By Lonnie Wheatley,Tim Aylwin photo
MESQUITE, Texas (March 25, 2011) – Reigning Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters National champion Jason Johnson made a triumphant stateside return by racing to victory lane in Friday night’s 38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals 25-lap preliminary feature.
In his first U.S. start since finishing off the World Series Sprintcar owner’s championship for Alan Haynes in Australia, Johnson paced the final two circuits to post his 49th career ASCS National triumph after a spirited duel with Jeff Swindell over the final half of the race atop the storied ½-mile clay oval that had the crowd on its feet.
“If the crowd doesn’t get excited about a race like that, there’s something wrong!” Johnson exclaimed after the fiercely contested main event.
After swapping the point several times while racing through heavy traffic with Sam Hafertepe, Jr., joining in the lead fray as well, “The Ragin’ Cajun” assumed the point for keeps when Swindell popped a left rear tire and did a quick 360-degree spin exiting turn four with the white flag in sight.
“I thought we were gonna end up second there, lapped traffic kinda went his way and he kinda broke away,” Johnson explained of Swindell. “We weren’t gonna win the thing.”
After the ensuing caution, Johnson paced the final two circuits aboard the Don Ott-powered Haynes/Mesilla Valley Transport No. 41 Maxim to take the checkered flag in front of Hafertepe, with “B” Main transfers Brady Bacon and Danny Lasoski rallying from deep in the field to claim the third and fourth lock-in positions to Saturday night’s $6,000-to-win Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals championship finale.
Johnson and Swindell started the feature event alongside each other in the third row, with Eric Baldaccini outgunning pole starter Aaron Reutzel for the early lead. Up to third in just two laps when the first caution flew for Travis Rilat, who came to a stop with front end issues, Swindell blasted past Reutzel in turns one and two and then Baldaccini exiting turn four to take command on the third lap.
Sixth-starter Johnson was hot on heels, moving into second by the fifth round as the initial half-dozen circuits were interrupted by another pair of cautions including one for an Evan Pardo spin in turn two and then a flat right front tire on sixth-running Seth Bergman.
With the early yellows out of the way, Johnson stalked Swindell for several laps and began pressuring for the lead at the midway point. With heavy traffic in play by the 15th round, the veteran racers dueled for the point with seventh-starter Hafertepe moving in as well to join in on the lead chase.
While Johnson officially slipped around Swindell at the stripe on the 18th lap, the pair jockeyed back and forth on several occasions with Swindell getting the upper hand and finally breaking away with two laps to go, only to have his left rear tire disintegrate just as Will Hale was presenting the white flag. Rather than a potential second career Lucas Oil ASCS National win, Swindell limped to the pit area and was credited with 21st in the final rundown.
Johnson cruised to the stripe on the green-white-checkered run, with Hafertepe settling for runner-up honors in the Fisher-powered Lone Star Speedway No. 15h Maxim. “I wasn’t quite as fast as Jason and Jeff, I was a little too tight,” Hafertepe explained. “The main thing tonight was to get locked in and we got that done.”
After winning the night’s second “B” Main, 2010 series points runner-up Brady Bacon sliced through the field from 18th, gaining ten positions in the initial six circuits. Bacon cracked the top five with a move past Reutzel on the ninth circuit and later disposed of Michael Dupuy before claiming the show position in the Wesmar-powered Tel-Star Communications No. 99 Triple-X.
Following Bacon’s lead from one row further back, Danny Lasoski raced from 20th to take the fourth and final lock-in position to Saturday’s finale with a white-flag lap of Michael Dupuy for the spot.
Dupuy nipped Wayne Johnson at the line to round out the top five in the Jaz-Tek No. 3x, with Johnson sixth in his debut aboard the BDS Motorsports No. 38. Johnny Herrera was seventh, with Brodix Rookie of the Year candidate Reutzel in eighth.
After taking full advantage of a late caution to snare the third and final transfer position from the second “B” Main after starting 13th, current Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters National points leader Shane Stewart raced from 22nd to ninth, with 2005 Spring Nationals champion Danny Jennings completing the top ten.
Hafertepe, Reutzel, Bergman, Baldaccini, Herrera and Dupuy topped heat race action for Friday night’s 52-car field. John Carney II slipped past Kyle Bellm on the fourth round en route to winning the first “B” Main, while Bacon assumed a lead he wouldn’t relinquish in the second “B” Main when Channin Tankersley broke while leading on the eighth circuit.
Saturday’s 38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals championship finale gets under way at 8:00 p.m.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters
38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals Preliminary
Devil’s Bowl Speedway – Mesquite, TX
Heat Races (Top 16 in Passing Points to “A” Main; Balance to Two “B” Main):
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 2. 28-Jeff Swindell, 3. 31x-Mark Pace, 4. 1j-Danny Jennings, 5. 31-Brandon Berryman, 6. 21v-Taylor Velasquez, 7. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 8. 10-George White. DNS: 64J-Johnny Miller.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 2. 54-Evan Pardo, 3. 14k-Kyle Bellm, 4. 38-Wayne Johnson, 5. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 6. 12$-Michelle Decker, 7. 45-Martin Edwards, 8. 2L-Logan Forler, 9. 23x-Darryl Wills.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 23-Seth Bergman, 2. 81-Danny Wood, 3. 99-Brady Bacon, 4. 0-Zach Chappell, 5. 2x-Logan Payne, 6. 33-Danny Lasoski, 7. 21T-Ray Allen Kulhanek, 8. 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr. DNS: 53-Jack Dover.
Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 2. 95-Matt Covington, 3. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 4. 71-Channin Tankersley, 5. 51-Beau Smith, 6. 88-Tim Crawley, 7. 57-Shane Stewart, 8. 15T-Travis Elliott, 9. 9-Brian Parker.
Heat Five (8 Laps): 1. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 2. 29-Travis Rilat, 3. 11-Jeffrey Newell, 4. 1x-Garry Lee Maier, 5. 2-Dustin Morgan, 6. 15d-Brady Demeree, 7. 5-Brent Swift, 8. 35g-Barry Gifford.
Heat Six (8 Laps): 1. 3x-Michael Dupuy, 2. 41-Jason Johnson, 3. 21-Brian Brown, 4. 8-John Carney II, 5. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 6. 35-Rick Wright, Jr., 7. 01-Gary Wright, 8. 28x-Mitch Runge.
“B” Main (Top 3 from Each Advance to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (15 Laps): 1. 8-John Carney II, 2. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 3. 14k-Kyle Bellm, 4. 88-Tim Crawley, 5. 2-Dustin Morgan, 6. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 7. 2L-Logan Forler, 8. 12$-Michelle Decker, 9. 01-Gary Wright, 10. 51-Beau Smith, 11. 28x-Mitch Runge, 12. 35g-Barry Gifford, 13. 35-Rick Wright, Jr., 14. 9-Brian Parker, 15. 11-Jeffrey Newell, 16. 21T-Ray Allen Kulhanek, 17. 21-Brian Brown. DNS: 64j-Johnny Miller.
Second “B” Feature (15 Laps): 1. 99-Brady Bacon, 2. 33-Danny Lasoski, 3. 57-Shane Stewart, 4. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 5. 31-Brandon Berryman, 6. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 7. 10-George White, 8. 45-Martin Edwards, 9. 31x-Mark Pace, 10. 21v-Taylor Velasquez, 11. 23x-Darryl Wills, 12. 15d-Brady Demeree, 13. 15T-Travis Elliott, 14. 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr., 15. 2x-Logan Payne, 16. 71-Channin Tankersley, 17. 5-Brent Swift. DNS: 53-Jack Dover.
38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals Preliminary “A” Main:
“A” Feature (25 Laps): 1. 41-Jason Johnson, 2. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 3. 99-Brady Bacon, 4. 33-Danny Lasoski, 5. 3x-Michael Dupuy, 6. 38-Wayne Johnson, 7. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 8. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 9. 57-Shane Stewart, 10. 1j-Danny Jennings, 11. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 12. 81-Danny Wood, 13. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 14. 88-Tim Crawley, 15. 95-Matt Covington, 16. 14k-Kyle Bellm, 17. 0-Zach Chappell, 18. 8-John Carney II, 19. 2L-Logan Forler, 20. 1x-Garry Lee Maier, 21. 28-Jeff Swindell, 22. 54-Evan Pardo, 23. 23b-Seth Bergman, 24. 29-Travis Rilat.
Lap Leaders: Eric Baldaccini 1-2, Jeff Swindell 3-17, Jason Johnson 18, Jeff Swindell 19-23, Jason Johnson 24-25.
Note: Tim Crawley and Logan Forler both utilized their first provisionals of 2011 to start the main event. Forler was able to use a provisional after Gary Wright declined to use his first one of the year.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Driver Points (Top 15): 1. Shane Stewart 658, 2. Johnny Herrera 637, 3. Brady Bacon 566, 4. Jeff Swindell 564, 5. Tim Crawley 557, 6. Aaron Reutzel 537, 7. Seth Bergman 535, 8. Tony Bruce, Jr. 502, 9. Gary Wright 483, 10. Logan Forler 459, 11. Zach Chappell 445, 12. Dustin Morgan 412, 13. (tie) Mason Moore and Trey Starks 391, 15. Zach Zimmerly 371.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Owner Points (Top 15): 1. Jason Johnson Racing #41 – 702, 2. Paul Silva #57 – 658, 3. Herrera/Main #45x – 637, 4. Bacon/Tel-Star #99 566, 5. Swindell Group #28 – 564, 6. Mike Ward #88 – 557, 7. Kenny Reutzel #87 – 537, 8. Petersen Motorsports #23 – 535, 9. Bruce Racing #18 – 502, 10. Cooper/Sperry #01/51 – 483, 12. Steve Forler #2L – 457, 13. Randy Washburn #0 – 445, 14. (tie) Harley Van Dyke #5h and Terry Starks #55 – 391.