Jumpin' Jack Johnson scores first Utica-Rome win in 13 years



by Doug Zupan

VERNON, NY - The legendary Jumpin' Jack Johnson, from Duanesburg, scored his first feature victory at the New Utica-Rome Speedway since 1987 in a dramatic photo finish win over Brett Hearn in the season ending Sunoco Race Fuels/A-Plus 100-lap 358 Modified Super DIRT Series event on Friday September 22. Johnson, 56, became the oldest driver to win a Modified feature at Utica-Rome, and along with his son Ronnie, 25, became the first father-son combo to record feature wins in the same season at the speedway.

Other winners, on the evening sponsored by Triple B Welding were home track regular Bret Belden in the Automotive Recyclers Association of New York (ARANY) Pro Stock Super DIRT Series 25-lap event and Jeff Pastorella in the Pure Stocks.

By virtue of the redraw after the heat races, track regulars Todd Burley and Ron Holmes led the charge out of turn four to Starter Chip Burdick's green flag. Just as the cars hit turn one, Pat Ward, driving the backup Roger Phelps machine, spun and collected Roger Phelps, Bobby Varin, Billy Wilcox, and Vic Coffey. All cars, with the exception of Ward, were able to continue, and no laps were completed. The race was restarted, and Ron Holmes took the lead. One lap later, Brett Hearn took command as Holmes fell to second and Pete Bicknell started working on Holmes. Bicknell took over second, and Holmes fell to fourth as a flying Jack Johnson took over third.

Already, by lap 3, Danny Johnson was in the top ten, coming from a consi qualifying position. He continued his steady march to the front, and by lap 9, he took over fifth from Dale Planck. Jack Johnson and Holmes were having their own battle, and Holmes moved back into third as Danny Johnson caught Jack Johnson. On a lap 13 restart after a spin by Ryan Baye, Danny Johnson got past Holmes for fourth, while Jack Johnson caught Bicknell. Johnson pressured Bicknell, but Jack washed up in turn two, giving Danny third. Danny wasted no time and went right to work on Bicknell, taking over second on lap 22.

On lap 27, Danny Johnson caught Hearn in lapped traffic and went underneath him to take the lead. Within a lap, Johnson opened up a huge lead. Dale Planck entered himself into the fray, taking fourth from Jack Johnson on lap 30. On lap 32, Holmes caught Hearn and took over the second spot. Holmes was absolutely flying, and actually reeling in the Johnson machine. Planck moved into third on lap 33, just as Todd Burley entered the top five. On lap 40, a yellow flew for Bill Shantel Sr., who slowed on the frontstretch. On the restart, in an incredible move, J.J. Michaels went on the high side and leaped around about five cars, vaulting himself right into the top five and in contention for the win.

At the lap 50 mark, the top five was Danny Johnson, Holmes, Planck, Michaels, and Jack Johnson. With three drivers in the top five at this point being Utica-Rome regulars, the race fans went just about crazy, cheering on their favorites. Did any of them have anything for Danny Johnson and who would step forward to the challenge? On a lap 56 restart, Dale Planck made a high move around Holmes and began reeling in Danny. Planck, who was running high in turns one and two and low in three and four, closed right in on Danny. However, on lap 65, Planck jumped off the cushion in turn two, falling back to fourth. Then, on lap 66, Ronnie Johnson slowed, causing a quick yellow. When the green came back out, Planck, Michaels, and Jack Johnson went three wide, with Planck retaking the third spot.

Danny began opening up another lead, but on lap 76, Gus Schmidt slowed with a flat tire. On the green, Planck made a mistake when he jumped the cushion once again in turn two, falling all the way back to sixth position. Michaels was making his presence felt again, as he took over fourth from Hearn on lap 80, but they continued battling it out side by side for another lap. Then, on lap 81, Danny Johnson began showing some signs of smoke or steam coming out of his No. 27J, and the drama began to build. Would he be able to hold on for his thirteenth victory out of the seventeen 358 Super DIRT Series events he has participated in this summer? Would 200 Track Champion Ron Holmes get the big win if Johnson breaks? Over the next two laps, the smoking problem got progressively worse, and everyone believed Danny would not make it the rest of the way.

