LAS VEGAS, NV (February 28) -- Johnny Herrera knows all about being in the right place at the right time& ...
LAS VEGAS, NV (February 28) -- Johnny Herrera knows all about being in the right place at the right time… and vice versa.
The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series 1986 Rookie of the Year was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the Knoxville Nationals last August. He crashed with Ed Lynch, Jr., as they avoided Mike Goodman and Kasey Kahne early in the "B" Feature and suffered a broken left shoulder.
Herrera was in third place with 3 ¾ laps remaining in the Preliminary Feature Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he steered clear of leader Craig Dollansky, second-place Danny Lasoski and fourth-place Mark Kinser as they collided. Herrera restarted the race in the lead and beat Sammy Swindell under the checkered flag by 1.2 seconds to win the First Preliminary Feature of the Sixth Annual Silver State Shootout.
"It’s a great way to start the year," Herrera said. "I've won a lot of races, but I'm really excited about this one. It was an awesome track; it was prepared nicely.
"After the year I had last year, I owe a lot to (new car owner) Billy Wilburn. He gave me a chance, and all the hard work we did in the last month paid off tonight.
"Craig (Dollansky) was better than both of us (Herrera and Lasoski) with an open track, but he wasn't as good in traffic and it gave us a chance to run him down. Lady luck was on our side tonight, and we just happened to be in he right place at the right time when all that stuff went down in turn one. We were just a little tight all night long, and we just kept freeing it up all night long… and how about those Goodyear tires?"
Herrera, the 13th-fastest qualifier in the 39-car field, finished fourth in the First Heat Race and earned the right to start the 25-lap Preliminary Feature outside the third row by finishing third in the Second O’Reilly Auto Parts Heat Race.
After Donny Schatz’ fourth-corner flip brought back the original start, Herrera started making his way toward the front. Dollansky burst into the lead from outside the front row and Lasoski passed pole-sitter and fast-qualifier Brian Paulus in the low groove between the third and fourth corners late in the opening lap. Herrera drove Wilburn’s #2W Mead Papers Maxim deep in turn three to pass Paulus for third place two laps later.
Dollansky was 2.4 seconds ahead of Lasoski when he entered lapped traffic five laps into the race. The 2000 World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion somehow managed to steer the #7 Polydome Maxim around Jeff Hodgson, who spun right in front of him in the first corner early in lap six.
Defending Gumout Series champion Daryn Pittman lost sixth place when he jumped the cushion in turn four late in the sixth lap, allowing the Kinser cousins -- Mark and Steve -- to pass him.
Lasoski was 1.8 seconds behind Dollansky when they caught the back-markers a second time during the 11th lap. The defending Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion narrowed the gap to .3 seconds within two laps.
"The Dude" passed Dollansky for the lead deep in the second corner early in lap 14, only to have Paulus’ first-corner flip nullify the move.
Dollansky raced away from the field as the race resumed, and opened a 1.9-second advantage within four laps. Lasoski closed to within .6 seconds in dense lapped traffic midway through lap 19, however.
Dollansky’s daring move between Jayme Barnes and Tommy Tarleton in the fourth corner the next time around appeared to give him the advantage he needed to win the race, but disaster struck several seconds later. Dollansky spun into Lasoski, Mark Kinser and Barnes and flipped.
Herrera led the field to the start/finish line as the green flag replaced the red, followed by Pittman and Swindell. The white flag was waving for the leaders when Hodgson hit in infield tire barrier in turn one and flipped, bringing out the red flag and setting up a two-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Swindell steered the #83jr Beef Packers Eagle to the lowest point between the first and second corners to pass Pittman for the runner-up spot as the race resumed. Jac Haudenschild and Steve Kinser exchanged fourth place during the final lap as Herrera opened a comfortable advantage.
"He (Herrera) is great," said Wilburn, the new crew chief for NASCAR Winston Cup star Rusty Wallace. "We were hoping to put something together to run the whole season, but some things fell through. We're going to do what we can and run about 50 races with the Outlaws this year. We have some great people with us: Mead Paper, Heitnz Brothers Automotive and Weikel Racewear. Hollywood Hills Speedway is helping us out this weekend; they have a Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series race next week. Maxim chassis is helping us, too. Now, we just have to go fast tomorrow and get that Miller Light Ford on the pole so we can win over there (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile superspeedway)."
Steve Kinser finished in fourth place, ahead of "The Wild Child," Joey Saldana, 15th-starting Tim Shaffer, Brad Furr, Randy Hannagan and Stevie Smith.