Ontario County Fairgrounds all-time winningest driver returns as 'Land of Legends' regular.
Canandaigua, NY – April 22, 2012 – The last year Alan Johnson was a regular weekend warrior at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, Bill Clinton had just begun his second term as U.S. President, golfer Tiger Woods became the youngest winner in Masters tournament history and a tragic car crash claimed the life of Princess Diana in Paris.
That was 1997 and the name of Johnson's Saturday night hangout was Canandaigua Speedway where the Phelps, N.Y. pilot steered the no. 12T Thum Racing machine to three feature wins and second-place in the final Big-Block Modified point standings.
Today, at age 54 and residing in nearby Middlesex, Canandaigua Motorsports Park's all-time winningest driver is back at the track he helped mold into the 'Land of Legends,' where he scored his first-ever Big-Block win in 1975 and the same half-miler he hopes to make it 115 before 2012 comes to a close.
“Right now I think I'd be happy to get just one win,” remarked Johnson, who registered win number 114 at Canandaigua in a 2008 Super DIRTcar Series show while a pair of Small-Block victories improves his overall CMP total to 116. “Its always good if you can win but running consistently is what we're still after.”
“There are no easy fields at any tracks nowadays, and very few dominant cars around any more like maybe Matt (Sheppard) or Danny (Johnson) at Canandaigua. So taking home a Top-5 seems pretty good. It must be really exciting for the fans with so many guys that can win, I know the shows have had a lot of action from where I'm sitting,” Johnson said.
As the only driver to win at least one feature since the DIRTcar organization was founded in 1976, Johnson has run against the best in the Northeast, with many calling Canandaigua home throughout his career. Names like Cagle, Treichler, McCreadie, McLaughlin, Rudolph and Plazek fill the modern-day fairgrounds record book, with only Johnson active and now enjoying his 39th season behind the wheel.
This time around, Johnson looks to unseat two-time and defending track champion Matt Sheppard and 2011 runner-up Justin Haers, along with his younger brother Danny Johnson, CMP veterans Steve Paine and Gary Tomkins, and a host of upstarts led by Rob Bellinger and Vince Vitale.
“I don't think my driving has changed much, still have pretty good reflexes,” figured Johnson, a five-time points champ at Canandaigua with his last title shared in 1988 with Southern Tier invader Chuck Akulis. 1982 marked his most successful campaign at CMP when he racked up 12 Modified mains, that year following a 10-win season at Canandaigua aboard the first experimental Troyer Mud Buss. “Its just a matter of getting the car dialed in.”
“Even then there's no guarantee with the competition out there. Canandaigua has one of the strongest weekly fields around again in terms of experience, maybe a dozen guys that can win and not be surprized. A couple (wins) there for me this year and I'll probably be the most surprized,” Johnson affirmed.
'A.J. Slideways' returns to Canandaigua teamed with Syracuse businessman Kenny Saya, already scoring a Florida Tour victory in February to launch the first full season together. Familiar aboard 14J-numbered machines for most of his trackside tenure, Johnson will be buckled into Saya's no. 10J Commercial Roofing & Sheetmetal/Bicknell entry every Saturday in wine country.
“We've been leaning toward running Canandaigua all year, and fortunately been doing good there so far,” said Johnson, who kicked off the CMP season April 7 with a 10th-place finish in the 'Jan Corcoran Memorial' Super DIRTcar Series opener and followed up with a solid 4th-place tally in round two to rank fifth in points. “Its been fun racing there with the excellent track conditions and I know Kenny wanted a change anyway.”
“I still remember my first win at Canandaigua beating out Johnny McArdell, then getting the 100th the first time I drove for the Thums (1995),” added Johnson, whose only other Saturday night homes have been Fulton (NY) Speedway and Merrittville Speedway in the Canadian province of Ontario; both sites handing him track crowns along the way. “But not too much more in between.”
“The surface was usually pretty racy and the track always seemed to attract a lot of travelers. The years we could run drag rubber were some of our best. They made the cars run real fast and were fun to drive. We won a lot more back then so that probably added to all the fun,” Johnson said.
Johnson gets another crack at victory lane on Saturday as the 49th season of stock car racing continues at Canandaigua Motorsports Park with a full card of Original Pizza Logs Modified, Safety Awareness Solutions Sportsman, Parts Plus Street Stock, Pure Stock and New Legends Sportsman racing plus the season debut for Castner Performance 305 Sprints. Pits gates open at 4pm, grandstand seating begins at 5 o'clock and race time is slated for 7.
For more information, please contact CMP Promoter Jeremie Corcoran via cell 315-374-2839 or e-mail email@example.com. To discuss marketing opportunities still available at the track in 2012, Joe Bailey (585-500-8852, firstname.lastname@example.org) can also be reached during the week.
Canandaigua Motorsports Park is located at the Ontario Co. 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.