Johnson wins at Utica-Rome Speedway

VERNON, NY - Rochester's Danny Johnson scored his fifth Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series Modified victory of the 2000 season at Vernon's New Utica-Rome Speedway in a 100-lap event sponsored by Nice N' Easy Grocery Shoppes. Auburn's Jim Spano...

VERNON, NY - Rochester's Danny Johnson scored his fifth Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series Modified victory of the 2000 season at Vernon's New Utica-Rome Speedway in a 100-lap event sponsored by Nice N' Easy Grocery Shoppes. Auburn's Jim Spano won the companion DIRT Sportsman feature.

Modified time trials started the evening off in fine fashion, and the top six drivers were locked into the Exiss Trailers Dash for Cash and the 100-lap Super DIRT Series event. Waterloo's Steve Paine set fast time with 19.898, which on Utica-Rome's half-mile is 90.461mph. As the fastest time trialer, Paine received the JE Pistons Quick Qualifier Award. The rest of the top six was Bob McCreadie, Chuck Bower, Gary Tomkins, Tim Clemons, and Jack Johnson.

All other drivers had to qualify through the heat races, which were won by Mitch Gibbs, Alan Johnson, Vic Coffey, and Frank Cozze. The Modified consis were won by 358 Modified driver J.J. Michaels and Bobby Varin.

Steve Paine won the Exiss Trailer Dash for Cash ($250 to win), over Chuck Bower, Gary Tomkins, Jack Johnson, Tim Clemons, and Bob McCreadie.

After the heats and the dash, the dash drivers and the top two drivers from each heat race redrew for starting position.

Steve Paine and Ronnie Johnson, who drew the front row, led the 31-car starting field down to the flags of Starter Chip Burdick, and immediately, Johnson grabbed the early lead. Just as Ronnie's legendary father, Jack, moved into the top 5, Danny Johnson went three wide with Hearn and Alan Johnson. Paine took the lead on lap 3 when he made an outside move on Ronnie Johnson. On the third lap, Frank Cozze slowed and brought out a yellow, just as Hearn took over second. On the restart, Jack Johnson put his foot to the firewall, and made a three wide move to take over the third spot. Jack was flying, as he caught Danny and went to his outside, until lap 8, when he pushed over the cushion in turn two. Jack fell back to fourth, just as Paine opened a sizable lead. Meanwhile, other top contenders Bob McCreadie and Alan Johnson settled into six and seventh, respectively. On lap 16, the second yellow of the event flew for A.J. Romano, who slowed on the backstretch. On the restart, Hearn hit the hammer and took over second from Danny, who was then challenged by Jack Johnson, until Jack bobbled and fell to fifth. The next yellow came out on lap 20, when Butch Tittle slowed on the backstretch.

On the lap 20 restart, Bob McCreadie, who benefited from Jack Johnson's bobble, went right to work and took over third from Danny. McCreadie was flying as he closed in on Hearn for second. The duo went side by side, with Hearn on the inside and McCreadie on the outside, but Hearn kept the spot.

The next battle on the track focused on Jack Johnson and Danny Johnson. This entertaining duo (no relation) exchanged position several times over the next ten laps, with Johnson eventually getting the third spot. As the leaders moved into lapped traffic, McCreadie caught Hearn and Danny Johnson caught McCreadie. Danny showed McCreadie a wheel several times, but all action was slowed on lap 42, when Gary Tomkins broke in turn one, causing another yellow. On the lap 45 restart, Jack Johnson, Alan Johnson, and Bob McCreadie went three wide for position, just as Danny Johnson and Brett Hearn went side by side for third. Danny was low, and Hearn was high, and Danny found enough bite on the inside to take over second.

At the halfway point, the top five was Paine, followed by Danny Johnson, Hearn, Bob McCreadie, and Jack Johnson.

On lap 51, Bobby Varin suffered a flat right front tire, causing a quick yellow flag session. On the lap 53 restart, Danny Johnson was right on Steve Paine's tail, just as Bob McCreadie and Jack Johnson began an entertaining side by side fight for position. The battle for fourth raged on, but on lap 59, Jack Johnson passed McCreadie with an amazing slingshot move off turn four. Danny again caught Paine, who had opened up a lead on the last restart. Paine's tires seemed to be going away, as Paine developed a push that seemed to effect him the most coming out of turn two. The next yellow came out on lap 69, when Kenny Tremont had a flat right rear tire. On the restart, Hearn peaked under Johnson, but Danny was able to keep the second position. Jack Johnson made a great move on Hearn and took over third, setting his sights on the top two.

