PEORIA, Ariz. — Reigning USAC-CRA Sprint Car Series champion Damion Gardner emerged from a wild three-car battle over the final rounds of Friday night’s 30-lap feature at Canyon Speedway Park to top the opening night of the seventh annual Copper on Dirt.
Gardner took advantage of a late caution then outdueled race-long leader Gary Taylor and reigning USAC Southwest sprint car champion R.J. Johnson over the final rounds to win the season-opening USAC-CRA event.
“It took a while, I had to figure out how to maneuver with the track changing,” Gardner explained in victory lane after the triumph aboard the Alexander Racing No. 4a. “Then they were dicing for it and the door just opened up for us.”
While Gardner ultimately ended up in victory lane, he spent most of the race in chase mode as Taylor gunned into the lead from his front row outside starting position and set the pace aboard the Cook No. 4 ahead of Gardner until sixth-starter Mike Spencer battled into second on the 13th round.
Spencer reeled in Taylor in short order with the duo dicing for the lead until Spencer looped it in turns one and two with just a handful of laps to go.
Johnson took advantage on the restart by racing past Taylor into the lead with Gardner joining in to make it a three-car scramble in the final circuits. Gardner found the opening he needed on the white-flag lap and held on for the win with Johnson edging Taylor for runner-up honors.
Pole-starter Charles Davis Jr., crossed the stripe fourth with Josh Hodges racing from 11th to round out the top five.
Damion Gardner, R.J. Johnson, Gary Taylor, Charles Davis Jr., Josh Hodges, Nic Faas, Mike Martin, Jake Swanson, Colby Copeland, Matt Mitchell, Dave Darland, Cody Williams, Josh Pelkey, Austin Williams, Brody Roa, Mike Spencer, Logan Williams, Michael Curtis, J.J. Ercse, Chris Gansen, Cory Kruseman.