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R.J wins at Magnolia as Cooley repeats championship

November 29, 2010, 9:46 am
By Roby Helm
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series

COLUMBUS, Miss. (Nov. 28) – Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., raced to his 14th career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series win Sunday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Johnson earned $2,500 for the win, which came during the Possum Town Grand Prix weekend.

Johnson held off a rival from days gone by to win the 40-lap event. The Hall of Famer battled with Johnny Virden of Russellville, Ark., for the majority of the race. Virden, who raced with Johnson during mid-1990s on the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Late Model Series, made several challenges in the final laps, but had to settle for second.

“I really appreciate the way Johnny Virden raced me tonight as we raced close, but never touched,” Johnson said. “It was a good race for the fans, as we had to chase the track all night long. At first it was tacky, then it slicked up, and then it rubbered up, so I had to keep looking for the right groove for the track conditions.”

Johnson ran a groove just off the inside of the track in the closing laps, leaving just enough room for Virden to run the very bottom groove. Virden was able to get the nose of his race car to the inside of Johnson several times, but Johnson was able to beat him off the corner to post the victory.

Evan Ellis of Plantersville, Miss., finished third and was the VP Racing Fuels Rookie of the Race. Jamie Tollison of Kosciusko, Miss., finished fourth while 2010 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series East Region Champion Chase Edge of Lafayette, Ala., finished fifth.

With his ninth-place finish, Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., wrapped up his second straight NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series National Championship, worth $20,000 to the 19-year-old driver. Larry Harrod of Plains, Ga., finished 10th to claim the $5,000 VP Racing Fuels Rookie of the Year Award.

NeSmith Chevrolet @ Magnolia: (1) Ronnie Johnson, (2) Johnny Virden, (3) Evan Ellis, (4) Jamie Tollison, (5) Chase Edge, (6) Jeremy Shaw, (7) Matthew Turner, (8) Shannon Lee, (9) Eric Cooley, (10) Larry Harrod, (11) Charlie Henderson, (12) Marcus Minga, (13) Rodney Wing, (14) Chris McElhenney, (15) Ryan King, (16) Perry Butler, (17) Justin McRee, (18) Johnny Stokes, (19) Chris Ragan, (20) Chase Washington, (21) Dylan Ames, (22) Victor Turner, (23) Jamie Flannagan, (24) Jimmy Elkins Jr. Fast qualifier (among 38 cars): Lee, 15.621 seconds. Consolation winners: Stokes, Harrod. Provisional starters: McRee, McElhenney

NeSmith points

1. Eric Cooley - 1,902
2. Matthew Turner - 1,828
3. Justin McRee - 1,594
4. Larry Harrod - 1,588
5. Shannon Lee - 1,560
6. Charlie Henderson - 1,538
7. Chris McElhenney - 1,484
8. Michael Blount - 1, 320
9. Marcus Minga - 1,220
10. Johnny Stokes - 952

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