Making history as the first female driver ever to qualify for the Eckerd 200 line-up, Jessica Zemken’s rookie debut went up in flames after just 25 circuits when her car slowed at the end of the back chute while an oil fire erupted underneath. Danny Johnson used the third caution period to make the first of two pit stops scheduled during the day. When the left-rear tire shredded on the mount driven by Andy Bachetti, another yellow flag unfurled on lap 85 with both race leader Danny and Horton revisiting pit lane to gas and go for the final time. Fuller had made his first trip to the pits on lap 46 to relinquish the point to Phelps, and Johnson inherited the top spot when Phelps mirrored the move just 20 laps later. Johnson’s exit off the track on lap 86 put Pennsylvanian Rick Laubach up front for the second consecutive day, and there he would stay to collect the $5,000 lap 100 leader bonus added to the race day pot by Aramark Uniform Service.
2006 DIRT big-block rookie Kenny Stafford crashed hard into the turn three/four wall on lap 93 and during this set-back just shy of the halfway mark pre-race favorites Decker, Fuller, Ward and Jack Johnson retreaded and filled their tanks for the final time. Their strategy seemed more feasible needing to cover 106 laps on a tank of gas compared to the 114 on the docket for Johnson and Horton. With five grand pocketed at the midway point, Laubach gave up the lead to Chad Brachmann under yellow on lap 112 and just 14 more trips around the Salt City oval Johnson assumed control when Brachmann took his no. 3 Original Pizza Logs/Bicknell down pit lane for a fill-up and fresh rubber.
During the final third of the race a handful of yellow flags slowed the action and each time Johnson was able to pull away from Horton on the ensuing retart. Phelps first suffered a blown right-rear tire (lap 140), Brachmann slid up high against the wall below the starter’s stand (lap 147), and fourth-place starter Jeff Trombley lost a left-rear wheel completely to send his machine limping onto pit row (lap 154). Brachmann tangled with Todd Burley knocking both out with 25 still to go and when the track was clean and ready for green Danny Johnson, Horton, Frank Cozze, Alan Johnson and Heffner in a car normally driven by Ron Dwyer at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Horton shadowed Johnson on the lap 184 restart and finally caught the leader high across the line, but Danny quickly retaliated to settle the score for good on lap 192 relegating Horton to runner-up status for the remainder of the race. Under the checkers it was Johnson matching Brett Hearn’s SDW big-block/small-block double recorded in 1990, while Horton’s bid fell two car-lengths shy in command performance.
“You’re always trying to conserve fuel when you run Syracuse and Jimmy just surprised me at the end. We’ve been having bad radio communication all day and I really thought I had about 15 car-lengths on him before he went by. When I saw him go past I just kept in it and made a good run down going into turn three. That kind of woke me up so I stayed pretty hard on the gas the rest of the way,” said Johnson, who posted his fastest lap of the race reaching a peak speed of 115.433 mph on the historic Moody Mile as the fans came to their feet one final time.
Recording his best Eckerd 200 finish since crossing the line third in 2002, Horton fell just .340 seconds shy in his try for a third first-place trophy in the 35th annual autumn race. “We did what we wanted to all race, lull (Danny) to sleep, but then I kinda fell asleep right after that,” said Horton, who has missed only four Super DIRT Week specials since the inaugural all-star event was staged in 1972. “I ran with Danny the whole race, pushing just hard enough when we had to and trying to save fuel the whole way around. We reallt stuck to the game plan and the crew did their job even giving me positions when we stopped. I finally got ahead of Danny but then slipped up just enough to let him by again. I guess he wanted to win this thing just as bad as us,” Horton added.
Current overall Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT points leader Alan Johnson had the best seat in the house as he watched the leaders battle it out as the laps dwindled. “We had a great car and some really good pit stops, we just didn’t need Danny and Jimmy in the field today if we wanted to win,” said Alan, the only driver to win at lease one big-block Modified feature win every year since DIRT MotorSports was established in 1976. “Other than them, fuel was our only real concern today and tires were never an issue. We just ran out of gas coming out here to victory lane. That’s how close it can be out here between winning and just finishing.”
Rounding out the top-10 behind Decker and Heffner were1992 Eckerd 200 champ Richie Tobias Jr., ’04 race winner Tim Fuller, top Team Troyer driver Jimmy Phelps, Pat Ward and Matt Sheppard.
