Photo and story from Lonnie Wheatley
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (November 5, 2009) – Oklahoma native Wayne Johnson held off a furious last-lap bid from “Slammin'” Sammy Swindell to top Thursday’s opening night of I-30 Speedway’s 22nd Annual O’Reilly Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires.
While Swindell surged ahead in the final pair of corners of the 25-lapper atop the high-banked, ¼-mile clay oval, Johnson powered off the low side of turn four and wheelied underneath the checkered flag of Joe Clay, Jr., for his second Lucas Oil Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters triumph of the season by little more than a car-length.
Johnson led a past STN winners’ sweep of the top four positions, with Sammy Swindell and defending race winner Tony Bruce, Jr., also locking into Saturday night’s $15,000-to-win, $2,200-to-start STN championship feature event. Paul McMahan, the event winner in 2002, missed locking in by just one position with a fourth-place showing.
“This car was great in practice last night and I couldn’t hardly sleep ’cause I was so anxious to get back out here tonight,” the enthused Oklahoma City native related in victory lane after his 28th career Lucas Oil ASCS National triumph.
After racing from sixth to second in his heat race and then from eighth to win his qualifying race aboard the Fisher-powered Fattfro Motorsports No. 14aj Maxim to earn the pole position, Johnson paced all 25 circuits of the night’s main event.
But, there was never any room for error with fellow front row starter Tony Bruce, Jr., hounding him over the first half of the race and then Swindell turning up the heat in the closing circuits.
With Johnson working the low side, Bruce worked the topside early on. Fourth-starter Swindell, who topped the 1990 rendition of the Short Track Nationals, battled past fellow second-row starter Travis Rilat in the early rounds and soon started mixing it up with Bruce for the runner-up spot.
Swindell finally took second away from Bruce just before a caution flew at the midway point for Ricky Logan’s turn two spin. Swindell explained that, “A clod stuck under the throttle early and I kept trying to get it out of the way, I finally got rid of it under that caution.”
Aboard the Tom Rolfe Trucking No. 10, Swindell stalked Johnson over the final circuits and tried to pounce for a dramatic last-lap win as the lead duo encountered traffic. Swindell drove deep into the top side of turn three to briefly edge ahead, but Johnson held strong with a perfect run off the bottom of turn four to secure the victory and establish himself as a favorite to become just the second STN repeat winner since 1993.
“It was back in 1997 when I won this the first time, it wasn’t easy then but I think it’s even tougher now,” Johnson explained. “Look around, you’ve got Sammy and Tony Bruce, Jr., it’ll be tough to repeat but at least we’re locked in and have a good shot at it.”
While Swindell finished a close second in his first STN start since a 2004 heartbreaker while leading the final laps, Bruce, Jr., claimed the show position in the Rider-powered No. 18 Maxim.
“Once Sammy got by, I decided I better get to the bottom of the track,” the defending STN champion explained. “I could’ve pressed the issue up top, but it wasn’t worth the risk. We’re locked in and now we’ll give ’em hell on Saturday.”
McMahan crossed the stripe a close fourth in the J&D Motorsports No. 3d Maxim, with Marshall Skinner posting a strong run by rounding out the top five.
Rilat was sixth, with Gary Taylor’s maiden voyage aboard Terry Brown’s No. 61a entry netting a seventh-place showing. Tommy Worley, Jr., was eighth, with current Lucas Oil Sprint Car points leader Shane Stewart advancing from 16th to finish ninth in front of STN rookie shoe Anthony Nicholson.
Eric Baldaccini, Swindell, Rilat, Taylor, Sean McClelland, Brandon Moseley and Logan topped heat race action for Thursday night’s 52-car field, with Worley, Swindell, Johnson and Tyler Brown winning the Qualifying races.
Marty Stanford flipped exiting turn four in the second heat race, while Billy Melton sailed off the top of turn two on the opening round of the fourth heat race. Stanford walked away uninjured, while Melton sought further evaluation of an apparent dislocated knee.
Brady Bacon was dicing for the lead early in the second qualifier when he looped it and turned over in turn four, causing just enough wing damage to end his night. As the field checked up, Scott Reneau got upside down in turn three as well.
Garry Bell got upside down entering turn one as the green flag flew on the third qualifier, with Gary Taylor sailing off the track and onto his side. While Taylor rejoined the field after replacing a cut right rear tire, Stewart looped it exiting turn two and sent David Gailley for a wild ride. Some quick repairs put Stewart at the tail with Taylor and the pair advanced to fourth (Taylor) and fifth (Stewart) with ill-handling machines to salvage feature starting berths, and ultimately, top-ten finishes.
After pole starter Jerry Kamer spun in turn one with help at the start of the fourth qualifier, Jesse Hockett assumed the pole and chased outside starter Tyler Brown for several laps until suffering serious engine woes.
Memphis-area rep Nicholson was the best of the night’s STN rookie representatives, finishing just one spot ahead of Missouri’s J. Kinder, who crossed the stripe eleventh. Nicholson and Kinder were the only STN rookies to make Thursday night’s feature cut.
The second half of the 22nd Annual O’Reilly Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires field will take to the track on Friday night, with racing action set to go green at 7:30 p.m.