On lap 75, Danny Johnson was right on Paine's tail. Johnson was able to get alongside Paine, and a crowd-pleasing dogfight for the lead occurred. For the next few laps, Paine, who was up high, was able to hold off Johnson who was running the extreme low groove. On lap 77, the hottest duo in DIRT Motorsports rubbed side rails on the frontstretch as they headed towards turn one. Johnson took over the lead as they headed towards turn three, but Paine pulled a slingshot off turn four to lead lap 78. However, Johnson had the momentum, and he took over the lead out of turn four on the next lap. As the final 15 laps ticked away, Bob McCreadie and Alan Johnson battled it out for the fifth spot, exchanging the spot several times, until Alan took over for good by lap 90. Danny Johnson, who started seventh, opened a sizable lead over the last 10 laps, and he cruised on to victory was and his fifth Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series win of the season. Following Johnson across the finish line, it was Paine in second, Jack Johnson in third, Hearn in fourth, and Alan Johnson in fifth. Bob McCreadie, Mitch Gibbs, Pat Ward, Vic Coffey, and Frank Cozze rounded out the top ten.

Following the race, Danny Johnson commented, "We all had soft tires on, so we were even there," Johnson said. "My car was just a little bit tight in the beginning, and I almost hit the wall several times near the beginning, but a tight car is what it took to get by Steve late in the race. Both grooves were really good tonight," he said of Utica-Rome's fast clay surface. "It was just a great race track, top and bottom."

The victory for Danny was his 28th DIRT Motorsports sanctioned victory of the season, and his second on the season at Utica-Rome, where he won the 358 Super DIRT Series event on May 14.

"I think Danny was a little better all night," said Steve Paine, who has never won at Utica-Rome, but finished second four times. "I just tried to drive it straight and save the tires."

Utica-Rome race fans cheered loudly for Jack Johnson as he was being interviewed. Jack, a former part owner of the speedway when it was called the New Venture Int'l Speedway, is the all time Big Block Modified winner at Utica-Rome, with nineteen victories. Johnson said, "Any time you can come here and run with the two hottest drivers on the DIRT circuit, you've done something. This was just a heck of a race."

The Syracuse Eckerd 200 qualifying spot went to third place finisher Jack Johnson, from Duanesburg, and the BERT Hard Charger award went to Olyphant, PA's Jeff Rudalavage who started thirty-first and finished twentieth.

The highest finishing 358 Modified was driven by J.J. Michaels of Baldwinsville, current runner-up in track 358 Modifed point standings. Michaels finished twenty-fourth and completed 32 of 100 laps. The highest finishing Utica-Rome regular was North Norwich's Mitch Gibbs, who started fourteenth and finished seventh.

Daryl Hagen jumped out to the early lead in the 20-lap DIRT Sportsman feature event. On the move deep in the pack was Sportsman superstar, Matt Sheppard, who passed four cars on lap 3 in one corner as Craig Pritchard moved into third. Dan Yankowski was flying, and he joined the top five on the same lap. Pritchard took over the lead from Hagen on lap 7, just as Matt Sheppard made contact with the third turn wall, forcing a yellow. Sheppard, who leaped into the top ten, was done for the night. On the restart, Pritchard kept his lead, while Jim Spano and Yankowski raced for position. On lap 9, Yankowski went for the lead, and one lap later, he was in command of the race. Pritchard fell to second, but Spano wanted the spot, and he got it three laps later after a torrid side by side battle. Just as lap 14 was scored, Pritchard pulled into the pit area, with the red light on in his cockpit and smoke billowing, signalling engine troubles. Yankowski had a huge lead, but the lineup was tightened considerably after a yellow on lap 17, when Brian Murphy spun in turn 4. On the restart, Spano, who started twelfth, took command, and lead the rest of the way for his first career Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Sportsman feature win. After Spano, the rest of the top five was Yankowski, John Plumb, Ron Richardson, and Kevin Crave.

Sportsman heat races were won by Steve Davis, Willy Decker, Jamie Christian, and John Plumb, while Paul Carey and Kevin Crave won the Sportsman consis.

Coming up this Sunday August 27, Utica-Rome will play host to the UFPO "Dig Safely" Sportsman Super DIRT Series for a 30-lap special Syracuse Qualifier, which will not be a track points race. However, all drivers showing up will receive 20 bonus points, which will be added to their season track points total. Also in action with a regular program are the DIRT 358 Modifieds, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Slingshots. The gates will open at 4pm and racing will begin at 6pm.

