If winning the Late Model track championship at the venerable South Boston (Va.) Speedway didn’t garner him enough attention, Justin Johnson has opened the 2010 season with a dominating streak that’s impossible to ignore.
The 23-year-old out of Roxboro, N.C., won again this past Saturday at the .400-mile semi-banked asphalt oval. It’s his fifth win there in seven starts. Even more impressive, Johnson’s gone up to Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. – home turf of three-time national champion Philip Morris – and collected a win and three top 10s in three starts.
“We hit on it from the start,” Johnson said. “We tested two or three times before the season and really put everything together, and felt confident going forward.”
Since April 17, Johnson hasn’t finished worse than third in seven events at the two Virginia short tracks and sits second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship standings.
Connecticut’s Keith Rocco continues to lead with 417 points on the strength of seven wins and nine top fives in 10 asphalt Modified starts. He finished sixth at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway Friday and won at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl Saturday.
Johnson has 382 points, followed by Nebraska’s Craig Preble (345) and Bill Leighton Jr. (300). Preble picked up his seventh dirt Late Model win of the season Saturday with a victory at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb.
Morris won at Motor Mile Saturday to move up to fifth with 277 points.
A driver’s best 18 results are counted toward their state and national points totals.
Johnson finished 38th in the nation in 2009 with two wins and 14 top fives in 21 starts.
“We ran good throughout last year, we were just hit or miss,” Johnson said.
He said the biggest difference has been they have been able to qualify better. The team switched over to a new engine with John West Racing Engines during last season’s title run, and his car owner, Frank Deiny Jr., supplied him with a new chassis this season.
For Johnson, the results have been one signature victory after another.
The first actually came last year, when he won the season finale at South Boston to leapfrog David Quackenbush and Nick Smith to add his name to a list of South Boston track champions that includes Eddie Crouse, Jack Ingram, Geoff Bodine, Sam Ard, David Blankenship, Elliott Sadler, Deiny and Morris.
“I was so nervous going into that last race,” said Johnson, who had graduated in the spring after studying business management at University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “After we won it all, it felt like things were actually accomplishable.”
When Johnson, who works for the family businesses in the Durham, N.C., area, and Deiny discussed 2010 plans over the winter, they discussed bigger goals.
“He wanted to shoot for a state or national championship,” Johnson said. “We knew one of the things we’d have to do is go up to Motor Mile and run well. That’s going to be key for us.”
Johnson opened the year with another win at South Boston. He started ninth and, against a field that included Morris and last year’s Virginia runner-up CE Falk III, drove straight to the front.
“That really gave us momentum to carry through the whole year,” Johnson said.
The first weekend of May, Johnson traveled to Motor Mile, where he turned in a third-place run in the first of two Late Model features before winning the second.
“That was a real big confidence boost,” Johnson said. “It was only my fourth time there. I still don’t think I have quite the hang of the place, but it gives you a lot of confidence to be able to go somewhere else and run well.”
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third 26.
Track, state and province, and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet. The winner of the national championship will also earn a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
National Top 500 NASCAR Points Leaders
Pos Driver Track Starts Wins T-5 T-10 Points
1 Keith Rocco Waterford Speedbowl 10 7 9 10 417
2 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway 10 6 8 10 382
3 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway 9 7 9 9 345
4 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway 10 0 8 10 300
5 Philip Morris Motor Mile Speedway 9 3 6 7 277
6 Matt Buller Junction Motor Speedway 9 1 7 9 269
7 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway 9 4 9 9 264
8 Toby Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway 9 3 8 8 251
9 Travis Swaim Caraway Speedway 10 2 8 10 246
10 Tommy Lemons, Jr Motor Mile Speedway 8 1 3 6 229
11 Nick Smith South Boston Speedway 7 1 6 6 211
12 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway 6 0 5 6 202
13 Randy Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway 8 1 8 8 199
14 Andrew Kosiski Junction Motor Speedway 9 0 3 7 196
15 Les Siebert Junction Motor Speedway 8 0 3 8 194
16 Wayne Ramsey Motor Mile Speedway 5 1 5 5 193
17 Jeremy Burns Greenville-Pickens Speedway 10 0 5 9 192
18 Stacy Puryear South Boston Speedway 7 0 5 6 186
19 Deac Mccaskill South Boston Speedway 7 0 4 6 186
20 Ralph Carnes Greenville-Pickens Speedway 9 0 4 9 186
21 Anthony Anders Greenville-Pickens Speedway 9 1 5 8 185
22 Jason York Caraway Speedway 8 3 6 7 183
23 Mike Looney Motor Mile Speedway 8 0 3 5 182
24 Lee Pulliam South Boston Speedway 7 0 4 5 178
25 Kyle Mansch Hickory Motor Speedway 7 2 5 7 172