By Lonnie Wheatley
MESQUITE, Texas (October 21, 2011) – It didn’t take long for Wayne Johnson to park his newly-formed No. 77x team in Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters National victory lane, as he topped Friday night’s 38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Winter Nationals preliminary feature atop the storied ½-mile Devil’s Bowl Speedway clay oval.
In just his third weekend of National competition with the new team, the Oklahoma City native took the lead away from Spring Nationals champion Sam Hafertepe, Jr., on the 21st round and went on to secure his 31st career ASCS National triumph and third of the year.
Johnson beat Hafertepe, Jr., to the stripe, with Norman, Oklahoma’s Koby Barksdale and Sioux Falls’ Bryan Dobesh locking into Saturday night’s $10,000-to-win Devil’s Bowl Winter Nationals finale as well by virtue of finishing third and fourth, respectively.
Johnson worked forward from the eighth starting position in his Fisher-powered machine and took command after previous frontrunners Hafertepe, Jr., and Dustin Morgan both bobbled in turns one and two along the way.
“The racetrack was so sticky, there really wasn’t a rut over there, everyone was just getting tight. We freed this thing way up and we were still tight,” Johnson explained. “This is a horsepower track and we definitely needed that horsepower tonight.”
While Johnson gridded the feature field outside the fourth row, Hafertepe, Jr., and Morgan led the way to the green flag with Hafertepe, Jr., gunning into the lead to pace the first round before a quick caution flew for Zach Chappell’s stalled mount.
After Mason Moore stopped on the restart, Hafertepe, Jr., took off and was into traffic within a half dozen circuits as Johnson was up to fifth behind Hafertepe, Jr., Morgan, Barksdale and Dobesh by the fifth round.
While Hafertepe, Jr., had opened up a big early advantage, power steering and brake woes in combination with traffic allowed Morgan to close the gap and begin pressuring for the lead. And, when Hafertepe, Jr., pushed across the track in turns one and two on the 13th lap, Morgan pounced on the opportunity and into the lead.
But, just as quickly as Morgan raced into the lead and had a potential first ASCS National win within reach, he gave it back two laps later when he ran off the top of turn two and fell back to fifth. Morgan ultimately bobbled again on a lap 21 restart and spun to a stop in turn two after contact with Shane Stewart, rejoining the field to finish 15th.
Meanwhile, Johnson had been on the move by taking fourth from Dobesh by the tenth round and then diving under Barksdale for third on the 14th circuit. Johnson moved into second when Morgan stumbled on lap 15 and then closed the gap on Hafertepe, Jr., who pushed again in turn one on the 21st lap to open the door for Johnson.
Johnson raced right through that open door and into the lead, surviving a quick caution with just four laps to go when Austen Wheatley came to a stop off the backstretch. After Morgan’s spin on the restart, Johnson slipped away to secure the win by 3.094 seconds.
Hafertepe, Jr., held on for runner-up honors in the Lone Star Speedway No. 15h Maxim as he vies to add Winter Nationals accolades to Spring Nationals honors earned in March.
Barksdale, who captured his first ASCS win in Lone Star Regional action two months ago, posted his best career ASCS National finish by taking the show position in Brent Swift’s No. 5, with Dobesh notching a career-best National finish as well by crossing the stripe fourth in the Buffalo Wild Wings No. 2d machine.
Leading Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Aaron Reutzel missed a lock-in by just one position in fifth, with Tony Bruce, Jr., recording his best National finish of the year thus far by crossing the stripe in sixth.
Current Lucas Oil Sprint Car points leader Shane Stewart rallied from 20th to seventh, with 17th-starter Jeff Swindell, 18th-starter Gary Wright and Danny Lasoski completing the top ten.
Defending series champion Jason Johnson used his second provisional of the year and raced from 23rd to eleventh in the main event.
Morgan, Bruce, Jr., Barksdale, Dobesh, Reutzel, Moore and Eric Baldaccini topped heat race action for the 55-car field, with Swindell, Wright and Joe Wood, Jr., winning the “B” Mains.
Seth Bergman flipped in turn two on the second round of the first “B” Main, with Larry Howery taking a violent ride off of turn three just three laps later when his wing mounts failed entering the corner. There were no injuries.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters
38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Winter Nationals Preliminary
Devil’s Bowl Speedway – Mesquite, TX
Heat Races (Top 16 in Passing Points to “A” Main; Balance to Three “B” Main):
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 2-Dustin Morgan, 2. 77x-Wayne Johnson, 3. 03-Joe Wood, Jr., 4. 15T-Travis Elliott, 5. 69-Larry Howery, 6. 41-Jason Johnson, 7. 23-Seth Bergman. DNS: 10-George White.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 2. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 3. 99-Brady Bacon, 4. 53-Jack Dover, 5. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 6. 11c-Matt Covington, 7. 54m-Doug McCune. DNS: 22a-Dan Adkins.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 5-Koby Barksdale, 2. 54-Evan Pardo, 3. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 4. 97-Terry McCarl, 5. 49-Mike Peters, 6. 85-Sean McClelland, 7. 110-Cameron Hagin, 8. 81-Danny Wood.
Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. 2d-Bryan Dobesh, 2. 81au-Gavin Punch, 3. 224-John Carney II, 4. 21-Brian Brown, 5. 57-Shane Stewart, 6. 29-Travis Rilat, 7. 7s-Shane Sellers. DNS: 48-Jake Martens.
Heat Five (8 Laps): 1. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 2. 1m-Danny Lasoski, 3. 05-Brad Loyet, 4. 1j-Danny Jennings, 5. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 6. 71-Channin Tankersley, 7. 40-Clint Garner, 8. 94-Derek Hagar.
Heat Six (8 Laps): 1. 5h-Mason Moore, 2. 0-Zach Chappell, 3. 3-Raven Culp, 4. 30-Brandon Corn, 5. 9-Gary Wright, 6. 36-Robert Sellers, 7. 6-Justin Spoerl, 8. 45-Martin Edwards.
Heat Seven (8 Laps): 1. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 2. 12-Dale Wester, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 28-Jeff Swindell, 5. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 6. 14-Michael Lang, 7. 11g-Mike Goodman.
“B” Mains (Top 2 from Each Advance to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 28-Jeff Swindell, 2. 57-Shane Stewart, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 97-Terry McCarl, 5. 11c-Matt Covington, 6. 10-George White, 7. 71-Channin Tankersley, 8. 94-Derek Hagar, 9. 110-Cameron Hagin, 10. 69-Larry Howery, 11. 3-Raven Culp, 12. 23-Seth Bergman, 13. 40-Clint Garner.
Second “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 9-Gary Wright, 2. 99-Brady Bacon, 3. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 4. 53-Jack Dover, 5. 1j-Danny Jennings, 6. 85-Sean McClelland, 7. 49-Mike Peters, 8. 6-Justin Spoerl, 9. 36-Robert Sellers, 10. 14-Michael Lang, 11. 54m-Doug McCune, 12. 45-Martin Edwards. DNS: 22a-Dan Adkins.
Third “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 03-Joe Wood, Jr., 2. 21-Brian Brown, 3. 224-John Carney II, 4. 30-Brandon Corn, 5. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 6. 41-Jason Johnson, 7. 29-Travis Rilat, 8. 48-Jake Martens, 9. 81-Danny Wood, 10. 11g-Mike Goodman, 11. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 12. 15T-Travis Elliott, 13. 7s-Shane Sellers.
38th Annual Devil’s Bowl Winter Nationals Preliminary “A” Main:
“A” Feature (25 Laps): 1. 77x-Wayne Johnson, 2. 15h-Sam Hafertepe, Jr., 3. 5-Koby Barksdale, 4. 2d-Bryan Dobesh, 5. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 6. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 7. 57-Shane Stewart, 8. 28-Jeff Swindell, 9. 9-Gary Wright, 10. 1m-Danny Lasoski, 11. 41-Jason Johnson, 12. 99-Brady Bacon, 13. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 14. 54-Evan Pardo, 15. 2-Dustin Morgan, 16. 05-Brad Loyet, 17. 5h-Mason Moore, 18. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 19. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 20. 0-Zach Chappell, 21. 21-Brian Brown, 22. 03-Joe Wood, Jr., 23. 12-Dale Wester, 24. 81au-Gavin Punch.
Lap Leaders: Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 1-12, Dustin Morgan 13-14, Hafertepe, Jr. 15-20, Wayne Johnson 21-25.
Note: Jason Johnson and Johnny Herrera both utilized their mid-season bonus full-point provisional to start the main event. Both have two partial-point provisionals remaining.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Driver Points (Top 15): 1. Shane Stewart 2,586, 2. Johnny Herrera 2,474 3. Jeff Swindell 2,442, 4. Brady Bacon 2,331, 5. Tim Crawley 2,305, 6. Gary Wright 2,260, 7. Jason Johnson 2,159, 8. Seth Bergman 2,121, 9. Tony Bruce, Jr. 2,111, 10. Aaron Reutzel 2,077, 11. Zach Chappell 1,861, 12. Wayne Johnson 1,576, 13. Dustin Morgan 1,321, 14. Jack Dover 1,252, 15. Logan Forler 1,091.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Owner Points (Top 15): 1. Jason Johnson Racing #41 – 2,711, 2. Paul Silva #57 – 2,586, 3. Herrera/Main #45x – 2,474, 4. Swindell Group #28 – 2,442, 5. Bacon/Tel-Star #99 – 2,331, 6. Mike Ward #88 – 2,305, 7. Petersen Motorsports #23 2,121, 8. Bruce Racing #18 – 2,111, 9. Kenny Reutzel #87 – 2,077, 10. Randy Washburn #0 – 1,861, 11. Gary Wright #9 – 1,664, 12. M&M Motorsports #2 – 1,321, 13. Bryan Sundby #38 – 1,196, 14. Steve Forler #2L – 1,091, 15. Danny Wood #81 – 1,069.