Then on lap 83, the unexpected happened. As Danny and Holmes went out of turn two, the place went black, with all the lights on speedway property blacking out. Because of some quick thinking from the track safety crew and tow trucks, who turned on their high beams, the cars were able to come around to the frontstretch and stop with out any incidents. For a good five minutes, the entire speedway was without electricity or an announcer to explain to the fans what was going on. But the big story was what was going on down on the racetrack. In something that looked like it was out of the "TWILIGHT ZONE", Danny Johnson's car sat there, steaming and smoking with all the push trucks illuminating the scene and confusion in general.

Track Promoter, Eric Kingsley, determined that the speedway's generator blew a radiator hose, so he went back to NiMo power, and at least got the electricity flowing again. However, it took around 15 minutes for the lights around the speedway to get back to full power. Just before the lights were completely on and the race restarted, Danny Johnson asked to be pushed to the pits with severe overheating problems. His night was over, and now, Ron Holmes was left with the lead.

When the race finally restarted, Holmes maintained his lead, but Jack Johnson was right on his tail. With three top three finishes in the last three races at Utica-Rome, Jumpin' Jack was hungry for a win. Johnson was underneath Holmes multiple times, but Holmes was able to hold him off. A quick yellow slowed the battle for the win on lap 89, when Aaron Excell stopped in turn two.

On the restart, Johnson wasted no time and went right on by Holmes on lap 82. Then, just one lap later, Holmes detonated a motor heading into turn one, putting himself out of the race and out of contention for his biggest career win.

When the race resumed for the final time, Dale Planck went right to work and right on by Hearn on the outside. Hearn refused to lose the spot, and kept the pressure right on Planck. On lap 97, Hearn retook second as Michaels went wide, allowing Burley to take fourth. With two to go, Hearn began reeling in Johnson. As the white flag flew, Hearn was right on Jack's rear bumper, and going into turn three on the final lap, Hearn was solidly underneath the Witz Roofing Johnson No. 12A. Coming out of four, Johnson held the advantage, but Hearn was still right there underneath and alongside. As they hit the finish line, it was Johnson in a tremendous photo finish by a half-car length over Hearn. Third was the highest finishing Utica-Rome regular Dale Planck, fourth was Todd Burley, and fifth was J.J. Michaels. Rounding out the top ten, it was a fading Pete Bicknell, Kenny Tremont Jr., Steve Paine, Vic Coffey, and Andy Bachetti.

After the race, an obviously happy Johnson commented, "This was a tough race. I fell back early, and I don't think I had anything for Danny, but everything worked out well for us. When the lights went out, I just tried to slow down and I hoped we would not get hit. That has never happened before in all the years I have raced. Its great to be back in victory lane at Utica-Rome."

Johnson's victory, which was his first at Utica-Rome since June 12, 1987, and his first career 358 Modified victory at Utica-Rome, moved him up to seventh on the all-time win list, tied with Rene Charland and Donnie Wetmore. Johnson, who was a part owner of the speedway in 1985 with Fred Burrows and Jim Beachy when the track was called New Venture International, became the oldest driver to win a Modified feature at Utica-Rome. Earlier this season, Johnson's 25-year old son Ronnie, won his first career 358-Modified feature, making Jack and Ronnie the first father-son combo to win a Modified feature in the same season at the track.

The BERT Hard Charger award, which goes to the driver that advances the most positions, went to Steve Paine, who started 32nd and finished eighth.

The Super DIRT Week guaranteed starting spot for the Sunoco Race Fuels/A-Plus 358-Modified Championship goes to Utica-Rome track regular, J.J. Michaels, who finished a strong fifth.

358-Modified heat wins went to Charlie Donk, Michaels, Holmes, Roger Phelps, Andy Bachetti, and Jack Johnson. Ryan Baye, Billy Wilcox, and Bobby Varin copped the Consis.