With Super DIRT Week now officially in the record book, all eyes turn to Williams Grove Speedway for the Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRT Series Central Penn 100 presented by Palmer Candy & Heffner Printing on Oct. 15. Alan Johnson holds a commanding 132-point lead over runner-up Decker with just two point shows remaining followed by Fuller, Hearn and Gary Tomkins.
51's MODIFIED MADNESS Presented by Advance Auto PartsCompiled by Mike Twist
News From Throughout The Mod-ern World - North and South, Asphalt and Dirt
DIRT: DANNY JOHNSON WINS AT SYRACUSE
Overshadowed by the exploits of his older brother throughout much of the 2006 race season, Danny Johnson took a front seat on Sunday at the New York State Fairgrounds after capturing his second career Eckerd 200 win in convincing fashion. The $50,000 victory for Johnson completed a rare Super DIRT Week sweep as the Rochester, N.Y. wheelman collected another $20,000 following a decisive victory Saturday afternoon in the headline ITT Industries-Goulds Pumps 150-lap ‘Salute to the Troops’ Mr. DIRT 358-Modified Series showdown.
“This is just a fantastic accomplishment for our team and everybody that’s helped us out along the way,” said Johnson, 46, who began his high-dollar streak last weekend steering Dave Thompson’s no. 27 Troyer entry to the first $20,000 triumph in the Victoria 200 at Fulton Speedway. “We had a lot of well wishers during the week and to take a win back home is a great way to thank everyone that’s stayed behind and supported us when times were tough.”
The tough times appear to be over for Johnson as he led 93 of the 200-lap feature race distance before holding off
another two-time winner Jimmy Horton to score his fifth DIRT Modified win of the year. Sibling Alan Johnson placed third while four-time and defending Eckerd 200 champion Billy Decker settled for fourth ahead of Capital District driver J.R. Heffner, whose fifth-place finish was by far his best in three starts on the Syracuse Mile. Danny’s fifth win of the ’06 campaign improved his lifetime DIRT big-block total to 284 (4th all-time), well behind the 344 feature wins posted by Alan, who tops the entire DIRT circuit with 15 BB triumphs scored this season.
With a weekend of high speed and heavenly sunshine, Super DIRT Week XXXV came down to a test of fuel mileage and tire wear as both Johnson and Horton passed with flying colors in both categories. While Johnson started 10th for the second straight day and Horton filled in 30th on Sunday’s 46-car grid, each made their final pit stop on lap 86 and methodically worked their way towards the front as their opposition backed off one by one. When Johnson inherited the lead on lap 128 following a round of pit stops by the frontrunners, the pair ran one-two the rest of the way with Horton shuffling the deck on lap 191 and D.J. sealing the deal as he forged the seventh and final lead change just a half-lap later.
Johnson's #27 (DIRT Photo)
the only car amongst the front-runners to pit for tires. He rejoined the field in the thirteenth spot.
Only one more green flag lap clicked off before the competition yellow was thrown. The cars remained on the speedway, as the crews made their way onto the racetrack to add only fuel to the machines. After a short break, the engines were re-fired and the drivers were set for the second 75-lap segment. As expected, many drivers were expected to be headed pit side for tires during the last half of the event. Defebo held the point at the break over Paules, Rusty Smith, Dan Jivanelli and Barry Callavini, who also made the show through the consi.
The race restarted, but only one lap later, Jason Arthofer slammed the backstretch wall and brought out the caution. Needing the 'double hook', Arthofer was done for the day.
It became obvious that the front-runners would need to pit soon and as the laps wound down so did Defebo. Earl Paules worked around Defebo for the top spot on lap ninety-six and held command. Defebo began to lose positions and hoped for a caution so he could pit for tires. It happened on lap 110, when Paules spun from the lead. At the time, Zeiner was running second and inherited the top spot. Defebo ducked into the pits during the caution, as did Paules and Steve Whitt.
The race resumed with Zeiner in command over Jivanelli, Chris Whitenight and Tommy Flanagan, but only ten laps later Defebo broke back into the top five, with Paules in tow. Paules and Defebo ran side by side for a number of circuits, and then Paules took the advantage and gained the spot. He moved to third on lap 124 and to second behind Zeiner nine circuits later.
On lap 134, Paules gained the advantage over Zeiner and shot back into the lead. Defebo, while trying to stay with Paules couldn't get around the Zeiner machine as quickly and had to settle in line. With Paules still in command, Defebo finally took second with four laps remaining, but didn't have enough time to chase down the winner.
