Johnson Outlasts the Outlaws in the Summer Nationals opener at Williams Grove Mechanicsburg, PA -- July 21, 2005 -- The World of Outlaws Sprint Series racers know they face a huge challenge every time they roll into Williams Grove Speedway to...
Johnson Outlasts the Outlaws in the Summer Nationals opener at Williams Grove
Mechanicsburg, PA -- July 21, 2005 -- The World of Outlaws Sprint Series racers know they face a huge challenge every time they roll into Williams Grove Speedway to take on the Pennsylvania Posse, and Thursday night in the opener to the Cleveland Brothers Summer Nationals was no exception.
With 40 cars in the pits, Jason Johnson powered his way through qualifying, heats, a Dash and the feature to beat the Outlaws on the first night of the three-night event.
Johnson started on the pole, negotiated traffic high and low, and held off a late race charge from Shane Stewart to capture the 25-lap, caution-free A-main.
"Anytime you can win any kind of Outlaws race, whether it's a preliminary or main night, it means a lot because they're there every night," said Johnson, who races the No. 22 J&S Fabrication machine for Pennsylvanians Jim and Sandy Kline. "The main night counts, but to win one here against Outlaws and against the Pennsylvania guys at Williams Grove, that makes it special."
Stewart, the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award leader, held on to finish second despite a flat right front tire while Brooke Tatnell, the newest member of the Mean 15, was third. Fred Rahmer, the Pennsylvania legend who has 18 victories this season, was fourth, followed by Outlaws points-leader Steve Kinser, Jac Haudenschild, Greg Hodnett, Mark Smith, Craig Dollansky and Alan Cole.
In fact, the competition to make the A-main was so intense that half of the 20-car field B-main was comprised of touring members of the Outlaws. And with no provisionals available on the two preliminary nights as teams try to earn qualifying points toward the A-feature on Saturday, the level of intensity could not have been higher.
Johnson was trying to fend off Stewart in heavy traffic for much of the A-main. Stewart would close fast in the corners but Johnson would push through the traffic down the long straights on the Williams Grove paper-clip half-mile oval. As the laps wound down, Stewart nearly had the lead, going side-by-side with Johnson before Johnson turned him back.
"I saw somebody come up on the inside, I didn't know who it was at the time," Johnson said. "I saw the front wheel there and I knew I had to take that line because if I didn't take that line they were going to take my line away. That's just one of the things you learn. In Pennsylvania they race so hard, just like they do in the Outlaws. You have to learn how to do stuff like that."
Stewart, who's had a strong car in recent weeks, didn't mind the move because they were racing for the lead.
"I got beside him one time in lapped traffic and he chopped me a little bit getting in, which was all good, it's all fun here," he said. "I actually flattened my right front the last couple laps and I was just hanging on for dear life."
Johnson was just trying to keep his momentum at the time, which was difficult because cars were scattered along nearly every inch of track by the mid-point of the feature.
"You don't know where people are behind you, but you know where the faster lines are," Johnson said. "The middle was a dead zone, so you had to hit the very bottom or the top. What predicts that is the lapped cars right in front of you. I actually caught a few lapped cars and one lap they ran high and the next lap you come around and they're running low. When they do stuff like that it kind of throws you for a loop. You have to try to go to the opposite direction. That's what happened [with Shane]. I went to the bottom to get by a lapped car and he turned down, I checked up too hard and Shane got a run on me.
"I was just trying to hit my marks. Even though you're in lapped traffic, you still have to be against the cushion or you still got to be in the moisture along the very bottom. That's what you have to concentrate on. Whether the cars are there or the cars are not there, you have to concentrate on hitting the right marks and the right lines. It's a lot harder to actually do it than it is to talk about it."
Johnson made it look easy, even though Stewart was one his bumper for much of the race.
"It's spectacular, really," Stewart said. "We've been struggling the last two or three nights. We've had several DNFs this year and we just really, really wanted to get a win tonight. I think I was a little bit better than he was in open track, but we just never had that opportunity.