Track regulars Jerry Holmes and Bret Belden brought a stellar field of 31 Pro Stocks down to the green flag of the ARANY Pro Stock Super DIRT Series 25-lap event, and immediately, Belden took the lead. On a lap 5 restart, Tom Cannizzaro went alongside Tom Kuck for third, and Cannizzaro took the spot. On lap 11, Kuck, Cannizzaro, and Holmes went three wide for second, as Belden continued his lead. Holmes held onto second, but on lap 12, he spun on his own in turn two, right in front of traffic. The red flag flew to clean up a pile of cars, which included Track Champion Tom Denton, Tom Canizzaro, Wayne Archer, and Beamer Guzzardi. Denton and Guzzardi were towed to the pit area and were unable to continue. When the dust settled, and the race finally restarted, Belden continued his lead, but Lebanon Valley regular Butchie Irwin was right on his tail. As lap 17 ticked away, the yellow flew once again for a spin by Ed Kotary, and series point leader Jipper Ortiz, who headed pitside and returned. On the final restart, Belden held the lead, while series hotshoes Kuck and Andy Dembek raced for third. Kuck got the spot, and seemed to have enough for second place car, Butchie Irwin. Kuck caught Irwin, and contact between the pair on the frontstretch enabled Belden to pull away. However, Irwin reeled him in again as Chip Burdick displayed the two lap to go sign. On the final lap, Irwin dove underneath Belden in turn three, but Belden, who is a two-time track champion, had enough power off the corner to win his second feature of the season at Utica-Rome. Irwin was second, and rounding out the top five, it was Kuck, Jim Normoyle, and Andy Dembek.

In victory lane, a happy Belden commented, "This is great, I'm not sure what was going on behind me. We had a great starting spot and I'm just really glad to get this win." Belden's win gave him a guaranteed starting spot for the ARANY Super DIRT Week Pro Stock Championship on the Syracuse Mile on October 7.

Pro Stock heat wins went to Holmes, Belden, Phil Retter, and Cannizzaro, while the Consi wins went to Canadian Marc Therrien and Jason Rood.

Jeff Pastorella took the lead away from Dave Mannise on lap 4 after a two lap duel and went on to his third victory of the season at Utica-Rome. Following Pastorella, it was Mannise, Jim Thomas, Chuck Cushman Jr., and Bobby Newman.

In an incredible 36-car Demolition Derby, Ben Haust survived and took home the victory, worth $500.

Notes - 57 Modifieds, 41 Pro Stocks, 18 Pure Stocks, and 35 Demolition Derby cars filled the pit areas, while the grandstand area was filled with a standing room only crowd. Speedway management would like to thank everyone for a great 2000 season.





Heat #1(8 Laps - Top 3 Qualify and Top 2 Redraw) - Donk, Bicknell, Shantel Sr., Taylor, Miller, White, Fetterly, Kotary, Kollar, Higbie Jr.

Heat #2 - Michaels, Burley, Planck, Barker Jr., Baye, Clapperton, Balough, DaBiere, Enright, Paine.

Heat #3 - Holmes, Excell, Ward, Ridley, Ramsey, Coffey, Slawiak, Cook, Walsh, Luskin.

Heat #4 - Phelps, Smith, Tremont, Wilcox, Hulsizer, D. Johnson, Paes, Jalbert, Thomas.

Heat #5 - Bachetti, R. Johnson, Lamb Jr., Varin, A. Johnson, Schmidt, Price, Goewey, Lavalla.

Heat #6 - J. Johnson, Hearn, Barney, Rothwell, W. Decker, Clemons, Hoag, Flammer, Jacobs.

Consi #1 (8 Laps - Top 2 Qualify) - Baye, Barker, Taylor, White, Balough, Miller, Clapperton, Kotary, Kollar, Fetterly, Enright, DaBiere. DNS - Paine.

Consi #2 - Wilcox, D. Johnson, Hulsizer, Ridley, Coffey, Ramsey, Slawiak, Jalbert, Cook, Luskin, Walsh, Paes, Thomas.

Consi #3 - Varin, Rothwell, W. Decker, Schmidt, A. Johnson, Jacobs, Goewey, Price, Hoag, Flammer. DNS - Lavalla, Higbie Jr.

