Mayetta, Kan. -- For Johnny Allen, he's seen the good side of Labor Day weekend at Thunderhill Speedway before. Last year, Allen was looking for his first victory of the season as 65 drivers of the O'Reilly Auto Parts/National Championship ...
Mayetta, Kan. -- For Johnny Allen, he's seen the good side of Labor Day weekend at Thunderhill Speedway before.
Last year, Allen was looking for his first victory of the season as 65 drivers of the O'Reilly Auto Parts/National Championship Racing Association's (NCRA) Modified Division rolled onto the high banks of Thunderhill Speedway. That's where he bagged that elusive first win, nipping Marc Robe at the checker.
This year, 48 drivers were on hand as the NCRA again rolled into Thunderhill over Labor Day weekend. Again, Allen was looking for his first win of the season. Again, he found it on the Thunderhill high banks, pacing the field from the second lap to the checker.
So for Johnny Allen, maybe it was deja vous all over again? Kinda, but not quite.
The unfortunate difference is that last year, Allen was leading in points en route to his third consecutive championship. This year has been frustrating, as he was only fifth in points going into Thunderhill.
"We really needed a win. We've broken while leading and we've broken things that normally don't break," Allen said.
"We've been working just as hard as when we've won championships. Things just haven't been going our way but tonight it finally came together."
Heat winners Robe, Brent Burkhart, Allen, local driver Bill Robinson and Marc Hurd made up the first five positions of the A feature grid, respectively. All five ran up front, at least early in the race.
From the inside of the second row, Allen followed pole sitter Robe into turn one, with Robinson in third. Allen took the lead from Robe on the back straight of lap two and stayed there for the rest of the 25-lap race.
Although he won by a comfortable margin, Allen was a little worried on the four yellow flag restarts.
"I tried to mix the starts up a little bit so I wasn't a sitting duck when we got to the front straightaway cone," Allen said.
Robe and Hurd were involved in the first yellow flag incident after three laps. They got together in turn four and were sent to the back of the pack and out of contention. Robe never got untracked after that and finished 15th, while Hurd fought his way back to finish sixth.
It took two restarts before they could resume racing with Allen in first and Burkhart second. They quickly pulled away from the pack, before season points leader Greg Skaggs just as quickly ran them down to make it a three-car breakaway.
Another restart for lap seven left the top three the same. This time, Todd Myers stuck with them as the foursome pulled away from the field.
The final yellow came out after 14 laps, again bunching the field. As they restarted lap 15, the top three were Allen, Skaggs and Burkhart, with Scott Green passing Myers on the backstretch to take over fourth.
The top four remained intact for the last 10 laps but the battle for fifth continued. Myers lost that spot to Robinson on lap 18. The next lap, Curt Fulps, the feature winner at Thunderhill in July, took fifth and held on to it for the rest of the race.
The top five finishers were Allen, Skaggs, Burkhart, Green and Fulps.
"At one point I thought I was fast enough to run with Allen and give him a race," Skaggs said. "I just got tired at the end from being stressed out and so pumped up."
"With about five laps to go, I got real sideways in three and four and decided I'd better make sure I kept it straight. I sure didn't want to give up what I had," he said.
Green worked extremely hard for his fourth-place finish in the A feature, moving all the way from the D feature. He was seventh in his heat, started and won the D from the pole, was second in the C and eighth in the B.
"If it paid for every feature, I would have made a ton, for sure," Green said. "It just seems like every time we come here (Thunderhill), we have a hard time qualifying. It's about the third time we've had to come from the D."
The action was equally exciting in the other features. In the D, Green opened up an early only to be run down by Greg Stephens late. Green took the checker by less than a car length over Stephens.
It took a while to run the C feature, but when the dust settled, it was a battle between Kurt Johnston, Brian Powers and Green. Powers led this trio away from the others as they often ran side-by-side. Johnston took the lead from Powers at the white flag and held on for the win. On the last lap, Green slipped around Powers for second.
The B feature saw Myers, Fulps, Brian Franz and Kenny Sweet Jr. put on a show for the fans. They fought each other throughout with Myers leading most of the way and taking the checker.
For Skaggs, the season championship is now the bigger picture. He entered this race 130 points ahead of Robe, who finished 15th.
"I had an excellent night for points, but it didn't look good for awhile as Marc was unbelievably fast," Skaggs said.
Skaggs led in points most of last season before fading to a fourth place finish. He credits that experience to helping him remain on top this season.
"This year we're trying to not focus on the points and just go out and race. We just try to stay out of trouble and do the best we can," he said. "I've heard for many years you've got to lose a championship before you can win one."
But Skaggs isn't ready to claim his first NCRA championship yet.
