MARTINSVILLE, VA. – A shot to the rear bumper from a teammate nudged Evan Beaulieu into the early race lead.
And over the next 75 laps, shots to the rear bumpers from non-teammates deeper in the pack kept him there.
Beaulieu prevailed in Friday night’s caution-plagued Bibby Enterprises 75 at Martinsville Speedway to take his first career NEP SuperTruck Series victory in the fledgling division’s second race and first on Vidane TV.
“That was an interesting race, to say the least,” mused Beaulieu in victory lane.
The Durham, Me. racer started out front by virtue of a full-field invert from the SuperTruck Series’ inaugural event at Michigan Speedway, where Beaulieu met with early misfortune. Gridded alongside polesitter and teammate Kyle Casagrande, Beaulieu slipped into the lead on the initial start. A slip by a slower truck collected Dylan Kopec in a four-wide race off turn two, bringing out the first yellow of the night before a single lap was complete.
On the restart, Casagrande gave Beaulieu a shot in the bumper, propelling his Win And Party Motorsports teammate ahead of FieldFillers Motorsports opponent and younger brother Cory Casagrande. Beaulieu inched ahead as the elder Casagrande brother spun his tires at the line, collecting Mike Hopkins, David Arute and a host of others as the race was slowed again.
Contact was the story of the evening, as the paper-clip-shaped Virginia oval’s close confines proved to be the undoing for pre-race favorites who struggled to get through traffic unscathed.
But as each of the night’s green flags fell, Beaulieu was able to get the launch he needed, keeping his Hancock Lumber/Beaulieu Construction Ford ahead of the field long enough for another caution to fly.
Race officials called for single-file restarts in the second half of the race, hoping to turn the tide. While the single-file restarts did not eliminate the contact and heated tempers, they made Beaulieu’s job a bit easier, especially on the night’s final restart with only two laps to go.
“[Kyle] was letting me in there at the beginning, and we tried to do some strategy. It didn’t quite work out. Me and ChaLew were trying to do a little more strategy throughout the rest of the race. That’s what this team racing is all about.”
Jason Ricker turned in an NEP career night with his second-place finish. The race-winning crew chief started 12th, dodged carnage all night and came home with the best finish for 4 Wide Weaponry with team captain Ryan Salvatore parking his truck early on.
“We had a little bit of luck at the beginning of the race with a couple of cautions,” Ricker said of the early carnage. “We were able to get some track position and hang on there at the end.”
Charles Lewandoski, the only NEP SuperTruck Series competitor with experience in NASCAR’s own Truck Series, lived up to his “hard-charger” billing from the last two NEP Grand National Series events. Starting 15th, Lewandoski drove his way to third, placing two WAP Motorsports entries on the podium.
“I had to use the fast repair lap one, turn one, so I thought I wasn’t going to go very well,” said Lewandoski of the first-lap incident that set the tone for the race. “But we had a good strategy, and stayed out of trouble, and it worked out well. Evan was the truck to beat.”
Kenny Kibbey rebounded from an off-night in Thursday’s Kemba the Dog 75 to come home fourth, with 4 Wide Weaponry teammate Wyatt Alexander fifth to cap off a stellar night for the Toyota operation.
Anthony Aiello was sixth in a team-best effort for FPY Motorsports, with Team BBY racer Austin Boelke seventh. Mike Hopkins finished eighth in his best-in-class effort for Team Student Drivers. Michael Bennett rebounded from a disastrous outing Thursday to finish ninth in his first SuperTruck Series start, while Matt Kentfield drove back from engine trouble to round out the top ten.
Despite two of their entries starting out front, FieldFillers Motorsports struggled through the race, with Zane Ferrell limping home 12th for the beleaguered Ford team. The top guns in NEP Grand National Series competition struggled equally; Ryan Libby was 13th, while John Peters came home 21st after an early spin led to engine problems under the green flag.
With each team’s top three teams scoring points under the SuperTruck Series’ team championship concept, 4 Wide Weaponry sits solidly atop the standings with three trucks finishing in the top five this week. WAP Motorsports rebounded from misfortune at Michigan to move to a distant second, with Team Student Drivers holding on for third despite trouble for Michigan winner DJ Girard and a scheduling conflict for Brandon Yuhouse.
The next event on the NEP SuperTruck Series schedule is a nice 69-lap bout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, January 22. Coverage will begin on Vidane TV at 9:00pm EST.