Justin Johnson staged a magnificent come back effort, at the tail end of a grueling 200 lap Metro PCS super late model race, and found himself standing in victory lane. Johnson also took home the winner's check worth a whopping $7,777.77. The event was the headline race of the annual Las Vegas Open Comp weekend held November 7th at the three eighths of a mile oval known as the Las Vegas Bullring.
With the extraordinary large winner's pay check, combined with the prestige of winning this particular race, there was a lot of attention on this event and a large amount of entries. Super late model teams from 12 different states and three Canadian provinces arrived in Las Vegas for this annual weekend. The racing format required multiple heat races and a B main to establish the 26 car field for the 200 laps A feature.
Jimmy Parker Jr and Bear Rzesnowiecky led the starting field under the initial green flag. From the very beginning Parker jumped into the lead and quickly demonstrated that he was going to be a major player in this race He dominated the action for the first 65 circuits before there were signs that the car might be going away from him. Team mate Robert Ewing took the point and also appeared to be very strong. Ewing paced the field to the 100 lap competition yellow flag which brought the entire field to the pits for a ten minute period for tires, fuel and adjustments.
Under green flag conditions, for the second 100 lap segment, Ewing continued his domination while Dustin Ash, Jimmy Parker Jr, Justin Johnson and Nick Joanides were doing everything possible to chase him down.
The potential runaway aspect of this race took a very dramatic turn. With 55 laps left in the race, a yellow flag for a spin out brought the top five back together. This caution flag was also the trigger for a chain of events that would greatly alter the race for those top five drivers.
That process began when the field returned to green flag racing with 52 circuits left in the race. On that restart Johnson accidentally hit the rear of the Parker car. Parker sailed high into turn one and was collected by an oncoming car. His night, a well as his hopes for a seven thousand dollar pay day were gone. While the initial hit on the restart was clearly not intentional, the speedway rule book made it necessary to send Johnson's car to the rear of the field.
Under green again Ewing again paced the field as the race leader with Ash and Joanides trying to chase him down. With three lapped cars between the leader and the second place car, the laps were winding down quickly for Ewing. But the late in the event drama was far from over and the complexion of this race was ready to change again.
It came with six laps left in the race. Dustin Ash was riding second at the time when a left rear wheel popped loose. He slid sideways to the top of turn one and hit the wall extremely hard. In fact, it was one of the hardest hits of the entire weekend. Thankfully, the driver quickly exited his car uninjured. The yellow flag turned to red to allow track crews to clean up the accident.
With the field rolling under the yellow flag, Bear Rzesnowiecky pulled his fourth place car behind the wall with mechanical problems. He was shortly followed by Derick Thorn whose fifth place car also expired due to mechanical problems.
All of a sudden Justin Johnson found himself in second and looking down the business end of a green, white checker finish. After being sent to the rear of the field with 52 laps to go, Johnson re entered the top five 16 laps later and worked his way to third when the final caution flag of the race presented itself.
When the shoot out started Johnson made a low line pass, coming off of turn four, to take the lead with two laps left. Joanides followed him to take over second. Ewing, after being so dominant in this race, had to settle for third while Danny Gay and Darren Robertson completed the top five.
After parking his Vision Airlnies Ford in victory lane Johnson showed a great deal of class regarding the hit that removed Jimmy Parker Jr from the race. First off I want to apologize for that, I really didn't mean to do that. I also apologize to anyone else I may have it along the way, he said"
Later, during post race tech inspection, Johnson thanked the principals behind his effort and said "with Kroyer Racing Engines and Vision Airlines behind me it paid off big in the end. I'd also like to thank all of the crew and all of those racing fans who stayed out late watching us.This car is good, some of the best equipment that I've had underneath me. I've had good equipment with other car owners in the past but this is a top notch program and they really have their act together and I feel that we will be moving on up together.".
Further commenting on the incident that put him position for the win, Johnson said "We had a caution with about six to go and that helped us close in on the leader I think had it not been for that caution we probably would have finished second. But the situation was unfortunate for Dustin Ash. He lost a left rear wheel and that was our chance."