Sunoco Race Fuels/A-Plus 358 Modified Super DIRT Series (100 Laps) - 1)JACK JOHNSON, 2)Brett Hearn, 3)Dale Planck, 4)Todd Burley, 5)J.J. Michaels, 6)Pete Bicknell, 7)Kenny Tremont Jr., 8)Steve Paine, 9)Vic Coffey, 10)Andy Bachetti, 11)Jason Barney, 12)Gus Schmidt, 13)Billy Wilcox, 14)Charlie Donk, 15)Kyle Jacobs, 16)Dan Miller, 17)John Barker Jr., 18)Ryan Baye, 19)Alex Hoag, 20)Ron Holmes, 21)Aaron Excell, 22)Danny Johnson, 23)Ronnie Johnson, 24)Bobby Varin, 25)Jim Rothwell, 26)Roger Phelps, 27)Ted Lamb Jr., 28)Bill Shantel Sr., 29)Tim Clemons, 30)Jeremy Smith, 31)Alan Johnson, 32)Kevin Fetterly, 33)Pat Ward.

Lap Leaders - Holmes (1), Hearn (2-27), D. Johnson (28-84), Holmes (85-91), J. Johnson (92-100).

Did Not Qualify - Gary Balough, Willy Decker, Pat DaBiere, K.C. Goewey, Jeff Kotary, Jim Lavalla, Ron White, Pete Taylor, Scott Ridley, John Kollar, Mike Clapperton, Joe Slawiak, Rich Price, John Ramsey, Tony Paes Jr., Scott Flammer, Jerry Higbie Jr., Joel Thomas, Billy Cook, Bob Enright, Steve Hulsizer, Paul Luskin, Dan Jalbert, Steve Walsh.


Heat #1 (6 Laps Top 5 Qualify) - Holmes, Kuck, Denton, Clark, Barron, Therrien, Lighthall, Vanderhoof, Newman, Roese, Stevenson.

Heat #2 - Belden, Moyer, Irwin, Dembek, Sargent, Boyle, Hobbs, Meeks, Mathews, Stefanski.

Heat #3 - Retter, Normoyle, Guzzardi, Archer, Schulz, Kiskiel, Jones, Dockstader, Viall, Walker.

Heat #4 - Cannizzaro, Bruno, Watkins, McCoy, Normoyle, Grimaldi, Fitzgibbons, Rood, Gould. DNS - Kotary.

Consi #1 (6 Laps Top 4 Qualify) - Therrien, Boyle, Hobbs, Newman, Roese, Lighthall, Vanderhoof, Stevenson, Meeks, Mathews. DNS - Stefanski.

Consi #2 - Rood, Fitzgibbons, Kiskiel, Kotary, Viall, Walker, Dockstader, Jones, Grimaldi.

ARANY Pro Stock Super DIRT Series (25 Laps) - 1)BRET BELDEN, 2)Butchie Irwin, 3)Tom Kuck, 4)Jim Normoyle, 5)Andy Dembek, 6)Marc Therrien, 7)Tom Barron, 8)Mark Schulz, 9)Dave Bruno, 10)Jason Boyle, 11)Pat McCoy, 12)Tom Cannizzaro, 13)Pat Hobbs, 14)T.J. Fitzgibbons, 15)Jipp Ortiz, 16)Dave Viall, 17)Gerry Newman, 18)Wayne Archer, 19)George Kiskiel, 20)Ken Sargent, 21)John Roese, 22)Mike Watkins, 23)Jason Rood, 24)Phil Retter, 25)Jerry Holmes, 26)Ed Kotary, 27)Tom Denton, 28)Dave Moyer, 29)Beamer Guzzardi, 30)Stan Clark. DNS - Joe Stefanski.

Lap Leaders - Belden (1-25).

Did Not Qualify - Mark Lighthall, Doug Grimaldi, Wayne Walker, Eric Vanderhoof, Jason Dockstader, Chuck Mathews, Gus Gould, Chuck Jones, Dave Meeks, Dick Stevenson.


Pure Stocks (15 Laps) - 1)JEFF PASTORELLA, 2)Dave Mannsie, 3)Jim Thomas, 4)Chuck Cushman Jr., 5)Bobby Newman, 6)Rob Seavy, 7)Rodney Morgan, 8)Marty Collmer, 9)Heath Carney, 10)Rick Condes, 11)Bob Gloska, 12)David Pope, 13)John Clark, 14)Ray Fancher, 15)Mark Effner, 16)George Schulze, 17)Art Newman Jr., 18)Ron Poland Jr.

Lap Leaders - Mannise (1-3), Pastorella (4-10).

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Series Stock car
Drivers Dan Miller , Pete Taylor , Brett Hearn , Ron White , John Clark , John Barker , Bobby Varin