22nd Annual O’Reilly Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires Thursday Night Results:
First Heat (10 Laps): 1. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 2. 14aj-Wayne Johnson, 3. 88k-J. Kinder, 4. 2d-Dusty Ballenger, 5. 1r-Scott Reneau, 6. 8x-Chris Williams, 7. 5L-Eric Lutz, 8. 20-Kyle Sager.
Second Heat (10 Laps): 1. 10s-Sammy Swindell, 2. 57-Shane Stewart, 3. 40a-Ernie Ainsworth, 4. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 5. 71-Channin Tankersley, 6. 95-Matt Covington, 7. 165-Haley Arnold, 8. 91m-Marty Stanford.
Third Heat (10 Laps): 1. 29r-Travis Rilat, 2. 93m-Dustin Morgan, 3. a12-Tommy Worley, Jr., 4. 74c-Brandon Corn, 5. 97-Aaron Berryhill, 6. 31-Brandon Berryman, 7. 29h-Lyle Howey III, 8. 2a-Randy Hibbs.
Fourth Heat (10 Laps): 1. 61a-Gary Taylor, 2. 16n-Anthony Nicholson, 3. 28-Jonathan Cornell, 4. 86-Josh Fisher, 5. 99b-Brady Bacon, 6. 9s-Justin Sturch, 7. 9w-Lane Whittington.
Fifth Heat (10 Laps): 1. 1m-Sean McClelland, 2. 26m-Marshall Skinner, 3. 21T-Tommy Bryant, 4. 74e-Claud Estes, 5. 5k-Jerry Kamer, 6. 87m-Brian McClelland, 7. 87x-Billy Melton.
Sixth Heat (10 Laps): 1. 11m-Brandon Moseley, 2. 01n-Jeremy Newkirk, 3. 3d-Paul McMahan, 4. 14T-Tyler Brown, 5. 24g-David Gailley, 6. 40j-Junior Jenkins, 7. 16p-Dewayne Prince.
Seventh Heat (10 Laps): 1. 10a-Ricky Logan, 2. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 3. 32-Garry Bell, 4. 13-Jesse Hockett, 5. 87b-Kent Buckley, 6. 11c-Chad Corken, 7. 12d-Dalton Davis.
Qualifying Races – Winner from Each Qualifier Locked into “A” Main; Balance of 20-car Feature Field comprised of Top 16 Overall Points Accumulated Through Heats & Qualifiers (Feature Lined up according to total points)
First Qualifier (12 Laps): 1. a12-Tommy Worley, Jr., 2. 86-Josh Fisher, 3. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 4. 88k-J. Kinder, 5. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 6. 10a-Ricky Logan, 7. 2d-Dusty Ballenger, 8. 11c-Chad Corken, 9. 8x-Chris Williams, 10. 31-Brandon Berryman, 11. 87b-Kent Buckley, 12. 97-Aaron Berryhill. DNS: 2a-Randy Hibbs.
Second Qualifier (12 Laps): 1. 10s-Sammy Swindell, 2. 21T-Tommy Bryant, 3. 29r-Travis Rilat, 4. 28-Jonathan Cornell, 5. 74e-Claud Estes, 6. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 7. 1m-Sean McClelland, 8. 5L-Eric Lutz, 9. 9s-Justin Sturch, 10. 12d-Dalton Davis, 11. 165-Haley Arnold, 12. 99b-Brady Bacon, 13. 1r-Scott Reneau.
Third Qualifier (12 Laps): 1. 14aj-Wayne Johnson, 2. 16n-Anthony Nicholson, 3. 71-Channin Tankersley, 4. 61a-Gary Taylor, 5. 57-Shane Stewart, 6. 20-Kyle Sager, 7. 40j-Junior Jenkins, 8. 29h-Lyle Howey III, 9. 01n-Jeremy Newkirk, 10. 24g-David Gailley, 11. 74c-Brandon Corn, 12. 32-Garry Bell. DNS: 87x-Billy Melton.
Fourth Qualifier (12 Laps): 1. 14T-Tyler Brown, 2. 3d-Paul McMahan, 3. 93m-Dustin Morgan, 4. 26m-Marshall Skinner, 5. 95-Matt Covington, 6. 87m-Brian McClelland, 7. 11m-Brandon Moseley, 8. 16p-Dewayne Prince, 9. 5k-Jerry Kamer, 10. 13-Jesse Hockett, 11. 9w-Lane Whittington, 12. 91m-Marty Stanford, 13. 40a-Ernie Ainsworth.
“A” Feature – Top 3 Finishers Locked into Saturday night’s $15,000 to win STN Finale.
A Feature (25 Laps – Starting position in parentheses): 1. 14aj-Wayne Johnson (1), 2. 10s-Sammy Swindell (4), 3. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., (2), 4. 3d-Paul McMahan (5), 5. 26m-Marshall Skinner (6), 6. 29r-Travis Rilat (3), 7. 61a-Gary Taylor (10), 8. a12-Tommy Worley, Jr. (9), 9. 57-Shane Stewart (16), 10. 16n-Anthony Nicholson (8), 11. 88k-J. Kinder (17), 12. 93m-Dustin Morgan (12), 13. 28-Jonathan Cornell (18), 14. 86-Josh Fisher (7), 15. 4-Eric Baldaccini (14), 16. 14T-Tyler Brown (11), 17. 71-Channin Tankersley (19), 18. 74e-Claud Estes (20), 19. 21T-Tommy Bryant (15), 20. 10a-Ricky Logan (13).