Jonestown, PA (October 17) - Austin Pasquerella drove to victory in the 270cc A-Main for an upset winner. The western Pennsylvania wheel-twister climbed from the 14th starting position to pass Pat Bealer for the lead, then had to fend off a last lap, last corner bid by Bealer to score the closest triumph in National Open history. The margin was a whisker-thin 0.001 seconds; just enough to give Pasquerella the $3,000 win.
Austin Pasquerella, from West Leechburg, PA, entered the 270cc portion of the National Open for the third time. His first two attempts resulted in DNQ’s, but a fourth place finish in Friday’s Race of Champions, along with the sixth fastest time trial lap (out of 78 entries), bolstered his confidence heading into Saturday’s heat races. Starting on the pole of heat six, Pasquerella and front row mate Marshall Labuda were penalized after a pair of false starts and forced to drop back to row two. They each moved up one spot to qualify, but the runner-up finish meant Pasquerella would start 14th, and behind several of the area’s top 270cc chauffeurs, in the main event.
But his car was fast and dialed in, and Pasquerella, whose home tracks are about four hours west of Linda’s Speedway, steadily threaded his way forward from the outside of row seven.
Pat Bealer, the 270cc National Open winner in 2016 and 2018, set the pace in the opening laps after starting from the pole. Lee Reinhardt started second and harassed Bealer until his mount gave up with nine revolutions complete.
Tommy Kunsman—also looking for his first National Open victory in the 270cc class—took over the runner-up slot after Reinhardt’s demise, but his No. 21k could not keep up with Bealer. Right behind Kunsman, two former winners of the race, Logan Diehl and last year’s victor Alex Swift, dueled for the third position.
The red flag was displayed at the halfway mark for a mandatory refueling stop. The top five with 20 laps scored and 20 left to run were: Bealer, Kunsman, Swift, Diehl, and the surprising Austin Pasquerella.
When the race went back to green, the top five ran close in single file formation. On lap 26, Swift bicycled badly in turn three and fell from third to eighth. On an ensuing restart with 27 tours in the books, Pasquerella knifed his way under Kunsman for second as 17th starter Tyler Reinhardt entered the top five after starting 17th.
With five to go, Pasquerella muscled to the inside of Bealer in turns one and two, then forged ahead as they blasted onto the backstretch. With the leaders in lapped traffic on the final trip around the quarter-mile, Bealer attempted to pin Pasquerella behind the slower car of Matt Fernsler. Bealer stormed to the outside of the leader, but Fernsler’s speed allowed Pasquerella to keep his foot on the accelerator. The naked eye could not determine who crossed the line first, but the electronic scoring system revealed that Pasquerella nosed out Bealer by the slimmest of margins—0.001 (one one-thousandth) of a second.
“I was really nervous on that last lap,” smiled the winner in victory lane. “I wasn’t sure which way to go in traffic. I knew Bealer was fast and had really good drive off the corner. I just kept my foot in it and it turned out okay. These 270’s are so much fun!”
Bealer was understandably disappointed and frustrated. “It just sucks,” he said. “To lead so many laps and come up short...I give that kid credit, though. He ran a great race. I could feel my motor laying down near the end; I think it blew up at the finish. But he was fast...”
Diehl passed Kunsman during the final laps to finish third, with Kunsman racing home fourth and Ross Perchak, the five time champion of the National Open, placing fifth.
The 270cc Hard Charger was Nunzi Allegrucci, who took the initial green in 28th and wound up finishing 12th.
National Open Notes:
Friday’s 270cc Hoosier Tire Race of Champions provided some solace for Tommy Kunsman, who led start to finish in the non-stop 25 lapper. Cory Myers hung with Kunsman for several tours, but Kunsman was just too strong on the bottom and eventually pulled away to a convincing 4.5 second victory over Myers. Mike Boyer, Austin Pasquerella, and Nick Skias rounded out the top five.
Outstanding car counts once again graced the National Open as 78 entries competed in the 270cc class and 59 of the 600cc ground pounders signed in for competition.
In the 270cc division, Hazleton’s Ross Perchak was quickest at 12.445, just barely faster than Lee Reinhardt’s quick lap of 12.468.
Heat races for the 270’s took place at the start of Saturday’s program. Pat Bealer, Logan Diehl, Nick Skias, Lee Reinhardt, Tommy Kunsman, Nathan Bacon, Pete Skias, and Alex Swift were victorious.
No one was able to run through the alphabet mains in the 270 class, although Mike Skias gave it a good shot. Skias transferred through the D-main and the C, but started too far back in the talented B-main and was unable to qualify for the A.
Last-chance 270 race winners were Richie Hartman, Mike Skias, Ken Andreas, and Brandon Heist.
The long haul award went to Cory Mallo again. The 270cc driver from Greeley, Colorado made the 25 hour (one way) trek to Linda’s, as he’s done for the past few years, for the National Open. Mallo and his team were happy with he weekend, even though he did not qualify for the A-main. He made it to the B, which is better than he’s ever done at the event, before mechanical gremlins popped up and ended his night.
270cc Micro Sprints, 40 laps: 1.Austin Pasquerella, 2.Pat Bealer, 3.Logan Diehl, 4.Tommy Kunsman, 5.Ross Perchak, 6.Tyler Reinhardt, 7.Brent Shearer, 8.Pete Skias, 9.Alex Swift, 10.Mike Boyer, 11.Jayden Remensnyder, 12.Nunzi Allegrucci, 13.Jeff Haefke, 14.Nathan Bacon, 15.Ethan Spotts, 16.Cody Siegel, 17.Matt Fernsler, 18.Tajae Adams, 19.Todd Reusser, 20.Nick Skias, 21.Brian Heist, 22.Cory Myers, 23.Brandon Heist, 24.Mike Rutherford, 25.Brandon Fredericks, 26.Steve Dunmire, 27.Troy Whitesel, 28.Lee Reinhardt, 29.Jason Swavely, 30.Marshall Labuda. DNS: Toby Blumenshine.
DNQ: John Wagner Jr., Don Schmidt, Ben Stolz, Brian Borawiec Jr., Scott Gingrich, Brayden Spencer, Cory Mallo, CJ Davis, Jeff Weaver, Ken Andreas, Dakota Barlet, Alex Reinsmith, Mike Skias, Brittany Zeller, Nate Gibble, Anthony Yerger, Daniel LaFrance, Chase Layser, Trent Eberhart, Bradley Brown, Dustin Young, Dave Williams, Shea Wills, Dallas Sanders, Isaac Graby, Patrick Kirn, Tyler Ulrich, Dan Boyer, Dominic Pomponi, Adam Harnish, Lonnie McConany, Austin Bower, Cory Stabley, Richie Hartman, Jonah Meck, Ryan Fredericks, Scott Hawkins, Kyler Stahl, Jim Barkes, Gary Keister, Randy West, Rick Francis, Charles Hellinger, Chris Kostiak, Doug Yingling, Michael Pernesiglio, Corbin Leiby.