East Alabama Motor Speedway
R.J.'s tripleheader sweep pays $17,000 at EAMS
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com correspondent
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (Oct. 3) – Sunday at East Alabama Motor Speedway Ronnie Johnson proved that he’s still one of the best drivers in the Southeast. Adding to a season that was already his best in recent years, the Hall of Fame dirt racer from Chattanooga, Tenn., led every lap of the 32nd annual Alabama State Championship for his third victory in the $7,000-to-win race.
The win capped off a day that saw Johnson also win the Crate Late Model and sportsman division features. The two races each paid $5,000, pushing Johnson’s total payday to $17,000 as he became the first driver to sweep all three of the event's Late Model divisions.
“We came down here knowing it was possible to win all three of these races today, but I really didn’t expect to happen,” said Johnson, who also won the Super Late Model portion of the event in 2000 and 2006. “The odds are so great for a flat tire or anything to take you out of one race, let alone three. But it all fell in our favor today and we were able to do something really special.”
Johnson started from the pole of the 75-lap super late model feature and grabbed the lead on the start as defending race winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., moved to second from the fourth-place starting position.
The race's opening laps were plagued by cautions as drivers had trouble negotiating a slick racing surface that was wet just before the start of the race.
A number of would-be challengers fell victim to attrition in the early going. Third-starting Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., and Terrance Nowell of Phenix City, Ala., were both involved in an early accident, while Montana Dudley of Phenix City was involved in a separate wreck after starting from the outside of the front row.
World of Outlaws regular Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., transferred into the race through the b-main and advanced from 23rd to fifth in just eight laps before tangling with a slower car.
Each of the restarts allowed Davenport a shot at Johnson, but he was able to pull away each time and began to open a comfortable lead as the race entered its first green-flag run after a lap-12 restart.
As he pulled away from Davenport, Johnson's main concern became avoiding lapped traffic. He overtook all but the top seven cars on his way to opening nearly a straightaway lead through the middle stages of the race.
Davenport began his only serious challenge with 10 laps remaining. He slowly closed the gap between himself and Johnson and pulled within just a few car lengths by lap 70. But his bid to win his second straight Alabama State Championship fell short when he slid out of the racing groove in turn four with three laps remaining.
Johnson pulled away for the win as Davenport settled for the runner-up finish in an event postponed a week after a Sept. 26 rainout.
“The track finally started taking rubber there towards the end of the race,” said Davenport, who also won the National 100 last year at East Alabama. “I was able to get to him, but I just got a little too high and let him get away.
“Ronnie’s hard to beat at this place. He knows the way around here as good as anyone and he proved it today.”
Aaron Ridley of Chatsworth, Ga., advanced from the 10th starting position to finish third followed by William Thomas of Phenix City in fourth and Jake Knowles of Tyrone, Ga., in fifth.
Johnson also led every lap of the crate late model feature, taking the win ahead of Scott Knowles of Lanett, Ala., and Nowell.
The only laps Johnson failed to lead on the day were the first 13 laps of the sportsman feature. Those were led by Bobby Thomas of Phenix City. Johnson overtook Thomas with a high-side pass and led the remainder of the event. Thomas held on for second ahead of William Thomas.
Super Late Model feature: (1) Ronnie Johnson, (2) Jonathan Davenport, (3) Aaron Ridley, (4) William Thomas, (5) Jake Knowles, (6) Rick Rogers, (7) Marvin Cook, (8) Lavon Sparks, (9) Tyler Millwood, (10) Dennis Hale, (11) Danny Stroud, (12) Donald Bradsher, (13) Terrance Nowell, (14) Gar Dickson, (15) Mark Sims, (16) Frank Wilson, (17) Montana Dudley, (18) Clint Smith, (19) Dusty Chitwood, (20) Monk Gulledge, (21) Mitch Fulford, (22) Jody Knowles, (23) Casey Roberts, (24) Mike Nasworthy. Fast qualifier: Davenport. Heat race winners: Johnson, Dudley, Roberts. B-main winner: Smith.
Crate Late Model feature: (1) Ronnie Johnson, (2) Scott Knowles, (3) Terrance Nowell, (4) Rogerick Dykes, (5) Tod Darda, (6) Chase Edge, (7) Larry Harrod, (8) Jack Mills, (9) Chip Brindle, (10) Kevin Maher, (11) Billy Franklin, (12) Jenson Ford, (13) Hunter Peacock, (14) Shane Stodghill, (15) Russ Ogletree. (16) Brandon Overton, (17) Richie Stephens, (18) Mitch Fulford, (19) Paul Walters, (20) Brandon Williams, (21) Todd Marrow, (22) Brian Smith, (23) Brian Conner, (24) Chris Usry.
Sportsman feature: (1) Ronnie Johnson, (2) Bobby Thomas, (3) William Thomas, (4) Logan Yates, (5) Joe Armistead, Jr., (6) Tyler Ivey, (7) Adam Giles, (8) Billy Franklin, (9) Rucker Orr, (10) Ricky Culpepper, (11) Kenny Collins, (12) Mike Nasworthy, (13) Michael Pope, (14) Oliver Gentry, (15) Will Herrington, (16) Glenn Brewer, (17) Pat Wall, (18) Arlene Pittman, (19) Phil Pittman, (20) Jeremy Britton, (21) JR Moseley, (22) Larry Guilford, (23) Lee Mason.