THOROLD, ONTARIO — official release — Alex and Helen Bruce Photos — “The Doctor” Danny Johnson is on a roll, picking up his second consecutive Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series win.
The Rochester, N.Y., Modified driver rocketed to victory in Merrittville Speedway’s annual 100-lap Bob St. Amand Sr. Memorial, fending off challenges from strong local runners to pick up a thrilling win Monday, Aug. 4.
“It feels awewome,” said Johnson, who is fresh off an impressive victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Brett Hearn’s ‘The Big Show 6’ presented by Recovery Sports Grill, Ferris and VP Race Fuels. “I just tried staying focused and got good laps.”
After finishing second in his heat to 2012 race winner Mike Bowman, of St. Catharines, Ontario, and drawing the pole for the feature, Johnson admitted that some good fortune played a role in his success Monday night.
“We drew the pole, and that makes life a lot easier. It’s a lot of luck,” said Johnson, whose redraw position started the Traction Grabber / Bicknell Racing Products No. 27J on the front row and helped Johnson pilot his ride to the initial lead.
However, in a long-distance race fraught with a lapped traffic on the challenging one-third-mile, D-shaped Merrittville track, it would take more than luck to keep Johnson ahead of the stout field of contenders. Series regular Billy VanInwegen, of Sparrowbush, N.Y., gave chase to Johnson at the green flag, and by lap 8, Chad Brachmann, of Sanborn, N.Y., had taken over the second spot and was running wheel-to-wheel with the leader in turn 3.
Johnson shut the door on Brachmann, but a lap-11 caution brought the two back together for a double-file restart. Brachmann’s No. 3 was fast on the high side and claimed the lead, but Johnson roared ahead to take back the top spot in lap 20.
“I had a little trouble with the 3 car, it seemed to be about the same speed,” said Johnson, whose years of experience, which include four prior career Super DIRTcar Series victories at Merrittville, helped him triumph. “This is a slippery track, so to speak, with low abrasion, so we had to put a lot of bite in the car to get the bite that we needed. It worked out really well for us.”
In lap 32, the No. 3 of Brachmann spun out to bring the second caution of the race, but Brachmann’s misfortune did not mean smooth sailing for Johnson. Bowman was finding some momentum, and off the next double-file restart, he charged from fourth to second place.
Yellow flag conditions returned to the track in lap 38 with the Mercer Milling Company No. 19w of Justin Wright and the Carey Industries No. 108 of Bill Bleich turned around. The field returned to green in lap 42 and Johnson maintained his lead and soon after started to pull away from the rest of the field.
Lapped traffic in lap 60 posed a challenge for the leaders, with slower cars ahead giving Bowman the opportunity to gain ground on Johnson. Soon thereafter they were racing side-by-side, but Johnson pulled ahead and stayed there until Bowman was able to close the gap again in lap 91.
“I was trying to show Danny a door to try to make him get a little more desperate working the lapped traffic, maybe cause him to makes some mistakes or something,” said Bowman. “But he’s as cool as a cucumber, he doesn’t make too many mistakes.”
Even a last-lap challenge by Bowman left Johnson undaunted, with just a half-car-length lead at the checkered flag, enough to for Johnson claim to claim another thrilling series victory.
Bowman finished second, and, after a tough season thus far running weekly at Merrittville, he was happy to claim the runner-up spot in one of the track’s biggest races.
“This pretty much redeems our whole season,” Bowman said. “We’ve been struggling here a lot, but coming in second to Danny Johnson feels almost as good as winning did two years ago.”
Chris Steele, of Fenwick, Ontario, finished third and Jimmy Phelps, of Baldwinsville, N.Y., finished fourth. Erick Rudolph, of Ransomville, N.Y., finished fifth after starting seventh and Billy Decker, of Sidney, N.Y., finished 6th after starting 13th. Rounding out the top ten are Pete Bicknell, of St. Catharines, Ontario, in seventh, Larry Wight, of Altmar, N.Y., in eighth, Pete Britten, of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in ninth and point leader Matt Sheppard, of Waterloo, N.Y., in tenth.
The Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series speeds to Ransomville Speedway in Ransomville, N.Y., for the 100-lap Alex Friesen Summer Nationals Tuesday, Aug. 5, before heading to Weedsport Speedway in Weedsport, N.Y., for the ‘Hall of Fame 100’ Thursday, Aug. 7.
For more information about the Super DIRTcar Series, visit www.superdirtcarseries.com.
Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series Statistical Report; Bob St. Amand Sr. Memorial presented by L.St.Amand Enterprises and St. Amand Auto and Truck Repair; Merrittville Speedway; August 4, 2014
A-main (100 laps):
1. 27J Danny Johnson – Rochester, N.Y.
2. 71 Mike Bowman – St. Catharines, Ontario
3. 17c Chris Steele – Fenwick, Ontario
4. 98h Jimmy Phelps – Baldwinsville, N.Y.
5. 7z Erick Rudolph – Ransomville, N.Y.
6. 91 Billy Decker – Sidney, N.Y.
7. 42 Pete Bicknell – St. Catharines, Ontario
8. 99L Larry Wight – Altmar, N.Y.
9. 21a Pete Britten – Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
10. 9h Matt Sheppard – Waterloo, N.Y.
11. 20 Brett Hearn – Sussex, N.J.
12. 6m Mat Williamson – St. Catharines, Ontario
13. TEN Billy VanInwegen – Sparrowbush, N.Y.
14. 38R Ryan Susice – Ransomville, N.Y.
15. F71 Stewart Friesen – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
16. 84 Gary Tomkins – Clifton Springs, N.Y.
17. 777 Tyler McPherson – St. Catharines, Ontario
18. 8h Justin Haers – Phelps, N.Y.
19. 38 Scott Wood – Thorold, Ontario
20. 74m Matt Billings – Brockville, Ontario
21. 42p Pat Ward – Genoa, N.Y.
22. 66x Carey Terrance – Hogansburg, N.Y.
23. 15J Tim Jones – Sanborn, N.Y.
24. 8 Rich Scagliotta – Hilsborough, N.J.
25. 3b Chad Brachmann – Sanborn, N.Y.
26. 108 Bill Bleich – Port Robinson, Ontario
27. 43 Keith Flach – Ravena, N.Y.
28. 19w Justin Wright – Piffard, N.Y.
29. 21K Randy Chrysler – Lewiston, N.Y.
30. 72 Tommy Flannigan – Port Robinson, Ontario
Did Not Qualify:
06 Brandon Easey – St. Catharines, Ontario
08 Mark D’Ilario – Smithville, Ontario
12 Chad Chevalier – Port Colborne, Ontario
19J Brett Clarke
21g Glenn Styres – Osweken, Ontario
22 Travis Miller
27z Ray Bliss
28 Todd Gordon – Thorold, Ontario
37s Robbie Krull – Cambria, N.Y.
66p Mitch Primeau
74 Dave Flannigan, Jr.