JAKE JOHNSON OUTBATTLES MARTIN FOR PRO WIN
Fifteen-year-old rookie Jake Johnson and seasoned veteran Radical Rick Martin held a legendary battle for supremacy over the second half of the Pro Stock feature that perhaps will make spectators forget all but that portion of the race and the two cars at the front exchanging everything but hostile gunfire in search of a feature win.
And after they closed the night congratulating each other at the podium finish, the climbed back in, fired up and began to drive around the oval toward the pits. As if their exploits in the feature hadn’t been enough drama for them, they engaged in an impromptu drag race down the backstretch toward the exit to the pits. It was a fitting end to a sterling race.
Lest we forget, Angelo Belsito finished a close third, while Kevin Casper and Tom Scully, Jr. filled out the top five.
Casper and Martin held the pole positions at the outset and held a spirited match at the start, but Mike Mitchell ground to a stop in turn two after a single circuit. He pitted as well as Dave Darling and Dylan Estrella. All three returned with Darling sporting duct tape across his nose after being caught by the accordion effect of the incident.
Fred Astle, Jr. supplanted Casper outside Martin on the front row for the restart, while casper joined Scully in row two. Nick Johnson and Belsito backed them up. Martin stormed into the lead and Astle dropped in. Casper and Scully ran side-by-side followed by Nick, Belsito and Todd Annarummo. Martin ran hard with Astle on his bumper.
Three laps more and Annarummo was looking under Johnson but Johnson shut the door. Over the next lap, the field stretched out single file. Behind Annarummo came Mike Brightman, Jake Johnson and Scully. The field paraded at high speed for three more laps, then Annarummo dropped under Nick and into fifth. Johnson returned the favor but Todd shut the door. Brightman ran up to Nick, trailing Jake and Scully. They ran this way for two more laps and Jake began looking under Brightman only to be twice denied.
Fifteen laps in, Jake was able to duck underneath and into sixth, behind Nick. At the front, Martin had gone to a four-car lead over Astle, who preceded Casper. Annarummo was now all over his back. Jake ran up to Nick’s bumper and then drove under to engage in some wheel-to-wheel.
Lap 21 saw Estrella spin in the middle of the back stretch and then head for the pits. On the restart, Martin and Astle ran side-by-side for a lap before Rick could get a nose out front at the stripe. Astle dropped in. But Fred spun into turn four with Annarummo and collected Brightman. Todd headed for the pits, but Brightman had to be taken to the pits in a hammock between two wreckers.
Martin and Casper lined up and Martin was away while Jake ducked under Casper. Behind them, Scully ran in under Nick just ahead of Belsito. Now Martin had Jake at his back followed by Casper and Scully. Over the next three laps, Jake began looking under Martin, only to be denied.
The duel continued over the next few laps with Johnson looking for an opening and Martin closing the door. But with ten laps remaining, Johnson found enough room and ran in underneath to go wheel-to-wheel across the start-finish line. Now came three laps of trading paint, dropping under and pinching down as the rookie and the veteran emptied their respective bags of tricks on each other.
With four laps remaining, Jake the Jet was at last able to get away from Martin and generate a one-car lead. Taking their eyes off the two combatants, the crowd saw that Belsito had pushed up into third place, followed by Casper, Scully and Ryan Vanasse.
Johnson set his sights on the finish line and Martin expended all his horsepower on overtaking, but the field ran in place the final laps to the checkers with Johnson taking down the win. The win, coupled with Darling finishing eighth after the damage, sets up a major challenge over the final two races of the regular season. Jake Johnson is now ten points behind Darling in the quest for the Pro Stock Championship.
On the evening, however, sixth place went to Vanasse, followed by Nick Johnson, Darling Estrella, Mitchell and Astle.