AZ (April 24) With a long sigh of relief, Ricky Johnson accepted
congratulations for winning the Arizona Sprint Car Association main event at
Manzanita Speedway. The six time and defending Arizona Sprint Car Association
champion, the most consistent driver on the circuit, broke a victory drought
dating back to August 21, 1999 as he won Saturday nights feature race at
Johnson has won two titles since he last drove into victory lane but he had to
do so by snaring top five finishes. The line up procedures which had hurt his
chances in the past were changed for the current season. Whereas Johnson, as the
points leader and with the best point average had to start in the sixth row in
previous years, this year the leader starts in the fourth row. That, coupled
with the fact that Johnson entered the race ranked only 12th in points and with
the fourth best average among those cars making the feature, gave him the inside
of the second row.
He used the rare opportunity to take the lead from Ben Gregg on the third lap
and then withstand constant pressure from Nathan High for 21 laps. Then Bob
Ream, Jr., up from 7th, got into the thick of things when the leaders caught the
Ream, the 1998 champion and current points leader, got by High on the 23rd lap
and took advantage of heavy traffic to get by Johnson while working the final
lap. However a yellow flag flew when Gregg and Seanin Hindricson got together
and that put Johnson back in front and set up a final lap shootout.
Johnson got a great start when the green and white flag flew. Ream took it in
deep though the first turn but the outside line was fastest and Johnson pulled
away down the back straightaway. High, who had two thirds and a fifth in his
four races this year, made a hard inside move on Ream and stole second.
Josh Pelkey, relegated to the back of the field when he had problems early in
the race, put on a driving display that carried him to his third top five finish
in five starts. R.J. Johnson, the 17 year old son of the winner drove from 12th
to fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Chuck Buckman, Brian Hacker, Jesse
Dunham, Jeff Henry and Michael Bryan.
Johnson, suffering from a bout of bronchitis, was able to offer thanks to those
who kept faith in him. “When you go without a win as long as I have, you hate
to ask the crew to even give you a new tire. They never lost faith and kept
encouraging me. They repeatedly have told me that I could do it again. It sure
feels great,” he said in a victory lane interview.
Bugs Norbury started off the evening with a win in the trophy dash but then his
luck turned sour and he failed to finish his heat or the semi.
Ream won the first heat and Dunham, Henry and Hacker also transferred to the
feature. Buckman took the second heat over High, Chris Bonneau and Hendricson.
In the third heat it was Gregg, Ricky Johnson and Paul Norbury. J.T. Imperial
was the fastest in the final heat and beat Pelkey, R.J. Johnson and Bernie
Jay Ervine, Andy Reinbold, Bruce St. James and Scott Pasmore earned the final
four starting berths in the feature through the running of the semi main.
The points standings underwent major changes as three of the top ten drivers
were absent. Eric Wilkins was on his annual Business/Vacation but maintained
second in the standings but dropped 261 points behind Ream. Joey Moriarity
entered the race ranked third but after an accident put him out of his heat race
and then more trouble in the semi he slid to sixth. Buckman moved from fifth to
third as he went past Charles Davis, Jr. who was racing on the west coast. R.J.
Johnson also improved two positions going by both Moriarity and Davis. High
improved from ninth to seventh and Ricky Johnson made the best improvement. He
was 12th at the start and vaulted to eighth.
RESULTS - ASCA SPRINT CARS
1. Ricky Johnson 2. Nathan High 3. Bob Ream, Jr. 4. Josh Pelkey 5. R.J. Johnson
6. Chuck Buckman 7. Brian Hacker 8. Jesse Dunham 9. Jeff Henry 10. Michael Bryan
11. J.T. Imperial 12. Bruce St. James 13. Scott Pasmore 14. Jay Ervine 15. Ben
Gregg 16. Paul Norbury 17. Seainn Hendricson 18. Chris Bonneau 19. Bernie Smith
20. Andy Reinbold
Lap leaders: laps 1-2 Gregg, laps 3-25 Ricky Johnson
1. Bob Ream, Jr. 2. Jesse Dunham 3. Jeff Henry 4. Brian Hacker 5. Jay Ervine 6.
Buddy Earle 7. Jeff McDonald 8. Steve Sandrolivi
1. Chuck Buckman 2. Nathan High 3. Chris Bonneau 4. Seainn Hendricson 5. Ashley
Corey 6. Bruce St. James (DNS-Tim Beal)
1. Ben Gregg 2. Ricky Johnson 3. Michael Bryan 4. Paul Norbury 5. Scott Pasmore
6. Chris McArthur 7. Joey Moriarity
1. J.T. Imperial 2. Josh Pelkey 3. R.J. Johnson 4. Bernie Smith 5. Andy Reinbold
6. Mikey Kuemper 7. Bugs Norbury
1. Jay Ervine 2. Andy Reinbold 3. Bruce St. James 4. Scott Pasmore 5. Jeff
McDonald 6. Bugs Norbury 7. Joey Moriarity 8. Tim Beal 9. Buddy Earle 10. Mikey
Kuemper 11. Chris McArthur
1. Bugs Norbury 2. Nathan High 3. Chuck Buckman 4. Seainn Hendricson
UNOFFICIAL ASCA POINTS
1. Bob Ream, Jr. 1205
2. Eric Wilkins 944
3. Chuck Buckman 908
4. R.J. Johnson 834
5. Josh Pelkey 811
6. Joey Moriarity 801
7. Nathan High 799
8. Ricky Johnson 795
9. Charles Davis, Jr. 741
10. Bernie Smith 684