MIDWEST: Four Different Stories Highlighted in Eldora’s Johnny Appleseed Classic Winners Circle

RaceChaser Staff Midwest 0 Comments

ROSSBURG, Ohio — official release — Mike Campbell photo — Sunday night’s Johnny Appleseed Classic by Miller Lite was a story of repeat wins, redemption and a near photo finish.

With 104 entrants in four classes victories went to Matt Miller (Sunoco American Late Model Series) Jim Nier (NRA Sprint Invaders), Jeff Babcock (UMP DIRTcar Modifieds) and Paul Pardo (Eldora Stock Cars).

By virtue of his second heat victory, Miller started on the outside pole of the 25-lap ALMS finale, and when the green flag dropped he was out front and sailing.

With a comfortable margin being built up over the field, all eyes were focused on the battle behind him, as the balance of the field used every inch of the clay surface to provide some of the fiercest racing seen in years.

Duane Chamberlain had his hands full holding back Brad Neat, Jeep VanWormer, Kent Robinson, while Wayne Chinn, and Scott James soon joined the fold. As Miller began threading himself through lapped traffic on lap 10, tough luck fell upon runner-up Chamberlain, as a right rear flat sidelined him to the pit area.

By this time, VanWormer had moved into third ahead of Neat, Chinn and Robinson; but with the Chamberlain departure that set him side by side with Miller on the double-file restart. Miller again got the jump on the green as VanWormer got engaged into a four car battle with Neat, Robinson and Chinn that set the fans into a frenzy.

After shaking them loose on lap 17, the chase was on, with VanWormer reeling in Miller lap after lap. With three laps remaining, VanWormer moved into contention to challenge for the lead; often pulling alongside down the back chute. A late charge for VanWormer to wrestle the lead from Miller was thwarted by a lapped car that Miller used to his advantage and registering yet another ALMS victory at Eldora in the final tune-up before the June 5-6-7 Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Mowers.

VanWormer finished a tight runner-up, followed in order by Robinson, Neat and Jeff Babcock who came on strong in the later stages.

Two years ago Nier had celebrated in victory lane; only to meet disappointment a few minutes later when a post-race inspection by NRA officials found the Nier entry not in full compliance and the win was erased. But not so Sunday night as the seasoned veteran planted himself up close to the wall and never let up as lapped traffic came into play in the 20-lap non-stop event for the winged Sprint Cars.

Earlier in the race it looked as if Jared Horstman had the field covered, but 13 laps into the chase, mechanical woes dropped him somewhat off the pace. Nier was knocking on the door at that time and took advantage of Hortsman’s misfortune to charge out front.

As the final laps wore down, Nier was finding some competition from Butch Schroeder and Randy Hannagan, but with that bittersweet moment etched in his mind, Nier was determined to prove that the previous win was no fluke.

With the checkered flag in sight, Nier continued his flirtation with the outer wall right to the finish.

The green-to-checkered flag race didn’t leave much time for Schroeder and Hannagan, and time simply ran out for them as they had Nier in sight. Ryan Ruhl and Todd Heuerman completed the top five, as a disappointed Horstman limped home in ninth spot.

By virtue of the invert drawing, Babcock started on the inside of the front row. That meant bad news for the balance of the field and Babcock didn’t let their expectations down. He masterfully threaded his way through the lapped traffic, as Brian Ruhlman, Matt Westfall and Evan Taylor were waging their own battle that soon found Jerry Bowersock in the mix.

A last-lap caution flag gave everyone a last chance shot at Babcock, but he was undaunted by the challenges and sailed to his third win of the season at Eldora. Ruhlman had his hands full with Westfall as the duo swapped positions multiple times. As they crossed the finish line, it was Ruhlman be inches of Westfall, with Taylor and Jerry Bowersock completed the top five.

At the dropping of the green flag in the Stock Car main event, it was Earnie Woodard in control at the end of lap one, but that soon changed as eventual winner Pardo pulled out front. He brought with him Dean Pitts, who kept Pardo well within sight. Multiple times Pitts inched up behind Pardo, but that strong run ended just past the halfway point when a quick spin by Pitts brought out the yellow flag.

On the ensuing restart it was Pardo over last week’s feature winner in a classic battle down to the wire. Pardo was rim-riding the top, while Bowers was hugging the bottom in drastically different driving styles.

Out of each turn, Bowers would charge off the bottom to pull up alongside Pardo down the straights; but it was the developed horsepower by using the upper groove that gave Pardo the edge and one of the closest win margins in recent years. By a mere .060 seconds Pardo pulled out the win over Bowers, as defending champion Barney Craig, Tony Anderson and Jeff Koz completed the top five spots.

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