Johnson Romps From 26th At Brewerton
BREWERTON, N.Y. — Danny Johnson turned a moribund night into an unforgettable evening on Thursday at Brewerton Speedway.
Recovering from a poor qualifying effort that had him pining to leave the one-third-mile oval, Johnson charged forward from the 26th starting spot to capture the DIRTcar 358-Modified SUNY-Canton Hurricane 100.’
Johnson, 53, pocketed $10,000 for his convincing march to victory, which he clinched by passing Matt Sheppard for the lead on lap 79. The DIRTcar Northeast superstar cruised away from the pack over the remaining distance to top a wildly competitive race that featured six changes among five drivers and a battle for second place that wasn’t decided until the checkered flag.
Pat Ward finished in that runner-up spot, nipping Sheppard by a couple car lengths at the finish line after his late-race charge saw him overtake Sheppard at the white flag. Sheppard, who led la 60 and 66-78, settled for third place, falling short of repeating his triumph in the previous night’s DIRTcar 358-Modified Series 75-lapper at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway.
Australian Peter Britten advanced from the 16th starting spot to place fourth and Dale Planck finished fifth after starting third and leading twice at mid-race (laps 59, 61-65).
The story of the evening was Johnson, who looked nothing like a potential winner when he plummeted backward in his heat race and barely made the cut in the second consolation.
“Unbelievable,” Johnson said. “I qualified last in the consie (actually the next-to-last transfer position) and I was ready to pack it in and go home because we just weren’t going good. We were having a bad night.
“I just can’t believe how it turned around and came our way.”
Despite making no changes to his Bicknell machine before the 100 – noting that “after the consolation we just kind of filled it up with gas and came out” – Johnson had the perfect setup for the conditions at the D-shaped Dirt Demon.
“It just came our way,” said Johnson. “As the track widened up, our car got good. I don’t how I got so good. The track just got to where it needed to be for me. I’m just a lucky boy I guess.”
Johnson steadily cut through the field, reaching the edge of the top 10 by the time the race’s second caution flag flew on lap 32 and moving up to ninth when the next yellow flag came on lap 44. He was sixth when Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who started second and led laps 1-35 before fading from contention, slowed on lap 61 and then really turned up the wick.
In short order Johnson completed his run to the front, overtaking Ward for fourth on lap 67; his older brother Alan Johnson for third on lap 71; Planck for second on lap 76; and finally Sheppard for the lead with an inside move off turn four on lap 79.
Johnson went on to cross the finish line 3.267 seconds – a full straightaway – ahead of Ward’s Gypsum Racing Bicknell car.
The triumph was Johnson’s first in a half-dozen starts behind the wheel of the orange No. 27J fielded by Canadian Lisa Maroney, whose father Mike enjoyed great success as a car owner in the past with Alan Johnson.
“I feel real fortunate to have Lisa put this deal together for me,” said Johnson. “It was all put together between Lisa, (crewman) Dave Botsford and Bicknell Racing Products. They got the hot rod together for me and here we are.”
Ward, who started 13th, was the big mover in the race’s late stages. He fell out of the top five after a lap-65 restart but gained new life when the fifth and final caution flag flew on lap 81.
“We lost a bunch of spots on that one restart and I got the tires too hot,” said Ward. “Then a yellow come back out and we cooled the left rear down and were pretty good after that.”
Sheppard, meanwhile, saw his hopes for a fifth win in six DIRTcar 358-Modified Series starts this season dashed by Johnson.
“We had a pretty good car, but I could tell early that we were pretty tight,” said Sheppard, who started fifth. “We were eventually able to battle our way to the lead and I didn’t feel too bad, but I’ll tell you what – Danny was really rolling tonight. You can never count him out.”
Fifty DIRTcar 358 Modifieds were signed in for the event.
Danny Johnson, Pat Ward, Matt Sheppard, Peter Britten, Dale Planck, Alan Johnson, Vic Coffey, Jimmy Phelps, Matt DeLorenzo, Mike Mahaney, Erick Rudolph, Danny O’Brien, Mario Clair, Mat Williamson, Mike Bowman, Mark D’Ilario, Brett Hearn, Ryan Susice, Kyle Weiss, Carey Terrance, Kevin Bates, David Hebert, Stewart Friesen, Billy Decker, Tim McCreadie, Brandon Easey, Ryan Godown, Lee Gill, Ryan Arbithnot, Shawn Donath