"I was a little better than he was in the corners. The Maxim car with a Wesmar engine was running good. It is one of our better motors, and it's one of our older motors, believe it or not. Obviously this is a good points night for us. We're going to have to try to come back and do it again tomorrow to put us in good shape for the final night."
For Tatnell, a third-place run was like passing a test for his team. Like many teams, they struggled the first time the Outlaws competed this season at Williams Grove and were anxious to return with one of the hottest cars on the tour in the past two months. His car now sits fourth in owners' points while Tatnell, who missed four races earlier this season, remains eighth.
"To take third at Williams Grove, even though the track was one lane and it was very hard to pass," said Tatnell, who on Tuesday clinched the final spot in the Mean 15. "It didn't allow guys like Fred Rahmer and Steve Kinser to show what they could do because it was pretty much follow the leader. We tried a new motor tonight and we're pretty happy with that. I think that's probably what we're going to use at the Knoxville Nationals. Just to get anything decent around this place I'm happy. For years I've come here and lacked the motor. Now we've got the motor and it's a matter of trying to rebuild my confidence around this place."
Because of its unique shape, with tight corners and long straights, Williams Grove is a track that demands a strong motor. It's one reason some drivers believe the Pennsylvania Posse racers who compete weekly at the Grove actually have an advantage over the Outlaws.
"Motors are everything any night with these guys," Stewart said. "If your motor isn't running right, your car isn't going to work right. You can change every torsion bar and every shock in your trailer and if your motor isn't running properly your car is not going to work. I've been lucky enough to be teamed up with Wesmar and they've been doing a good job all year long. We just got to get it qualified just a little bit better. I'm always right there on the edge."
The Outlaws return Friday and Saturday to Williams Grove Speedway for the second and third nights of the Cleveland Brothers Summer Nationals. Afterward, the series heads north for a one-night event July 25 at Fulton Speedway in Fulton, N.Y., then returns to Michigan for an SLS Promotions race July 27 at Hartford Speedway Park, before heading to Minnesota for the July 29-30 SLS Promotions' Princeton Nationals.
SUMMER NATIONALS OPENING NIGHT NOTEBOOK
* A three-night event requires a unique scoring system. Teams will earn qualifying points Thursday and Friday, with the top four in qualifying points after Friday's A-feature locked into the first 4 starting positions of Saturday's Stacker 2® Dash. The remainder of the Saturday field will be placed into heat races, lined up according to qualifying points with no inversion). Of the heat race cars, the highest two in qualifying points that transfer from the heats will start fifth and sixth in the Stacker 2® Dash. Starting positions 7-24 in Saturday's A-feature will be lined up according to qualifying points from the first two nights. No qualifying points will be awarded on Saturday. Also, teams can't use provisionals on either of the preliminary feature nights.
* Jason Johnson's preliminary feature win was his first trip to victory lane this season with the Outlaws, making him the 17th different driver to win with the Outlaws in 2005. Tim Shaffer's victory Tuesday night in the Silver Cup was third of the season, going with wins Lake Ozark Speedway and Thunderbowl Raceway. Steve Kinser earned his series-leading 14th A-feature victory Saturday night by winning the Kings Royal. Kinser also has a preliminary feature win this season in the Eagle Nationals at Eagle Raceway. When Stevie Smith took the checkered flag at Attica Raceway Park, he became the 14th different A-feature winner this season. Kraig Kinser won his fourth A-feature of the season in June at Knoxville Raceway. He also has a preliminary feature win at Las Vegas. Jason Meyers earned his fourth win of the season July 2 at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, N.D. Donny Schatz also has four A-feature victories, at Parramatta, Las Vegas and Houston and Joliet, Ill. Brian Paulus won June 28 at Huset's Speedway for his second victory of the season, and picked up a preliminary feature win in the following race at Red River Valley Speedway. Sammy Swindell won his second A-feature of the season June 4 at Eldora Speedway. Swindell also has a preliminary feature win April 8 at Eldora. Craig Dollansky has won two features, most recently at Powercom Park, and he also has two preliminary feature wins. Single-event winners include Tim Kaeding June 11 at Sheboygan County Fair Park, Daryn Pittman April 23 at 81 Speedway in Wichita, Brooke Tatnell July 4 at Cedar Lake Speedway, Chad Kemenah July 9 at I-55 Raceway, and Jeff Shepard Feb. 11 at Volusia Speedway Park. In Preliminary Features, Danny Lasoski has won twice and Joey Saldana has won once.