"With the points system like it is, there's no such thing as a safe lead," he said. "You just need to keep on plugging away and try to finish every week."
Allen is the three-time defending champion and the all-time NCRA modified wins leader. There's still enough races left for him to make it four in a row, but he's running out of time.
"Mathematically, we've got a chance, but ...," Allen said, his voice trailing off.
Heat 1 (8 laps) - 1. Brent Burkhart, Hutchinson, Kan.; 2. David Lahey, Moscow, Kan.; 3. Deana Wilson, Coweta, Okla.; 4. Mike Jarvis, Wichita, Kan.; 5. Rodney Dodds, Derby, Kan.; 6. Jim Armstrong, Liberal, Kan.; 7. Scott Green, Derby, Kan.; 8. Jason Roe, Wichita, Kan.; 9. Travis Govern, Wichita, Kan.; 10. Scott Brown, Meriden, Kan.
Heat 2 (8 laps) - 1. John Allen, Chanute, Kan.; 2. Don Renfro, Wichita, Kan.; 3. Todd Myers, Newton, Kan.; 4. Dave Hardesty, Minneapolis, Kan.; 5. Kurt Johnston, Concordia, Kan.; 6. Doug McConnaughey, Meriden, Kan.; 7. Ken Cross, Salina, Kan.; 8. Jim Hernandez, Hoyt, Kan.; 9. Randy Woodside, Wichita, Kan.; 10. Tony Foster, Wichita, Kan.
Heat 3 (8 laps) - 1. Bill Robinson, Topeka, Kan.; 2. Darrick Klima, Belleville, Kan.; 3. Brook Phillips, Wichita, Kan.; 4. Curt Fulps, Wichita, Kan.; 5. Bobby Bills, Wichita, Kan.; 6. Jeremy Chambers, Yates Center, Kan.; 7. Jim Simpson, Topeka, Kan.; 8. Rick Mueller, Wichita, Kan.; 9. Greg Geiswein, Council Grove, Kan.; 10. Jim Scholes, Cottonwood Falls, Kan.
Heat 4 (8 laps) - 1. Marc Hurd, Wichita, Kan.; 2. Greg Skaggs, Glenpool, Okla.; 3. Kenny Sweet Jr., Wichita, Kan.; 4. Brian Franz, Newton, Kan.; 5. Rick Stallbaumer, Tecumseh, Kan.; 6. Bob Glasse, Wichita, Kan.; 7. Greg Stephens, Wichita, Kan.; 8. Allen Grimm, Conway Springs, Kan.; 9. Bart Tannahill, Salina, Kan..
Heat 5 (8 laps) - 1. Marc Robe, Wichita, Kan.; 2. Brad Johnston, Concordia, Kan.; 3. Rodger Peck, Manhattan, Kan.; 4. Brian Powers, Wichita, Kan.; 5. Jimmy Segraves, Valley Center, Kan.; 6. Mike Gish, Topeka, Kan.; 7. Mike Cragg, Manhattan, Kan.; 8. Jeff Erickson, Mulvane, Kan.; 9. Brandon Blochlinger, Concordia, Kan.
D feature (8 laps) - 1. Green; 2. Stephens; 3. Cross; 4. Simpson; 5. Hernandez; 6. Mueller; 7. Brown; 8. Geiswein; 9. Blochlinger; 10. Grimm; 11. Scholes; 12. Govern; 13. Tannahill; 14. Woodside; 15. Roe; 16. Cragg; 17. Erickson.
C feature (10 laps) - 1. K. Johnston; 2. Green; 3. Powers; 4. Glasse; 5. Cross; 6. Chambers; 7. Stallbaumer; 8. Gish; 9. Mueller; 10. Blochlinger; 11. McConnaughey; 12. Grimm; 13. Simpson; 14. Stephens; 15. Dodds; 16. Brown; 17. Armstrong; 18. Bills; 19. Geiswein; 20. Hernandez.
B feature (12 laps) - 1. Myers; 2. Fulps; 3. Franz; 4. Sweet Jr.; 5. Jarvis; 6. Wilson; 7. Green; 8. K. Johnston; 9. Segraves; 10. Powers; 11. B. Johnston; 12. Chambers; 13. Stallbaumer; 14. Phillips; 15. Cross; 16. Peck; 17. Mueller; 18. Blochlinger; 19. Gish; 20. Glasse.
A feature (25 laps) - 1. Allen; 2. Skaggs; 3. Burkhart; 4. Green; 5. Fulps; 6. Hurd; 7. Hardesty; 8. Wilson; 9. Myers; 10. Powers; 11. K. Johnston; 12. Segraves; 13. Robinson; 14. Renfro; 15. Robe; 16. Sweet Jr.; 17. Jarvis; 18. Lahey; 19. Klima; 20. Franz.