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Magnolia Motor Speedway

Stokes edges Cooley on hot night at Magnolia

August 2, 2010, 9:22 am
By Roby Helm
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
Johnny Stokes smiles in victory lane. (Brian McLeod)
Johnny Stokes smiles in victory lane. (Brian McLeod)

COLUMBUS, Miss. (Aug. 1) — Winning on a track surface he prepared, hometown driver Johnny Stokes of Columbus raced to his first career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series victory Sunday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Stokes, promoter at the 3/8-mile oval, earned $2,000 for the 40-lap victory on a brutally hot Mississippi night.

Race fans who braved triple digit temperatures were treated to three and four wide racing that did nothing to chill the race-time temperature of 102 degrees with a heat index of 118 degrees.

Stokes held off the defending series champion and current points leader Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., by .196 seconds in a side-by-side finish.

Stokes took the lead on lap 28 after early race leader Justin McRee of Tuscaloosa, Ala., lost a driveshaft. McRee had a big lead before his misfortune, and was the only driver on the track not battling wheel-to-wheel for position.

Matthew Turner of Dawsonville, Ga., ran up front all night long, and led for three laps early before settling for third. Stokes, Cooley and Turner spent most of the race battling for second in a duel that turned out to be for the lead after McRee dropped out.

Stokes ran the high side late in the race with Turner in the middle, and Cooley taking the short way around on the bottom of the track. Stokes and Cooley broke free of Turner with two laps to go, and Cooley began to try and set Stokes up for a slide job where he would dive to the bottom of the track and then slide up in front of Stokes.

Cooley made an unsuccessful try on lap 39, but he got a better run going down the backstretch on lap 40. Cooley dove to the inside, and appeared to have Stokes cleared coming off the fourth turn to the checkered flag. Stokes, however, had momentum coming off the high side of turn four and stayed alongside Cooley down the frontstretch.

Cooley had to slow his momentum just enough to keep from running into Stokes on his right, and that’s all Stokes needed to inch ahead at the start-finish line and take the win by less than a half a car-length.

Jamie Tollison of Kosciusko, Miss., took the fourth spot while Jeremy Shaw of Millport, Ala., rounded out the top five. Fast qualifier Chip Brindle of Chatsworth, Ga., was sixth.

NeSmith Chevrolet @ Magnolia: (1) Johnny Stokes, (2) Eric Cooley, (3) Matthew Turner, (4) Jamie Tollison, (5) Jeremy Shaw, (6) Chip Brindle, (7) Chris Ragan, (8) Shannon Lee, (9) Shay Knight, (10) Rodney Wing, (11) Jason Hiett, (12) Larry Harrod, (13) Jay Burchfield, (14) Evan Ellis, (15) Terrance Nowell, (16) Chase Edge, (17) Mark Tice, (18) Chris McElhenney, (19) Marcus Minga, (20) Kevin Henderson, (21) Michael Blount, (22) Justin McRee, (23) Charlie Henderson, (24) Tim Staples. Fast qualifier (among 28 cars): Brindle, 15.864 seconds. Consolation race winners: Shaw, Ragan. Provisional starters: Henderson, McElhenney.

Correction: Fixes that Stokes is sole promoter of Magnolia Motor Speedway.

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