Epic charge from 18th in caution-free Modified main nets 74th career CMP triumph
Canandaigua, NY – May 5, 2012 – In a flawless flag-to-flag performance staged Saturday at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, second-generation standout Danny Johnson emerged as the first repeat winner of the young season in the Original Pizza Logs Big-Block Modified ranks, making Morrisville State College-Labatt Blue/Blue Light Nite one of the most memorable of the millennium in the process.
Johnson navigated around the fast Ontario Co. Fairgrounds half-miler after starting 18th in the stacked field of 24 racers, with Gary Tomkins becoming the final victim with just two to go in the headline 35-lapper for the mighty Modifieds.
Mike Welch (Parts Plus Street Stock), Vance Vanderwall (Pure Stock) and Billy Brown (New Legends Sportsman) joined Johnson in their own victory lane celebrations while Rich Swarthout was credited with the Sportsman Modified win despite a post-race infraction diluting his first checkered flag of the 2012 campaign.
Chad Douglas fulfilled a life-long dream by taking top honors in the 1-on-1 Spectator Races to cap off another entertaining card on a cool night in Canandaigua.
During intermission prior to the start of the featured events, drivers scaled the main grandstands collecting donations on behalf of the Finger Lakes Region chapter of the March of Dimes. A total of $1045 was raised and will go towards the fundraising goals of the Canandaigua March for Babies Walk, scheduled May 12 at nearby Sonnenberg Gardens Historic Park on Charlotte Street in downtown Canandaigua.
While the show marked Johnson's 74th career Big-Block triumph scored at the hallowed 'Land of Legends' layout over the past 30 years, far fewer have provided his loyal fan following with the same amount of drama in such a short period of time. Positioned ahead of the Rochester native on the starting grid were such notables as points leader Matt Sheppard, older brother Alan Johnson, last week's winner Billy Dunn, veterans Steve Paine and Tomkins, upstarts Rob Bellinger and Peter Britten, and top tour traveler Jimmy Phelps ...and it took just 12 minutes to dispose of each.
“Its really hard to believe I'm standing n victory lane tonight,” remarked Johnson, who didn't post his first win at Canandaigua last season until mid-July en route to taking a trio of checkered flags by September. The son of 1961 CMP champ Milt Johnson has already won twice after securing opening night honors in the Super DIRTcar Series Corcoran Memorial held the first week of April. “I'm just dumfounded at the moment but its still great to be here.”
“I cried about the car, the way its been running. We've been struggling, struggling, struggling but these (crew) guys worked really hard to get it going good. Still can't believe we made it here, its really awesome. Can't thank everybody enough, especially the Chryslers for all their support,” said Johnson, as he returned to the spotlight during the festive winner's circle presentations.
Third-place starter Mike O'Brien took advantage of pole-sitter Daryl Hilkert slipping high on the opening circuit to grab the early lead while Tomkins maneuvered his way into the runner-up slot with five laps complete. While O'Brien stretched the distance out front, plenty of eyes were fixed on all-time Canandaigua feature winner Alan Johnson, who began 13th and had cracked the front-five a dozen laps in.
'A.J. Slideways' rolled into third past Tim Currier on lap 18 and after just two more times around Tomkins shot past O'Brien high out of turn four to take over first. Hard-charging Danny Johnson was scored fifth behind division rookie Justin Wright with 15 laps left, yet more than a straightaway deficit and not a single yellow flag in sight seemed as critical to overcome as Tomkins himself.
The youngest Johnson sibling suddenly put the potent no. 27J Page Trucking-Honeoye Auto Parts-Waste Management/Bicknell in high-gear, rim-riding around the track in do-or-die fashion over the remaining distance. A bonzai move high around Alan high in turn four and O'Brien as the threesome jockeyed down the front straightaway elevated Danny into second-place with Tomkins clinging to first as the scoreboard flashed 30 laps complete. The mission was accomplished three laps later as Johnson bolted ahead high out of turn four with chief starter Scott Hixson displaying parellel flags signaling just two to go.
“I'm not really a big fan of starting in the back with the handicapping but that gave me the opportunity to get behind some of the other competitors and see what they're doing,” noted Johnson, after finishing with a 10 car-length margin over Alan, who edged Tomkins on the final circuit with Phelps and Britten crossing next. “You get to see where they're running fast and what's working good for them so you can adjust your lane.”
“Pete Britten showed me how fast it was up top in (turns) three and four and I started using that line. And that's really what propelled us to the front,” Johnson added.
The 25-lap Safety Awareness Solutions Sportsman feature was just as dramatic as the Modified main and nearly as dominating in the end for Swarthout, who rebounded after being unable to even start the feature last week due to mechanical problems. The routine inspection, however, revealed other issues as it was determined that non-standard bolts were used on the team's GM crate engine and the result was loss of all points and money earned along with suspension from further competition for the remainder of the season.
“We've been having some problems here the last couple weeks, think we finally got (car) dialed in,” Clifton Springs' Swarthout said prior to his fifth career CMP Sportsman triumph being tarnished by the customary post-race technical proceedings. “This is good for my car owner Tom Fox, he's been working with me and dumped a lot of money into the program this year. So this is for him.”
Except for the yellow lights coming on lap one to realign the original starting field, the Sportsman effort mirrored that of the Big-Blocks as the entire distance went green to checkers in near record time. Swarthout put the no. p5s Fox's Auto-Dar's Auto-Beck's Recycling-Tri County Excavating/Bicknell machine out front early ahead of Rob Bussey and Greg Cool and the order remained intact the rest of the way.
