The season opener Mar. 29-30 was a crossover with the Central and Mid South regions, and drew racers willing to brave cold weather from as far as Tennessee, Ohio, and Wisconsin. How close was the action? The margins of victory in all three races combined add up to less than second.
Neal Agran earned the pole Saturday, followed by Gary Barton, Ray Freundt, Dan Piña — all within one second. At the flag, Piña had a perfect start, jumping to second by Turn 2 behind Agran.
Agran took advantage of the skirmishing behind to stretch a modest lead, but had to relinquish the gap when the pace car was called out after a PTE car lightly tagged the outside wall at Turn 6. On the restart, Piña once again perfectly timed the flag, slipping to the inside of Agran in a drag race to the narrow entrance to Turn 1. Piña emerged with the lead from Turn 2. The battles were fantastic in the four-lap sprint to the finish. Piña held off Agran at the flag by 0.17 seconds, followed by Barton and Freundt only a second apart. Agran set a new lap record of 1:11.692 in the penultimate lap, helped by Piña’s generous draft on the oval.
On Sunday, Agran was on pole again followed by Barton, Piña, Freundt, Pohlman, Magruder, and Brooks. Freundt and Piña teamed up to shuffle Barton to fourth on the inside of turns 1 and 2 at the start. The race then settled into three two-car trains. All three battles were nose to tail, with Agran ultimately earning the win over Piña, followed by Freundt and Barton.
Agran started Sunday’s second race on pole. Agran and Piña traded the lead three times in two laps, with Barton pressing hard in third. Agran settled into a slight lead as Barton and Piña alternated for several minutes between trading second place and teaming up in the draft to run down Agran. Then it got crazy.
In lap 10, Piña caught Agran in traffic, assuming the lead. Agran and Piña then traded the lead nearly every lap thereafter, with Barton challenging for second multiple times. Agran made a final pass for the lead around the outside under the white flag, only to be hounded by Piña through the infield. On the final turn onto the oval, Piña attempted an over-under pass that placed them side by side, drag racing on the NASCAR banking. Agran inched ahead on the final straight as Barton, seeing an opportunity, sucked up in his draft and, with a final bump draft to Agran, who edged Piña at the line for second by a bumper.
In-car footage from Neal Agran