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Columbus Speedway

Thomas slips by Johnson for victory at Columbus

January 24, 2010, 6:36 am
By Roby Helm
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series

COLUMBUS, Miss. (Jan. 23) — William Thomas of Phenix City, Ala., overtook polesitter Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., on the 35th lap and went on to the the Crate Late Model portion of the Winter Classic at Columbus Speedway. Thomas earned $2,500 for his 40-lap victory on the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series, his fourth career series triumph. | Dacus wins Super Late Models

Thomas started outside of the front row and battled for most of the event with Johnson, who held the bottom groove on the quarter-mile clay oval to lead the first 34 laps with Thomas to his outside.

On a lap-34 restart, Thomas got a run on Johnson and the frontrunners raced side-by-side for a lap until Thomas took the lead going down the backstretch on lap 35. Once at the head of the field, Thomas was able to drive on to the win.

“I went a little soft on tires tonight, and I thought I had worn it out by the halfway point,” Thomas said. “I dropped back to the third spot, but the caution flags we had in the second half of the race cooled off my right-rear tire and brought it back to life.”

The Hall of Famer Johnson, gunning for his fourth straight Winter Classic victory, settled for a second-place finish.

“We’ve won a lot of Winter Classics here at Columbus Speedway, and we won here last November, but we got outrun tonight and finished second,” Johnson said. “William drove a good clean race, so finishing second isn’t the end of the world, and it was still a good night.”

Justin McRee of Cuba, Ala., who briefly held the second spot just past the midpoint, finished third followed by Chris Ragan of Ramer, Tenn., and reigning series champion Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss.

Notes: Thomas drove a Scorpion Race Car sponsored by J.W. Miller Land and Timber. ... Matthew Turner of Dawsonville, Ga., who finished 10th, competed in his 87th consecutive series event. He also finished third in the Super Late Model portion of the Winter Classic, won by Dane Dacus of Lakeland, Tenn. ... Sixteen of 24 starters completed 40 laps. ... Mike Palasini Jr., took hard charger honors with his 17th-to-eighth run. ... Next up on the NeSmith tour is the $4,000-to-win Winter Bash on Feb. 12-13 at Whynot (Miss.) Motorsports Park, an event postponed by weather in mid-January.

NeSmith @ Columbus: (1) William Thomas, (2) Ronnie Johnson, (3) Justin McRee, (4) Chris Ragan, (5) Eric Cooley, (6) Dan Breuer, (7) Jason Wilson, (8) Mike Palasini Jr., (9) Nick Lyons, (10) Matthew Turner, (11) Bryan Bernhardt, (12) Johnny Stokes, (13) Marcus Minga, (14) Evan Ellis, (15) Pete Cochran, (16) Chris O'Connor, (17) Chris McElhenney, (18) Troy Dixon, (19) Shannon Lee, (20) Jay Burchfield, (21) Charlie Henderson, (22) Brian Smith, (23) Ross Camponovo, (24) Jamie Elam. Fast qualifier (among 38 cars): Johnson, 14.469 seconds. Consolation race winners: Lyons, Breuer.

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