AJ Bernys made his opening night at Oswego Speedway count on Saturday, out dueling Rob Pullen in lapped traffic on lap 29 to take the race lead and go on to claim his second career Pathfinder Bank SBS victory.
Bernys started from position three on the grid and played the patience game before slipping under Pullen as he struggled to maneuver lap car Zach Amo in turn one.
From there, Bernys would cruise away from the field over the final seven circuits to hit pay dirt.
Pullen, Russ Brown, Jon Tesoriero, and Andrew Schartner would fill the top five feature positions.
The night began with a new twist on Pathfinder Bank SBS time trials as points were awarded for the first time to the eight fastest qualifiers.
Mike Bond would top the speed charts during the single car runs with a lap of 19.158 seconds in his new Four Sevens Motorsports FFB chassis, edging out defending SBS track champion Kreig Heroth by just over a tenth of a second on the watches.
Brown, Jason Simmons, JJ Andrews, Cameron Rowe, Tesoriero, and Schartner would complete the fast eight, all earning valuable championship points in the SBS “Road to the Championship.”
A total of 25 Pathfinder Bank SBS racers would file down to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag on Saturday with Pullen and Dalton Doyle starting from the first row.
The race’s initial green flag would see SBS rookie Scott Shafer in No. 76 spin off into the foam in turn one. Shafer would be hooked off the Speedway forcing a complete restart.
On the second go around, Doyle would surge into the lead behind the wheel of his Menter’s Ambulance Service No. 01, leaving Pullen, Bernys, Tesoriero, and Schartner in his tow early on.
While the top five racers tried to check away from the field Brown, who started 9th in the FX Caprara Car Companies No. 13, began to find the high side driving around the Andrews No. 93 to pick his way into 7th.
Another quick caution would fly on lap 2 for debris in the first turn, slowing the field. However, when the green came back out, the racing field worked into a nice groove with Doyle continuing to lead the way over Pullen, Bernys, Tesoriero, Schartner, Rowe, and Brown.
As the laps ticked away Doyle, Pullen, and Bernys would emerge as the early favorites building a cushion over the remainder of the field.
Nose to tail the three leaders checked out, jockeying for position, and eventually Pullen would find the daylight he needed to claim the race lead.
On the 10th circuit, Pullen blasted to the lead on the low side of Doyle into turn one, opening the door for not only Bernys and Tesoriero to slip passed, but an entire freight train of SBS racers would fly by dropping the No. 01 from the race lead all the way back to 10th by lap 14.
The race’s third caution would wave on lap 15 for a slowing Simmons in the D&S Landscaping No. 98.
Simmons would manage to crawl into the pit area, but his night would be done.
The restart would show Pullen ahead of Bernys, Tesoriero, Brown, Schartner, Rowe, Bond, Andrews, and Mike Bruce.
When the field came back to green the Byrne Dairy No. 24 of Bernys came to life, quickly looking to the low side of Pullen on the restart into turn three.
Pullen, however, was able to fend off the advances, and continue to lead the speeding field around the fast 5/8 mile.
Further back Brown and Bond were battling their way through the pack, as Bond wheeled his way around teammate Rowe to the high side in turn three on lap 17.
The two most decorated drivers in the SBS division started 9th and 11th on the grid with Brown now running fourth and Bond in sixth.
By lap 24, Bernys, Tesoriero, and Brown were in a tight line applying heavy pressure to the Pullen’s Plumbing No. 2 and it became clear that lapped traffic may play a key role in the event.
Just four laps later, Pullen would drive up behind rookie Amo in the No. 44 down the front straight, and in trying to make his way by chose the wrong lane, leaving the inside groove wide open for Bernys to take advantage.
Bernys would go on to lead the 29th circuit ahead of Pullen and now Brown, who was also able to use traffic to make his way passed Tesoriero for 3rd in the line-up.
The No. 24 shined once in the lead, pulling out to a healthy margin over the field.
Three more cautions would slow the pace, all of which came on the 32nd lap. The first would be for Tim Gareau in the TNT Motorsports No. 17 as he tagged the foam in turn one.
The next caution flew for the No. 77 of Rowe as he spun down the back stretch while running 7th, and the final for early leader Doyle who cracked the foam in the first turn running ninth.
The event’s final restart showed Bernys out front leading Pullen, Brown, Tesoriero, Schartner, Bond, Andrews, Heroth, Jack Patrick, and Jeremy Pitcher.
As the green waved with only three laps remaining, Bernys proved to be unmatched leading the restart order to the finish, driving the No. 24 into Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane for the second time in his young career.
Patrick, driving the Longley Dodge No. 9, would be the D&S Landscaping Hard Charger for the evening driving from the back of the field to 9th in the final order.
Patrick was leading his heat race when contact between he and Bond on the final lap of the third qualifying heat sent both cars spinning. Each would rebound for top ten finishes in the main event.
The Nice Price Auto Sales ‘Up & Comer’ and the recipient of the White’s Car Care 4th place Award was Tesoriero in No. 47.
The stellar run for Tesoriero, the defending Butler Disposal SBS Rookie of the Year, was his first career top five finish in the division.
Pullen would go on to claim the Sherwood Racing Wheels Lap Leader Award as he paced the field for a total of 19 circuits in the No. 2.
The Pathfinder Bank SBS Series will next be in action on Saturday, May 11 as a part of the Mitchell’s Speedway Press/CJ Ferlito Aggregates Novelis Supermodified “Kick-Off” at Oswego Speedway.
Pit gates will open at 1 p.m. with hot laps and grandstand gates opening at 3 p.m.
Novelis Supermodified time trials will take the green at approximately 5 p.m. with racing action hitting the Speedwway at 6:30 p.m.