WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Tony Bruce, Jr. shook the monkey off his back by racing to victory in Friday night’s 30-lap Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters preliminary event at the fabled Riverside Int’l Speedway.
Bruce battled past early leader Brian Brown on the 10th round in lapped traffic atop the quarter-mile gumbo clay oval and held the top spot the rest of the way to snare his first ASCS National win of the year aboard the Bruce Racing No. 18 Maxim.
“Lapped traffic comes into play here big and I couldn’t wait to get to it,” Bruce said. “We had a hell of a car and made it happen.”
With his fifth career Lucas Oil ASCS National triumph, Bruce locked himself into Saturday night’s second annual Rock ‘N Roll 50 finale along with the balance of Friday’s top four that included runner-up Danny Wood, 24th-starter Shane Stewart and local rep Derek Hagar.
After the initial feature start was waved off for Andy McElhannon’s turn two flip, pole starter Brown outgunned Josh Fisher for the lead at the start and paced the early circuits in front of Hagar as Bruce worked up to third by the fifth round.
Bruce made his way past Hagar for second on the sixth circuit and went to work on Brown for the point as traffic came into play on the eighth round. Bruce drove underneath Brown exiting turn four to take command on the 10th circuit, with Hagar and then Wood following suit in subsequent laps with Wood taking second away from Hagar by the time the caution flew just after the midway point when Brown and Fisher tangled in turn one. Both Missouri shoes retired to the pit area for the night.
After working his way from 14th to fourth in the opening 16 laps, Jack Dover clipped an infield tire exiting turn four two laps later and came to a stop to bring out another caution.
With Bruce holding steady over Wood out front, defending series champion Shane Stewart was climbing towards a lock-in position after using his third provisional of the year to start the feature in 24th.
Just after Stewart had raced past the battling duo of Marshall Skinner and Jeff Swindell to stake a claim on fourth, the red flag waved one last time when Swindell flipped entering turn one after contact with Skinner just five laps shy of the checkered flag.
Bruce was flawless over the final five rounds to secure the win, with Wood holding strong in the runner-up position aboard the Fisher-powered H&H Enterprises No. 94 Maxim. Stewart’s surge resulted in a third-place showing aboard Paul Silva’s Rockstar Energy Drink No. 57 A.R.T., while Marion, AR, shoe Hagar matched his previous best ASCS National finish by crossing the stripe in fourth.
Current Lucas Oil ASCS National points leader Jason Johnson rallied from 16th to round out the top five aboard the JJR Don Ott-powered Haynes No. 41 Maxim, missing out on a lock-in position to Saturday’s Rock ‘N Roll 50 championship main event by just one position.
Utilizing a provisional just as Stewart did, Brady Bacon raced from 23rd to sixth, with Skinner, Darren Stewart, Ernie Ainsworth and 20th-starting Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Matt Covington completing the top ten.