On Monday night, the NEO Racing News Legends League hit the track at Lanier for a 50 lap event, for the series’ 7th race of the season. In qualifying, 16 drivers would take times while 3 others would elect not to take laps, and it was TJ Graves who put his car at the top of the speed charts with a lap time of 15.120 seconds, for his 4th career SARA pole.
Graves would lead the field to the green flag and would quickly get the jump into the lead. Behind him, Richard Hollyday would follow up the inside lane to move into 2nd, while James LInkiewicz would try to battle in the outside groove. The inside would prove to be the lane to be in early on though as Linkiewicz dropped back to 4th before he fell in line as Parker Traves would also get by. On lap 3, Hollyday would put pressure on Graves and would look to the inside in turns three and four, and would take the lead by the time they hit the line, shuffling Graves back to 4th in the outside groove.
Holiday’s lead would be short lived though as he would slide up on the exit of turn two on lap 6, allowing Traves to get the run down the backstretch to his inside. Traves would take over the spot and would extend the lead out to a couple of car lengths over the next few laps, as the top four began to pull away from the rest of the field, before the first caution would fly on lap 11 for an incident further back in the top ten.
On the restart, Traves jumped back into the lead, allowing Hollyday to duck back in behind him. The top four would all fall in line single file, and again began to separate themselves from the pack as Ryan Borges and Josh Kotten battled for 5th. On lap 19, Graves would make his move to try and take over the 3rd spot from Linkiewicz, and he would dive it to the bottom and got up beside him for the spot. But as they got door-to-door in the corner, they would make contact, and both cars would end up sliding up into the outside wall, taking both cars out of contention early for the next caution.
Traves continued to hold the advantage on the lap 25 restart, with Hollyday again getting back in line quickly, before Hollyday took his shot to get back into the lead. He would dive it under Traves the next lap around and would just barely nose ahead to lead lap 26. But Traves continued to battle on the outside for a couple of laps before looking to drop back in line. But out front, Hollyday would get loose forcing Traves to check up, allowing Kotten and Borges to move up to the inside. Traves was able to get back around both of them on the outside to move back up into 2nd. Despite the battle up front, the top four pulled away like they had done all night. On lap 31, Traves looked to put the pressure back on for the lead, but a crash further back in the pack would bring out the 3rd caution.
On the restart, Hollyday jumped back into the lead with Traves and Kotten following him in line, and joining them up front was Bill Martin who was charging from deep in the field and moved up into 4th, dropping Borges back to 5th. Just a couple laps into the run, another caution for a crash just outside the top five would bring the field to the final restart with just five laps to go.
At the drop of the final green flag, Hollyday pulled ahead of Traves as the top two got in line quickly. Behind them, Kotten was under heavy pressure quickly as Borges would make a move to the inside, with Martin driving around the outside as they went into the corner three wide, splitting Kotten and dropping him back to 5th. Martin would use the run on the outside groove to pull ahead into the 3rd spot, and would look to put pressure on the leaders.
On lap 47, Traves would make his move for the lead on the exit of turn two, and pulled to the inside of Hollyday for the lead. The two would run side-by-side for the next couple of laps as Hollyday tried to fight back on the outside. He would start to fall back though, allowing Traves to pull ahead by a few car lengths as they took the white flag, and Martin would also get by to take over the 2nd spot. With the advantage, Traves looked to be clear ahead for the win and just need to keep it clean for one more lap. But on the exit of turn two on the final lap, Traves would get loose, getting completely sideways before saving it, and allowing Martin to get a big run as Martin drove it in deep on the outside groove, and the two would drag race back to the checkered flag to determine the winner.
With the momentum from the high side, Martin would get the run off the final corner, and would edge out Traves for the win by just .015 seconds as they crossed the line rubbing fenders. Martin would lead just 1 lap all race, but it would be the most important one as he would win one of the closest races in SARA history, and picked up his 19th career SARA victory. Traves would come up just inches short in the 2nd spot, followed by Hollyday, Borges, and Kotten in the top five.
TJ Graves – Aggressive Driving – EOL in Results + 30 Points
James Linkiewicz – Negative Radio Chatter – Warning
With a 4th place finish, Ryan Borges hangs onto the points lead by 15 points over 2nd place in the standings. Next week the Legends will run another double header event at USA International Speedway, followed by a road course event at Summit Point.