Jason Johnson almost needed a broom Friday night as he nearly made a clean sweep at 81 Speedway winning almost everything in sight, including the A feature in round two of the Thunder Through the Plains IX, co-sanctioned by the O'Reilly Auto Parts...
Jason Johnson almost needed a broom Friday night as he nearly made a clean sweep at 81 Speedway winning almost everything in sight, including the A feature in round two of the Thunder Through the Plains IX, co-sanctioned by the O'Reilly Auto Parts National Championship Racing Association and the Haulmark All Star Circuit of Champions.
Johnson drew the 15th qualifying spot and turned a pair of sub-14 second laps. His second pass, a 13.708, was the top qualifying time of the night. He finished second in his heat (his only "blemish" on the evening) and he won the Haulmark Dash.
For most of the night Johnson looked like the fastest car on the track. But it wasn't easy to show that in the big money feature -- $5,000 to win -- as he started sixth on the grid, where the six fastest qualifiers who transfer from the heats to the 30-lap A main are inverted.
The inversion put Jeremy Campbell on the pole with Brooke Tatnell, current NCRA point leader and defending season champion, on the outside of the first row. Campbell kept the lead at turn 1 as Tatnell tucked in behind him. Chad Kemenah, current All Star point leader, and Shane Stewart followed.
By the end of the second lap, Tatnell had gotten by Campbell for the lead with Stewart third and Kemenah fourth. Campbell took the lead again on lap four, as Stewart also moved around Tatnell into second. Johnson was on the move, too, as he slipped by Kemenah for the fourth spot.
At turn 1 of the fifth lap, Stewart slid low around Campbell for the lead, only to see his pass waved off because of a spin by C.J. Johnson, the first of nine cautions in the race. But Stewart was still shooting for the top spot and he took it from Campbell on the backstretch following the restart of lap five.
The second caution came out on lap eight and on the restart, Campbell returned the favor as he slide low into turn 1 to snatch the lead from Stewart. Again, Shane showed the power of his machine as he roared past Campbell into the lead on the backstretch and moved out to a big lead, thanks to a few laps of green-flag racing.
Campbell was again on the move but in the wrong direction. After losing second place to Tatnell, Campbell began to slow until he finally came to a halt on lap 13 with a flat tire. On the restart, Stewart kicked it up a notch and quickly pulled away to another big lead on the next lap. That lead evaporated with another yellow before they could complete lap 14.
Luke Cranston spun in the middle of turn 3 and Dennis Park swerved right to avoid him. He missed Cranston but not the wall. That quickly changed the yellow to a red as action ceased while rescue crews got Park out of his racecar. Park got his bell rung pretty good but was OK, but his car wasn't. Cranston went into the pits but was able to continue.
When the red came out, officials stopped the drivers in the area of turn 2, near the pits. Crews came over the outside retaining wall to check on their drivers and cars, with race officials closely scrutinizing their actions. During the red, six drivers changed tires and were required to restart at the back of the pack. Among this group was Jeff Shepard, who was seventh at the time. For Shepard, winner of Thursday's Thunder Through the Plains in Nebraska, it was a calculated risk that later paid off.
The lap 14 restart just meant it was time for Stewart to flex his muscles and pull away from everyone else again, like he had been doing since taking the lead 10 laps earlier. By lap 16, Stewart's lead had grown to a straightaway, with Tatnell, Kemenah, Johnson, and Travis Rilat rounding out the top five.
It took awhile to complete lap 20. As the leaders came by start/finish, Dean Jacobs was moving very slowly down the front straight on his way to the pits, Aaron Berryhill went off at turn 2 and Regan Kitchen slid off at turn 4 - almost all at once. While clearing the track under the yellow, Jan's brother Dale ran out of gas at turn 2. When they restarted, Kemenah slid low past Tatnell into second, but for naught as Darin Clayton spun at turn 4 to bring out the sixth caution.
They tried it again for lap 20 and this time they were flying - and so was Johnson. Running fourth, he took the high road around both Kemenah and Tatnell going through turns 3 and 4 on the next lap to take over second place. However, Stewart was still the one to beat as he kept a big lead over Johnson.
But the old yellow flag equalizer again reared its ugly head on lap 24 as Berryhill tapped the outside wall coming out of turn 4. The first restart attempt showed Stewart in front, followed by Johnson, Kemenah, Tatnell, Rilat, Jan Howard and Kenny Jacobs. When the green came out again, Howard slowed to a stop in turn 2, necessitating another caution.
On the restart Johnson was still flying on the cushion. He went high around Stewart for the lead coming out of the fourth turn to complete the 24th lap. Stewart, not used to running behind someone other than back markers in this race, again showed his straightaway power and moved by Johnson on the back straight of the next lap.
Johnson moved up alongside Stewart on lap 26 as they went side-by-side down the back. Johnson powered off of turn 4 to again take the top spot after 27 laps. He held on for the next lap until - you guessed it, another yellow - came out after 28 laps, this time for Greg Wilson's spin.
Now it was just a two-lap sprint between Jason Johnson and Shane Stewart, arguably the two fastest drivers on the track all night. Least we forget the folks crowding them on the restart had made some noise of their own during the evening.
Kemenah was third and had run in the top five for 28 laps. Travis Rilat started 13th, moved into the top five by lap 14 and now held the fourth spot. Remember Jeff Shepard, who changed a tire on the lap 14 red flag and was duly relegated to the back of the pack? He changed the tire because the tread was gone and knew they wouldn't last. Since then, he had charged back up to fifth in the next 14 laps. And don't forget Tatnell (sixth) and Kenny Jacobs (seventh), who had been running with the leaders all night. Any of those seven could mount a run and sweep by to the checker in the two laps that remained.
