Utica-Rome Speedway race report 2002-06-19

The doctor makes his annual house call to open Super Dirt Series at Utica-Rome Speedway on F.X. Caprara night. VERNON, NY ^Ö "Doctor J" Danny Johnson of Rochester claimed the 100-lap victory in the opening round of the Turning Stone Casino ...

The doctor makes his annual house call to open Super Dirt Series at Utica-Rome Speedway on F.X. Caprara night.

VERNON, NY ^Ö "Doctor J" Danny Johnson of Rochester claimed the 100-lap victory in the opening round of the Turning Stone Casino 358-Modified Super DIRT Series in dominating fashion last Wednesday at Utica-Rome Speedway on F.X. Caprara Car Companies Night. Johnson survived an early race duel with fierce rival Brett Hearn and held off the legendary Jack Johnson to take the huge win for the third consecutive season. The win for the driver of the brand new J&J Shop No. 27 Troyer machine was worth $3,000 in front of a huge crowd.

Gordy Button and Brett Hearn paced the 100-lap Turning Stone Casino 358-Modified Super DIRT Series event down to the flags of Starter Matt Burdick with Hearn racing out to the early lead. Immediately Danny Johnson, who started third, caught his rival Hearn, and an entertaining battle for the lead ensued, with both drivers exchanging the lead several times each lap as the fans rose to their feet. The back and forth battle ended on lap 5, as Johnson nosed his way into the lead.

The first yellow flag of the race, and probably the most serious, flew later that lap as Tony Ross spun on the frontstretch before the start finish line. Jason Barney, who was racing at full speed, tagged Ross. Both cars suffered serious damage but the drivers walked away uninjured. On the restart Hearn resumed his torrid battle with Johnson, and some contact took place but Johnson held onto the lead as Jack Johnson raced into third. Billy Decker was flying at this stage of the race as he rode the cushion in the turns, moving well up into the top ten. Mitch Gibbs was also on the move as was Todd Burley, who passed three cars in one lap up on the high side and raced into fifth on lap 23.

Jack Johnson and Gibbs were battling for third at the quarter point of the race, as Steve Paine entered the fray several laps later to make it a three car battle. Paine took over third on lap 36 from Johnson, as Danny Johnson opened up a huge lead at this juncture of the event. Johnson was in lapped traffic, and struggled momentarily getting around Dale Planck, enabling Hearn to close right on in.

At the halfway point, Hearn was right on Johnson^Òs rear bumper with Paine, Johnson, and track point leader Matt Sheppard following in suit. However, it was obvious that Hearn was having problems and several laps later, his right rear tire was going down. Hearn slowed to bring out the yellow, changed the tire, and came back out on the track without losing a lap. Paine went by Jack Johnson on the restart for second, and appeared momentarily to have something for Danny, but several laps later, Paine also fell out with a flag right rear tire.

The restart brought on a battle between Matt Sheppard and rival Vic Coffey for the third position as Jeff Trombley, who started twenty-sixth, in the fifth position. After minor contact, Coffey took over third, as Danny began opening a lead once again. Trombley went past Sheppard for fourth, but with sixth laps to go Sheppard became another victim to the tire woes as he had a flat tire as well. After a restart with three laps to go, Danny began pulling away with Jack right with him not too far behind. However, Danny was just too strong and brought home his third consecutive Turning Stone Casino 358-Modified Super DIRT Series opener victory at Utica-Rome Speedway. The win for Johnson was his sixth career victory at the track, spread out over five different seasons of competition. Jack Johnson was second, followed by Coffey, Trombley, and Utica-Rome regular Mitch Gibbs in fifth. Hearn charged back through the pack for sixth, with Justin Haers, Billy Decker, Alan Johnson, and Steve Paine completing the top ten positions.

"The first time I saw this car was at the trck tonight," Johnson said during the victory lane ceremonies. "The whole car is brand new. "There^Òs no better way to go to the track than with everything new," he said. When asked how he pulled off three straight years of victory in the Super DIRT Series opener at Utica-Rome, Johnson said, "I don^Òt know. Just Lady Luck, I guess. I just hope she sticks around."

Jack Johnson did not feel he had much for Danny, but was conserving his tires for the end. "We just hung out and saved our tires," said the legendary driver. "Danny is always tough. We were lucky enough to finish second."

Matt Sheppard set a new track record in the JE Pistons Time Trials with a 19.924 second lap, which is 90.343mph on the Utica-Rome half mile. Vic Coffey was second fast with a 20.064. Todd Burley, Mitch Gibbs, Steve Paine, and Jim Rothwell completed the top six time trialers. Nine cautions slowed the 100-lap event for 16 laps with mostly minor incidents or spins.

Burley, Gibbs, Paine, Rothwell, Billy Decker, and Jack Johnson claimed heat victories. Alan Johnson, Tony Ross, and Gil Tegg were the consi winners. Jeff Trombley, who started twenty-sixth and finished fourth, was the Bert Hard Charger. Danny Johnson is now a guaranteed starter for the 358-Modified Championship during Super DIRT Week.

Track regular and former Mr. DIRT Champion Mike Button of Chittenango started third and won the 30-lap Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series feature after holding off a hard charging David VanHorn in the closing stages of the caution filled event. Button took the lead on lap 4 when early leader Adam Ferri spun on his own in turn one and led the remainder of the distance. VanHorn, who started fifteenth, was a close second, followed by Tim Sears, Randy Chrysler, and Tim Clemons. Completing the top ten it was Paul Carey, Russ Hefti, Eldon Payne Jr, Jamie Christian, and Adam Ferri, who charged from the rear to finisth tenth.

"I think that was the longest 30-laps in my life," a happy Button said in victory lane in refernce to the ten total caution affair. Button will represent Utica-Rome in the Syracuse Labor Day Championship because of his win. Ferri, Kevin Crave, Button, Steve Kotary, and Clemons won the Sportsman heats, while Ryan Odasz, Sears, and John Christian took the consis.

PIT NOTES ^Ö 61 Modifieds and 50 Sportsman filled the pit area on a beautiful warm evening. The race was originally scheduled to run on Mother^Òs Day May 12, but daylong heavy rains postponed it to Wednesday. Track regular Ryan Baye drove Jeff Kotary^Òs No. 3 in the feature, after Baye blew a motor early in the evening. Pete Bicknell had problems with his No. 42, so he drove Randy Chrysler^Òs No. 21k.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Brett Hearn