dominique attempted to dive in front of Matt Raboin in turn-3. Unfortunately, he could not keep his car down in the center of the corner, leaving Raboin the space he needed on the bottom to make his bid for the victory. The two raced side-by-side for two laps before the #87 captured the lead, his first of the evening in hopes of a 10-lap cruise to victory lane.
After two short-track victories last season, another one almost comes as no surprise. Raboin would fly to a one-second interval as he took the white flag lap, following the two lapped-cars in front in a tandem-tow to victory circle. It would be the seventh different winner in seven races after the new 2022 rules package. Congratulations to Matt, crew chief Takumi Fujiwara and the rest of the Quantum Racing crew for an excellent victory!
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