ALTAMAHAW, N.C. – With a diving, late-race pass in turn one, Jessica Bean snapped an 18-month winless drought with her first USAC Speed2 Eastern Midget Ass’n score of the year Friday night at Ace Speedway.
Bean, who worked her way forward from fifth to second in the first seven circuits of the 30-lap feature, had to chase polesitter and race-long leader Alex Murray for more than two thirds of the distance before making her winning move.
Murray leapt out to the early lead under the lights, opening up nearly a second over his closest pursuers before Bean dispatched Connor Gross for the runner-up spot in turn three and set her sights on the lead.
She closed down on Murray’s rear nerf bar before halfway, but spent the next five circuits in attack mode and unable to complete the pass as Murray worked high and low defending the top spot.
Finally, however, a caution flag with 10 to go set up a double-file restart and gave Bean a fighting chance.
A spin by Braeden Allum in turn two forced the yellow lights on and positioned Bean outside of Murray’s Shamrock Auto Care No. 22 for a shot at the win. When the green flag returned, Bean quickly dropped in behind Murray and went to work trying to force a mistake out of the Concord, N.C., driver.
That mistake finally came on lap 23, when Murray overdrove the entry into turn one and washed up the race track, opening the bottom lane for the two-time series champion and giving her a lead she wouldn’t relinquish.
As Murray fell back on the outside, Bean drove off to a 1.270-second victory over Nolan Allison.
The win was Bean’s first since April 21, 2018 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and the 11th of her EMA career, fifth all-time and third-most among active drivers.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bean noted in victory lane. “We’ve finished second seven times this season and we’ve been so close so many times. We were all just ready for this drought to be over with.
“I don’t know that I was really all that excited (to see the yellow), because I knew it was gonna be a double-file restart, and being on the outside is pretty tough with all this competition,” Bean added. “I had to take the chance (at passing Murray) though. I showed my nose way too early and he saw that and knew what to look for. But after that restart, it all worked out and I finally got my first win here at Ace.”
Allison was quick to say that he felt there was little that he could have done to catch Bean without the aid of another yellow in the final laps.
“I’ll take second from sixth,” he added. “It was a fun race and she was fast. I can’t be too upset.”
All-time series wins leader Chris Lamb came from seventh on the grid to complete the podium, ahead of Levi Riffle and Neal Allison.
Gross crossed the line sixth ahead of Murray, who was trapped up high in the final laps and fell back.
“They knew we were here,” said Murray. “I shouldn’t have driven it into turn one so deep, because I got up in the oil or marbles or whatever’s down there. Once I got in on the brakes, it just shoved the nose up the track and there they went.
“A tough finish tonight for sure, but we’ve got the car and the confidence for tomorrow to go out and get one.”
The USAC Speed2 Eastern Midget Ass’n season continues Saturday with a 35-lap race at Ace Speedway.
RESULTS: USAC Speed2 Eastern Midget Ass’n; Ace Speedway; Oct. 18, 2019
Qualifying: 1. Nolan Allison, 16, Allison-15.568; 2. 2. Jessica Bean, 5, Radical-15.579; 3. Neal Allison, 15, Allison-15.609; 4. Connor Gross, 14, Gross-15.656; 5. Levi Riffle, 75, Riffle-15.714; 6. Alex Murray, 22, Murray-15.754; 7. Chris Lamb, 9, Radical-15.755; 8. Sam Mazzo, 31, Mazzo-15.885; 9. Daytona Spicola, 16.068; 10. Preston Lattomous, 35, Radical-16.143; 11. Braeden Allum, 87, Allum-16.296; 12. Hunter Wise, 28, Radical-16.389; 13. Mason Hoskins, 12, Hoskins-16.415; 14. Jake Smith, 93, Smith-17.131.
Feature (35 laps): 1. Jessica Bean (5), 2. Nolan Allison (6), 3. Chris Lamb (7), 4. Levi Riffle (2), 5. Neal Allison (4), 6. Connor Gross (3), 7. Alex Murray (1), 8. Mason Hoskins (13), 9. Preston Lattomous (10), 10. Hunter Wise (12), 11. Daytona Spicola (9), 12. Braeden Allum (11), 13. Sam Mazzo (8), 14. Jake Smith (DNS).
Lap Leader(s): Alex Murray 1-22, Jessica Bean 23-30.
Hard Charger: #12 – Mason Hoskins (+5)