Bussey took advantage of heavy traffic in the closing laps to pull up to the leader's rear bumper, yet lapped cars ultimately worked in favor of the winner as Swarthout salvaged a two car-length margin en route to the apparent victory. Frank 'Bubba' Burnell, Jr. registered his best career finish in fourth while division points leader and defending champion Dan Wiesner tallied his third Top-5 in four starts.
On the heels of a pair of runner-up and third-place finishes, all-time CMP division winner Welch returned to familiar form in logging his 44th career victory in the 15-lap Parts Plus Street Stock feature. But not after swapping the point four times with eventual runner-up Nate Peckham, who was locked on course for a second straight win in Canandaigua's premier full-fender class.
“Feels real good after struggling with this car all year,” said Welch, after nipping Peckham by a mere half car-length at the wire with two-time winner Russ Marsden shadowing both across the line. “There's some fast cars here, a lot of competition every week and we're having a blast.”
“The whole crew keeps working hard and my chassis guy was here tonight. He found some things wrong for me and they seemed to work. The car worked good on the bottom tonight, kind of slippery there but smooth with a lot of different lanes and wicked fast. That's what we like,” added seven-time CMP points champ Welch from Lyons, who overtook Marsden by just two markers in the standings after four events.
Welch sped past pole-sitter Jack Terrell on the second circuit with Peckham following in fast pursuit. Making his season debut, C.J. Guererri looped his mount twice to incur a pair of cautions early on and Peckham managed to out-drag Welch on both restarts to hold short-lived leads.
Welch put his Original Pizza Logs no. 00 Yukon Gear & Axle-Parts Plus Chevrolet Impala under Peckham for the final time on lap eight before squelching any chance to make it two in a row on successive Saturdays. Terrell and Pat Hobbs filled out the front five well behind Marsden at the stripe.
A dozen Pure Stockers signed in to kick off the month of May at Canandaigua yet the season-high car count had little effect on the final outcome as Vance Vanderwall kept his record unblemished with victory number four on the season.
“Never expected to win this many so soon but I spent two years building this car making sure I did everything right,” noted Vanderwall, after doubling his career win total to eight in just four shows held this season. “I know guys like Marc (Minutolo, '11 points champ) are fast and so are the Ransomville (Speedway) teams. I knew they were coming here tonight and that gave me more motivation. Knew I had my work cut out for me when they showed up.”
Still looking for his initial feature win of 2012, Minutolo led the first half of the 12-lap race before Vanderwall stormed by down the back straightaway steering the no. 742 Pulcini Contracting-Carriarge Stop Restoration Chevrolet Monte Carlo mount. The Palmyra pilot proceeded to open up a commanding lead with Minutolo pulling pitside soonafter to open the door for Ransomville regulars Alex Morris and Mike Greenawalt, both from Niagara Falls. Roger Bush and Mike Minutolo Sr. rounded out the Top-5 in the final rundown.
The New Legends Sportsman opened the five-star card and the three-wide 'photo finish' gave Brown his second career open-wheel victory a fraction of a second over Andrew Jacobson and little more ahead of second-year driver Jon Ellsworth.
“Andy was a crew member of mine for a lot of years and he did a great job, really didn't want to get into or touch him at the end,” said Brown, who was accompanied by his father Charlie and girlfriend Dina in the winner's circle. “We kinda got together there a bit but we were just going for the win.”
“I went a little wide into (turn) three on the last lap, had to make a run back and he was on the inside. Had no idea who won it, got to the third turn and nobody was saying anything on the radio. It was that close,” beamed Brown, after parking the no. 16 Brown Motorsports-Frost Racing/Bicknell in victory lane in just his second time out this season.
Brown nosed ahead of race-long leader Jacobson with one to go in the 10-lap feature yet gave it back briefly as the top two diced side-by-side entering turn three. Brown drifted high in the final corners yet never let off the gas heading down the homestretch and grazing the front cement wall, ultimately edging Jacobson by .006-sec. while Ellsworth ducked low to finish only .17-sec. Back. Kaitlin Pashina settled for a solid fourth-place ahead of season-opening winner Josh Livingston.
The 1-on-1 Spectator showdown attracted six entries with Douglas buckled into his white green Ford Escort taking the first-place trophy over Bill Weller's black Toyota Celica in the single-elimination special.
In honor of Mother's Day, the first 200 moms through the gate will receive a special holiday gift from the Corcoran Family on Saturday, May 12 when Mothers of Racing present a complete card of Original Pizza Logs Big-Block Modified, Safety Awarness Solutions Sportsman, Parts Plus Street Stock, Pure Stock and New Legends Sportsman racing plus Castner Performance 305 Sprints and Pit Stop Challenge on Scout Night. Pit gates unlock at 4pm, grandstands open at 5pm and the first qualifying heat goes green at 7pm.
For more information, please contact Jeremie Corcoran via cell 315-374-2839 or e-mail email@example.com. Contact CMP Marketing Director Joe Bailey (585-500-8852, firstname.lastname@example.org) during the week to discuss marketing opportunities still available at the track in 2012.
Canandaigua Motorsports Park is located at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, east of the city on Town Line Road (County Road 10), with easy access off either Exit 43 (Manchester, Route 21 South) or Exit 44 (Farmington, Route 332 South) of the New York State Thruway, just ½-hour southeast of Rochester.