Paules (Kunkletown, PA) crossed the stripe first ahead of Defebo, Zeiner, Jivanelli and Whitenight. With a left rear tire going down in victory lane, Paules commented on his $4,000 victory by saying "All in all I thought it as a good, clean race. The guys drove clean. Last time I was here we had a pile up on the front stretch and didn't have that today, good race". When asked about his game plan for pitting, Paules noted "Well, we decided we were gonna pit around lap 100 or 110. We knew with past experience here that we'd have a better shot on taking tires late rather than earlier". Paules concluded by thanking all of his crew and all of the fans at the speedway.
TRUE VALUE MODIFIEDS: BERGHMAN NAMED SEEKONK WINNER
With New England Hall of Fame racers on hand, including his legendary father Carl “Bugsie” Stevens, Seekonk, MA, veteran Dave Berghman scored the win Sunday afternoon in the “DAV 100” for the True Value Modified Racing Series.
It was Berghman’s first with the series and the first for car owner Bill Eaton on the third year tour. Berghman becomes the 11th different winner in 2006.
The Night of Modifieds 150 at Southern National Raceway Park that was postponed due to inclement weather has been rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21. The race will still be called the Night of Modifieds, but the race distance has been shortened to 100 laps at the 4/10-mile Kenly, N.C. short track.
The qualifying order for the race will remain the same as it was before the original race date was rained-out on Sat., Oct. 7. L.W. Miller won the Bud Pole with a lap at 96.186 mph but will start eighth after the draw-redraw changed up the first eight positions. Tim Brown will lead
the field to the green flag followed by Brian King, Burt Myers, Jason Myers, Bobby Hutchens, Brian Pack, Junior Miller and L.W. Miller. Earl Baker and Gene Pack round out the Top 10 starters.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour returns to action this Saturday night, Oct. 14 at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. with a tight championship race on the line as Junior Miller leads Tim Brown by only nine races with two events remaining.
MOUNTAIN SPEEDWAY: PAULES CLOSES THE SEASON OUT
Mountain Speedway dropped the curtain on the regular season this Sunday after the running of the 7th annual "King of the Mountain" event, along with over a hundred cars in the pit area for Saturday's time trials more showed up Sunday with hopes of qualifying for the prestigious event. By Sunday's end, Earl "The Pearl" Paules found victory lane in the modified feature.
Time trials were held Saturday, which locked the fifteen fastest qualifiers in Sunday's show by time. All of the drivers who timed outside the top fifteen, along with those who didn't run qualifying laps returned to the speedway Sunday for a shot to get in the big show through consi events.
Three time modified champion, Brian Defebo set fast time Saturday. However, Defebo picked the fourth starting spot on the eight-car redraw. Tim Santee picked the pole and led the modified field to the drop of the green flag for the start of the 150-lap feature event. After leading the first circuit, Santee was overtaken by Zane Zeiner for the top spot. Only nine laps in, Defebo grabbed the lead from Zeiner.
The caution flew on lap eighteen when the '06 modified champion, Eddie Brunnhoelzl, encountered problems with his machine and came to rest on the backstretch. With a good restart, Defebo held off Zeiner, but with twenty-five laps complete, Dave Sapienza moved to second.
Earl Paules began steadily working through the field, as he entered the show through the consi event, and on lap sixty, Paules moved into the runner-up spot after starting twentieth. Sapienza began sliding backwards, as it was obvious that some drivers would need to pit for tires. One lap before the halfway on track fuel stop, Sapienza, Mike Bohn and Jason Arthofer collected in turn three, which brought out the caution. Zeiner was
Junior Miller will lead the Southern Mod teams to Southern National. (51 Photo)
“I thought for sure we’d run out of fuel but a lot of yellow flags probably made the difference,” figured Johnson, referring to the 15 caution periods that slowed the action for 66 laps. The final five yellow flags dropped once Johnson held the point, leaving Horton only a few chances to build up enough momentum to make a clean pass for the lead. The Neshanic Station, N.J. veteran took advantage of a rare opportunity at the end of lap 191 but Johnson stormed back and resumed command by the time both reached turn three on the following circuit.
Pole-sitter Tim Fuller took control on lap one despite Frenchmen David Hebert slamming the outside turn one wall to require a complete restart. The second Canadian to make contact with the outside retaining wall was Brian McDonald and his turn three mishap brought out another yellow flag. Back under green flag conditions the field began to spread out and with 10 laps scored Fuller opened up a comfortable advantage over Advance Auto Parts Triple 20 winners Pat Ward and Jimmy Phelps. Alan Johnson ran fifth while Danny remained stable in the 10th position in the early stages.