Johnson Scores Home State Triumph in O'Reilly ASCS Fast Trax Thriller CHATHAM, Lou. (September 25, 2004) -- Jason Johnson enjoyed a Louisiana homecoming in Saturday night's 30-lap feature at Fast Trax Speedway, taking advantage of lapped traffic...
Johnson Scores Home State Triumph in O'Reilly ASCS Fast Trax Thriller
CHATHAM, Lou. (September 25, 2004) -- Jason Johnson enjoyed a Louisiana homecoming in Saturday night's 30-lap feature at Fast Trax Speedway, taking advantage of lapped traffic to overtake race-long pacesetter Gary Wright on the 22nd round en route to notching his ninth career O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and Classic Trailers feature triumph.
Johnson, a native of Eunice, LA, ducked underneath an errant lapped car in the final corner to beat Wright to the line by little more than a car-length, while Zach Chappell flipped across the stripe after contact with the lapped car to claim third by a narrow margin over Darren Stewart.
"I wasn't sure if I could catch Gary (Wright), but the door opened in traffic and we took advantage," Johnson commented after the victory. "We dropped a cylinder with about ten laps to go I think, the car was really struggling after that but we were able to hang on. I saw that car getting loose there in the last corner, but we were able to get by easy enough."
Johnson gridded Lanny Row's Wesmar-powered The Shop No. 41 Eagle third after taking the show position in Friday's qualifier, with Friday's winner Wright and runner-up Stewart making up the front row.
Wright gunned into the early lead, setting the pace in front of Stewart and Johnson. After a lap two caution for a Brad Stokes spin, the leaders began navigating through lapped traffic after just five laps. Johnson battled past Stewart for second on the seventh lap and set his sights on Wright, who was vying for a sweep of the weekend's Fast Trax double.
After weathering several more cautions, the final of which flew after 14 rounds for a turn two spin by Chris Sweeney who was piloting the Pearson No. 11p after losing the powerplant in his own entry the night before, it was non-stop action atop the fast quarter-mile oval over the final 16 rounds.
Wright set the pace with Johnson, Stewart and Chappell in hot pursuit. Lapped traffic came into play in short order, and on the 22nd round Johnson found the opening he was looking for as he took to the cushion to take command when Wright briefly hesitated in traffic.
Chappell followed Johnson's lead, racing past Wright for second the next time around. Wright wasted little time returning the favor however, recapturing second from Chappell on the 24th lap.
Wright stayed within three car-lengths of Johnson over the final five rounds anticipating an opportunity to capture his 91st career O'Reilly ASCS National Tour triumph, with Chappell and Stewart on the heels of the lead duo.
Johnson was up to all challenges however, working traffic masterfully to keep "The Texan" at bay. As the leaders approached the checkered flag, the lapped machine of Rod Craddock jumped the turn four cushion and got out of shape exiting the turn.
Johnson and Wright successfully ducked underneath Craddock's out-of-control machine, with Johnson crossing the stripe less than two car-lengths ahead of Wright. Third-runner Chappell wasn't as fortunate, with both Chappell and Craddock flipping across the finish line after contact. Chappell flipped just far enough to secure the show position in front of Stewart.
While the lead quartet raced under a blanket much of the way, defending series champion Travis Rilat recovered from a cut left rear tire in heat race action to turn in an electrifying drive by charging from the 24th starting position to round out the top five.
Toby Brown ran among the lead pack all the way before crossing the stripe in sixth, with Terry Gray beating Cody Branchcomb to the line for seventh. Ray Allen Kulhanek topped the Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region contenders by edging ASCS Brodix National Tour Rookie of the Year candidate A.G. Rains at the line for ninth.
Branchcomb and Natalie Sather topped the evening's opening two heat races, with Todd Johnson winning the third heat after early leader Sweeney suffered rear end woes.
Two-time and defending Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region champion Kelly Angelette suffered a blown engine in hot laps and scratched for the night.
Wright escaped with a healthy O'Reilly ASCS National Tour point lead of 156 markers over Rilat with only the October 22-23 Devil's Bowl Winter Nationals remaining, while Jerry Bell is just 14 points ahead of Sweeney in the ASCS Gulf South Region championship points race. Greg Rilat is just 22 points out of the Gulf South lead with three events remaining.
Top Four Locked-in from Friday Night's Feature: Gary Wright, Darren Stewart, Jason Johnson, Zach Chappell.
First Heat (8 Laps): 1. Cody Branchcomb, 2. Greg Rilat, 3. Rod Craddock, 4. Jerry Bell, 5. Scottie McDonald, 6. Brandon Corn, 7. Tony Krites, 8. Terry Monroe.
Second Heat (8 Laps): 1. Natalie Sather, 2. Toby Brown, 3. A.G. Rains, 4. Brad Stokes, 5. Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 6. Richard Holt. DNS: Kelly Angelette.
Third Heat (8 Laps): 1. Todd Johnson, 2. Terry Gray, 3. Ray Allen Kulhanek, 4. Jimmy Taylor, 5. Stephen Chevallier, 6. Chris Sweeney, 7. Travis Rilat.
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. Jason Johnson, 2. Gary Wright, 3. Zach Chappell, 4. Darren Stewart, 5. Travis Rilat, 6. Toby Brown, 7. Terry Gray, 8. Cody Branchcomb, 9. Ray Allen Kulhanek, 10. A.G. Rains, 11. Greg Rilat, 12. Jerry Bell, 13. Natalie Sather, 14. Chris Sweeney, 15. Jimmy Taylor, 16. Scottie McDonald, 17. Brandon Corn, 18. Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 19. Tony Krites, 20. Rod Craddock, 21. Brad Stokes, 22. Terry Monroe, 23. Todd Johnson, 24. Stephen Chevallier, 25. Richard Holt. DNS: Kelly Angelette.
O'Reilly ASCS National Tour Points (Top Fifteen): 1. Gary Wright 4,612, 2. Travis Rilat 4,456, 3. Zach Chappell 4,384, 4. Toby Brown 3,887, 5. Darren Stewart 3,685, 6. A.G. Rains 3,588, 7. Garry Lee Maier 3,275, 8. Jimmy Taylor 3,202, 9. Cody Branchcomb 3,155, 10. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 3,001, 11. Natalie Sather 2,821, 12. Tony Bruce, Jr. 1,953, 13. Marshall Skinner 1,900, 14. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1,735, 15. Tim Crawley 1,717.
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region Points (Top Ten): 1. Jerry Bell 1,938, 2. Chris Sweeney 1,924, 3. Greg Rilat 1,916, 4. Todd Johnson 1,863, 5. Stephen Chevallier 1,805, 6. Ray Allen Kulhanek 1,804, 7. Brad Stokes 1,788, 8. Scottie McDonald 1,749, 9. Richard Holt 1,539, 10. Rod Craddock 1,437.