LOUDON, N.H. – Eddie MacDonald got a second chance and wasn't about to let it slip away.
MacDonald emerged from a five-lap, side-by-side battle to the finish with Nick Sweet – erasing the memory of a lost opportunity here in August – to win the 3rd annual ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. MacDonald's victory was his fifth career victory at the track, including three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East wins.
MacDonald won the first-ever ACT Late Model Tour event held at New Hampshire back in 2009.
Shawn Martin finished third in his best career New Hampshire finish, while Quinny Welch and Brian Hoar – who won at the track in August – rounded out the Top-5.
"I can't praise Nick Sweet enough," MacDonald said. "He ran me hard. I had to run as hard as I could just to try to keep up with him – and I just got lucky at the end. I got a real good run off the corner on that last turn.
"I'm just so excited to get... into Victory Lane."
MacDonald started 25th in the 43-car field, and he had run all the way to sixth by the time the first caution flag of the event flew on Lap 27 of the 50-lap event. On the following restart, he made quick work of the cars in front of him and had taken the lead by Lap 32.
Quietly behind him, though, Sweet was making a very similar charge. With 10 laps to go, Sweet had reeled MacDonald in and was threatening to pull away and hide.
A late caution flag with just five laps remaining set the stage for one of the most dramatic finishes The Magic Mile has seen in recent years in any division.
It also set the stage for MacDonald's redemption.
In the ACT All-Star Challenge at NHMS back in August, MacDonald was set for a late restart alongside Brian Hoar. That dramatic restart never materialized, however, when problems under the hood shut MacDonald's car down before he ever made it to the green flag.
There were no such Gremlins on Saturday.
MacDonald used the outside groove to inch into the lead on Lap 47. On a couple of occasions, MacDonald veered his car away from the outside wall to pinch Sweet to the bottom of the track. Undeterred, Sweet got under MacDonald to briefly take the lead on Lap 49.
"To be honest with you, I didn't even know Nick was in that car," MacDonald said of Sweet, who was making a rare start in the Mad Dog Motorsports No. 40 and not his usual family-owned No. 88. "I felt really bad pinching him off. I was trying to take his line away getting into Turns 1 and 3. I kind of felt really bad about doing that, but I really wanted to win that race."
"You've got to make the race track as narrow as you can make it there," Sweet said, defending MacDonald's actions. "I think it was good racing – that's what you have to do to win these races. I definitely got educated by him today."
On the final lap, MacDonald drove deep into Turn 3, kept his momentum rolling around the big, one-mile speedway and took the win.
"Whenever you have that lead, you don't want to give it up," MacDonald said. "I was going to do whatever I could to win that race – I wasn't going to wreck him or anything, but I was going to make sure I did whatever it took to win."