* The race last night at Williams Grove was on half-mile oval. Coming into last night, and including preliminary features, the series has raced 20 times this year on half-mile circuits with Steve Kinser winning six times (Volusia, Eldora three times, Knoxville and Williams Grove), Sammy Swindell winning three times (twice at Eldora, once at Hagerstown), Craig Dollansky winning twice (Manzanita and Williams Grove), Kraig Kinser winning twice (Las Vegas, Knoxville), Jason Meyers winning twice (Granite City and Red River Valley), Donny Schatz winning twice (Las Vegas and Route 66 Raceway), and Brian Paulus (Red River Valley), Danny Lasoski (Knoxville), Jeff Shepard (Volusia) and Jason Johnson (Williams Grove) each winning once.
* Kraig Kinser, the 2004 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner, was racing in the final transfer spot in the third heat when his car caught fire in the final turn. He turned it into the inside retaining wall toward the Turn 4 side of the front straight and scrambled out as safety crews raced down the track from the nearest opening in the wall. He was transported to an area hospital for treatment of burns to his left hand and left leg.
* In the Stacker 2® Dash, Jason Johnson powered his way into the lead and drove away from the field to earn his first Outlaws pole of the season in a precursor of what was to happen in the main event. Alan Cole finished second, followed by Fred Rahmer, Terry McCarl, Todd Hestor and Greg Hodnett.
* In the second Dash, Shane Stewart started on the pole and held off Brooke Tatnell to earn the outside front row starting position. Steve Kinser was third, followed by Jac Haudenschild, Mark Smith and Joey Saldana.
* The B-main resembled an World of Outlaws main event, with half of the 20-car race made up of Outlaws touring teams. Daryn Pittman cruised to the checkered flag as the other three transfer spots went to Craig Dollansky, Donny Schatz and Paul McMahan, who slipped past Jason Meyers off of the final turn.
* In the first heat, T.J. Stutts charged into the lead with Jac Haudenschild, Joey Saldana and Todd Hestor in tow. When fast-qualifier Craig Dollansky slipped in Turn 2 on the third lap, Jason Sides seized the opportunity to sneak into the final transfer spot.
* In the second heat, Don Kreitz Jr. shot out to the lead as the field quickly fell in line. Keith Kauffman rolled into second followed by Jason Johnson, Mark Smith and Terry McCarl.
* In the third heat, Brian Leppo muscled his way into the lead and pulled away to win while Chad Layton, Brooke Tatnell, Greg Hodnett and Fred Rahmer picked up the other transfer positions. Kraig Kinser was running in the final transfer spot when his car caught fire. He was transported to an area hospital for treatment of burns to his left hand and left leg.
* In the fourth heat, Lucas Wolfe motored to the front and stayed there as Jason Solwold, Shane Stewart, Steve Kinser and Alan Cole earned the remaining transfer positions.
* Craig Dollansky paced the 40 cars that went through time trials with a lap around the half-mile oval in 16.612 seconds at 108.355 mph. Brian Paulus set the record of 16.140 seconds on April 26, 2002.
* The Outlaws roll Thursday into to Williams Grove Speedway for the three-night $20,000-to-win Summer Nationals.
* The Outdoor Channel will air at 8 p.m. (ET) July 27 and Aug. 3 all of last weekend's action from Eldora Speedway. The Outdoor Channel will then broadcast the Silver Cup at 8 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 10.