Lucas Oil Weekly Racing Series action also saw Chad Brachmann of Sanborn NY, Jason Fontaine and Josh Sliter of Port Colborne and St. Catharines driver Jason Coutu winning their respective first features of the year in the Pinty's 358 Modified, Hoosier Stock, Rev's Full Throttle Powersports Modified Lite and Van Raine Construction 4 Cylinder Divisions.
"I hated to see that happen," said second generation driver Gary Lindberg in Victory Lane after a last lap incident involving leaders Rob Knapp and Brad Rouse, "I was waiting and waiting for a shot at them ... I almost got collected myself."
Knapp took control of the 25 lap Feature right from the start and despite two early cautions was able to distance himself from the field. Starting from 5th Rouse quickly landed in the runner-up spot but it wasn't until after lap 15 that he was able to close in on Knapp who was now into lap traffic.
The final laps saw Knapp and Rouse in quite a battle with neither driver giving an inch. That inch got used up unfortunately the final time through Turns 3 and 4 with both drivers losing control of their cars.
A green/ white/ checker dash to the finish had Lindberg holding off Chad Chevalier, Jason Moore, Paul Gaboury and James Friesen.
"All the cautions throws your rhythm off," said Chad Brachmann after holding off Mat Williamson, "I kept seeing the 6 on the board ... it had me a little worried."
Tim Jones was first to lead the 35 lap Pinty's Delicious Foods 358 Modified Feature before a multi-car incident slowed the field with one lap complete. Several cautions would slow the field in the early stages with Jones distancing himself from runner-up Brachmann on a lap 9 restart.
Lap 13 was lucky for Brachmann however as he was able to take control of top spot and immediately pulled away to a ¼-lap lead.
About the half way point Spring Sizzler Feature Winner Mat Williamson landed in the runner up spot before caution would slow things down on lap 21. On the move after the restart was Scott Wood who was battling Pete Bicknell for third until a lap 27 caution slowed the field for the final time.
Brachmann and Williamson were let loose on the restart with each driver swapping lines back and forth with Brachmann holding the edge. Through the final circuits Williamson would try and get a run around the outside on the leader but at the finish fell about a half car length behind.
Brachmann and Williamson were followed by Bicknell, Wood and Mike Bowman.
"For the first laps in the car ... this is awesome," said Hoosier Stock Feature Winner Jason Fontaine, "it's a great to start off like this - everyone worked so hard on this thing over the winter!"
Fontaine took control of the 20 lap Hoosier Stock Feature out racing defending Points Champion Mark Fawcett to the initial green flag. Fontaine quickly drove away to a huge lead with Lee Winger taking over second as caution slowed the pace on lap 4.
Fontaine resumed control on the restart with Fawcett taking back second spot after Winger slowed off the pace but continued. Caution would slow the field on lap 7 after Brad Sheehan came to a stop in Turn 4.
Once again Fontaine was out front on the restart with the field slowed right away after a number of cars came together in Turn 1. Fontaine again opened up a couple car length lead on the restart with Fawcett trying all he could to close in on the leader. On the move from the multi-car incident was Kevin Knapp who quickly raced to challenge Dave Bailey for third. By lap 16 Knapp took control of the show spot with Fawcett closing in on Fontaine.
At the checkers - Fontaine held off Fawcett with Knapp, Bailey and Billy Bleich Jr. rounding out the top five.
"This is the same car as it came off the track last year ... all we did was put a new body on it," said former champion Josh Sliter.
Rob Misener was first to lead the 15 lap Feature for the Rev's Full Throttle Powersports Modified Lite Division before defending champion Jeff May became the new leader with Jamie Gilbert taking control before a lap 1 caution quickly slowed the field. Gilbert became the new leader on the restart with Josh Sliter landing in the runner up spot.
Sliter closed to Gilbert's rear bumper with Misener in third with the team-mates pulling away from the field. At the halfway point the top three had spread themselves apart from each other by about 10 car lengths each.
Heading into lap traffic, Slier took over top spot down the front stretch of lap 14. A homestretch last lap incident at the start finish line slowed the field setting up a green white checker finish with Sliter holding off Gilbert with Misener, Paul Klager and May closing out the top five.
"Tonight was a hard fought battle," said Jason Coutu in 4 Cylinder Victory Lane, "it was a little dicey but I saw a hole and I stuck my nose in ... and here I am!"
Rob Goulding first to lead the 15 lap Van Raine Construction 4 Cylinder Division Feature and right away drove away to a couple car length lead on the field. Slight contact between front-runner Mike Sadusek and defending champion Leroy Buscumb allowed Coutu to challenge Goulding - taking the lead out of Turn 4 to start lap 5.
At the halfway point, Sadusek made a charge and landed in second and set his sights on Couto through lap traffic with Kyle Haynes taking over third spot. The first caution slowed the field on lap 12 after Kourtney Kocarik came to a stop off the track and on the Infield Kart Track where she spent many a Tuesday Night Kart Racing growing up.
Coutu led the field on the restart with Sadusek pulling side by side down the backstretch before taking the lead the next time around.
A caution before a lap was completed found Coutu put back out front with Coutu leading the field back to green once again. With Coutu maintaining top spot through to the checkered flag, Kyle Haynes would take the runner up spot with Sadusek settling for third. Goulding and Buscumb rounded out the top 5.
Pinty's Delicious Foods 358 Modified Feature (35 laps) Chad Brachmann, Mat Williamson, Pete Bicknell, Scott Wood, Mike Bowman, Tommy Flannigan, Tyler McPherson, Billy Dunn, Chris Steele, Tim Jones, Fred Carleton, Wayne Conn, Jeff McGinnis, Bill Bleich, Todd Gordon, Chris Bellamy, Mark D'Ilario, Boyd MacTavish, Dennis Giancola, Travis Miller, Davey Moore, Rick Hoctor.
Hoosier Stock Feature (20 laps) Jason Fontaine, Mark Fawcett, Kevin Knapp, Dave Bailey, Billy Bleich, Jr., Kyle Pelrine, Rob Murray, Chris Crawford, Jim Lampman, Pete Reid, Ed McLean, Bad Sheehan, Lee Winger.
Rev's Full Throttle Powersports Modified Lite Feature (15 laps) Josh Sliter, Jamie Gilbert, Rob Misener, Paul Klager, Jeffrey May, Chris Watson, RJ Pietz, Steven Beckett, Ray Sliter, Jr., Kellie Mason, Marty deMoel, Mike Journeaux, Dylan Davidson.
Van Raine Construction 4 Cylinder Triple Crown Series Opener (15 laps) Jason Coutu, Kyle Haynes, Mike Sadusek, Rob Goulding, Leroy Buscumb, Tyler Lafantaisie, Sam Iftody, Kyle Rothwell, Alex Riley, Mike Giberson, Alex Pidgeon, Kourtney Kocarik, Gary Hodason, Jay Modlton, Go Fast Teeple, Jeffrey Larmet, Jeremy Smith, Eric Larmet.
By Jim Irvine / Assistant General Manager / Merrittville Speedway