As befitting the performances of Johnson and Stewart, they were the ones who decided it, without anyone else being a factor. Johnson led the field to the green to start lap 29, with Stewart tucked in right behind. Stewart went for the slide job at turn 1 to take the lead. As they moved onto the backstretch, his machine twitched ever so slightly. It was enough for Johnson who, with a full head of steam off the turn, roared by Stewart for the lead. Shane wasn't done as he went low again, this time going into turn 3, but couldn't complete the pass.
Johnson protected and expanded his lead on the final lap and took the checker. Stewart finished second on the track, with Shepard, Kemenah and Rilat rounding out the top five. Tatnell was sixth and Kenny Jacobs seventh.
Unfortunately, neither Stewart nor Rilat made weight after the race and they were both disqualified. The final results show the top five as Jason Johnson, Jeff Shepard, Chad Kemenah, Brooke Tatnell and Kenny Jacobs.
Brooke Tatnell, defending series champion and current point leader, held a 60-point advantage over Dean Jacobs coming into this event. Unofficially, Tatnell added another 70 points to his margin, putting him in good position to repeat as NCRA champion. The final race of the season, and the finale of the Thunder Through the Plains IX, is Saturday in Tulsa, Okla.
The first heat race saw Cranston jump the start from the pole. He was moved back one row by All Star competition director and sprint car legend, Jack Hewitt. This moved Rilat to the pole, from where he took the lead at the green and led all the way.
On the first lap of the second heat, Kemenah moved from his sixth starting spot into second behind Ryan Coniam. Kemenah went low around Coniam in turn 1 on the next lap for the lead. Kemenah withstood a couple of yellow flags for the win.
The third heat saw Berryhill take the lead from the pole and stay there.
In the final heat, Greg Wilson took the early lead but slowed on the last lap. C.J. Johnson took over and took the victory.
The top five drivers in each heat automatically moved to the A feature with the others having to earn a spot by finishing in the top four of the B feature.
Dennis Park started on the pole in the B and stayed there for the first six laps. Darin Clayton moved into second on lap two, reeled in Park with a back stretch pass on the seventh lap and held on for the win.
1. Jason Johnson, Eunice, La., 13.708; 2. Chad Kemenah, Findley, Ohio, 13.761; 3. Shane Stewart, Bixby, Okla., 13.805; 4. Jonathan Allard, Chico, Calif., 13.880; 5. Brooke Tatnell, Sans Soucie, New South Wales, Australia, 13.962; 6. Jeremy Campbell, Monroe, Mich., 13.972; 7. Kenny Jacobs, Holmesville, Ohio, 13.987; 8. Greg Wilson, Benton Ridge, Ohio, 14.062; 9. Jeff Shepard, Upperco, Md., 14.064; 10. Dennis Park, Liberal, Kan., 14.079; 11. Aaron Berryhill, Broken Arrow, Okla., 14.108; 12. C.J. Johnson, Quinter, Kan., 14.143; 13. Travis Rilat, Texas City, Texas, 14.254; 15. Ryan Coniam, Burlington, Ontario, 14.273; 16. Bill Rose, Plainfield, Ind., 14.347; 17. Jan Howard, Byhalia, Miss., 14.411; 18. Dale Howard, Byhalia, Miss., 14.425; 19. Darin Clayton, Sikeston, Mo., 14.610; 20. Travis Scott, Goldsby, Okla., 14.823; 21. Rick England. Wichita, Kan.; 14.860; 22. Luke Cranston, Ness City, Kan., 14.887; 23. Regan Kitchen, Lincoln, Neb., 14.974; 24. Steve King, Jetmore, Kan., 15.033; 25. Mike Woodruff, Liberal, Kan., 15.068; 26. Bruce Robenalt, Tiffin, Ohio, 15.486; 27. Dan Oswalt, Iola, Kan., 15.580; 28. Joe Bustillos, Broken Arrow, Okla., 15.758. DNQ - Dean Jacobs, Tony Bruce Jr., Barry Ruble.
Heat 1 (8 laps): 1. Rilat, 2. J. Johnson, 3. Shepard, 4. Tatnell, 5. D. Howard, 6. Rosenalt, 7. Cranston, 8. Bruce.
Heat 2 (8 laps): 1. Kemenah, 2. Campbell, 3. Coniam, 4. Kitchen, 5. Oswalt, 6. Clayton, 7. Park, 8. Ruble.
Heat 3 (8 laps): 1. Berryhill, 2. Stewart, 3. Rose, 4. Bustillos, 5. K. Jacobs, 6. King, 7. Scott.
Heat 4 (8 laps): 1. C.J. Johnson, 2. Allard, 3. D. Jacobs, 4. Wilson, 5. J. Howard, 6. Woodruff, 7. England.
Dash (4 laps): 1. J. Johnson, 2. Kemenah, 3. Stewart, 4. Wilson, 5. Shepard, 6. K. Jacobs.
B feature (10 laps): 1. Clayton, 2. Park, 3. Cranston, 4. Robenalt, 5. Bruce, 6. King, 7. Scott, 8. England, 9. Woodruff.
A feature (30 laps): 1. J. Johnson, 2. Shepard, 3. Kemenah, 4. Tatnell, 5. K. Jacobs, 6. Coniam, 7. Rose, 8. Campbell, 9. Allard, 10. Clayton, 11. Berryhill, 12. Wilson, 13. C.J. Johnson, 14. Bustillos, 15. Cranston, 16. Robenalt, 17. J. Howard, 18. D. Howard, 19. D. Jacobs, 20. Kitchen, 21. Park, 22. Oswalt. DQ - Stewart, Rilat.
-results courtesy of NCRA-