Notes - 37 Modifieds and 35 Sportsman filled the Utica-Rome pit area on a beautiful night for racing, and a capacity crowd was on hand for the evening's events. Race fans from all over the globe were able to listen to the Super DIRT Series event LIVE on the internet. The Super DIRT Series event was the first Big Block Modified series race at Utica-Rome in 13 years. Back then, the track was 5/8-mile and called the New Venture Int'l Speedway. The Super DIRT Series event was the fifteenth out of twenty-four series races. Former track champions Dave Lape and Kenny Tremont back in action. They finished 21st and 18th, respectively. In addition, the legendary cigar chomping Rene Charland was also on hand. Charland is a 3-time track champion on the old Utica-Rome 1/3-mile asphalt layout, his first championship coming in 1961 when the track opened.




DIRT Modified Heat #1 (8 laps) - Gibbs, R. Johnson, Bachetti, T. McCreadie, Phelps, Lape, Ryan, Schoonover.

DIRT Modified Heat #2 (8 laps) - A. Johnson, D. Johnson, Ward, Decker, Michaels, Holmes, Rudalavage, Slawiak.

DIRT Modified Heat #3 (8 laps) - Coffey, Prentice, Fuller, Sears, Varin, Romano, Tucker, Marsh.

DIRT Modified Heat #4 (8 laps) - Cozze, Hearn, Tremont, Hoffman, Tittle, Brownell, Balough.

Exiss Trailers Dash for Cash (6 laps) - Paine, Bower, Tomkins, J. Johnson, Clemons, B. McCreadie.

DIRT Modified Consi #1 (8 laps) - Michaels, Phelps, Holmes, Lape, Rudalavage, Slawiak, Schoonover, Ryan.

DIRT Modified Consi #2 (8 laps) - Varin, Tittle, Romano, Brownell, Balough.

Advance Auto Parts Big Block Modified Super DIRT Series (100 Laps) - 1)DANNY JOHNSON, 2)Steve Paine, 3)Jack Johnson, 4)Brett Hearn, 5)Alan Johnson, 6)Bob McCreadie, 7)Mitch Gibbs, 8)Pat Ward, 9)Vic Coffey, 10)Frank Cozze, 11)Billy Decker, 12)Tim Fuller, 13)Tim McCreadie, 14)Ronnie Johnson, 15)Tim Clemons, 16)Doug Hoffman, 17)Bobby Varin, 18)Kenny Tremont Jr., 19)Chuck Bower, 20)Jeff Rudalavage, 21)Dave Lape, 22)Gary Tomkins, 23)Butch Tittle, 24)J.J. Michaels, 25)Tom Sears Jr., 26)Andy Bachetti, 27)Ron Holmes, 28)Jimmy Phelps, 29)Scott Prentice, 30)A.J. Romano, 31)Jeff Brownell. DNS - Gary Balough.

Lap Leaders - R. Johnson (1-2), Paine (3-78), D. Johnson (79-100).

Did Not Qualify - Todd Ryan, Joe Slawiak, Mark Schoonover, John Marsh, Ben Tucker.

Unofficial Super DIRT Series Point Standings (After 15 of 24 events - Top 3 Only) - 1. Danny Johnson 1296, 2. Steve Paine 1260, 3. Alan Johnson 1257.

For a complete race summary, check New Utica-Rome's website at

DIRT Sportsman (20 Laps) - 1)JIM SPANO, 2)Dan Yankowski, 3)John Plumb, 4)Ron Richardson, 5)Kevin Crave, 6)Jamie Christian, 7)Paul Carey, 8)John Christian, 9)Willy Decker, 10)Jim Roberts, 11)Pete Lyon, 12)Butch Reiter, 13)Steve Way, 14)Joe Beyea, 15)Steve Davis, 16)Dave Bargabos, 17)Brian Murphy, 18)Jessica Zemken, 19)Paul Kinney, 20)Chris Schultz, 21)Daryl Hagen, 22)Craig Pritchard, 23)Geoff VanRiper, 24)Matt Sheppard, 25)John Kinsella, 26)Greg Doust.

Lap Leaders - Hagen (1-6), Pritchard (7-10), Yankowski (11-17), Spano (18-20).

Did Not Qualify - Jim Lavalla, Jim Burton, Shane Donath, Don Hart Jr., Tim Mayne, Ray Zemken, Donnie Wetmore Jr., Bill Shantel Jr., Dave Surace.

Current Official DIRT Sportsman Point Standings (Top 5 Only - as of 8/24/00) - 1)Kevin Crave 428, 2)Willy Decker 399, 3)Paul Carey 372, 4)Jamie Christian 370, 5)John Christian 342.

by Doug Zupan

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jim Roberts , Brett Hearn , Brian Murphy , Jeff Brown , Tim McCreadie , Bobby Varin