Posted: Tuesday, June 10th 2014 at 12:00pm
Johnson wins 2nd straight J.T. Kerr Memorial at 411
By Roby Helm
Ronnie Johnson celebrates his second straight J.T. Kerr Memorial 40 victory on Saturday night at 411 Motor Speedway. / Photo: Chad Wells
SEYMOUR, TN – Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN took the lead on lap 23 and then checked out to win his second straight J.T. Kerr Memorial 40 Saturday night at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, TN for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series. It was also the third win of the season for “The Chattanooga Flash” in the NeSmith Chevrolet Special, and the 20th victory of his series career.
Johnson ran the top groove of 411 Motor Speedway all night long and made several challenges on early leader Jimmy Elliott of Cleveland, TN, but it wasn’t until the second half of the race that Johnson’s racer came alive. Once Johnson got around Elliott for the lead on lap 23, he pulled away to take just over a five second margin of victory at the checkered flag.
“It meant a lot to me to win my first J.T. Kerr Memorial Trophy last year, and it means just as much to win it again,” Johnson said. “I want to dedicate this win to the Kerr Family because they are carrying on the racing tradition that J.T. started so many years ago and they have done a lot for the sport.”
Elliott was able to hold off a late race challenge from Mack McCarter of Gatlinburg, TN to take the second spot and McCarter finished third to keep the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series battle for the $20,000 National Champion close. Johnson now leads McCarter by 10 points at the top of the standings.
Tanner Works of Cleveland, TN finished fourth and Ryan King of Seymour, TN was fifth. Chris Noah of Rainbow City, AL charged from the 22nd starting spot to come home in the sixth spot and take Rookie of the Race honors.
Matt Henderson of Loudon, TN took the seventh spot and Rusty Ballenger of Sevierville, TN finished eighth. Jake Teague of Oliver Springs, TN was ninth and Adam Beeler of Knoxville, TN rounded out the top ten.
In preliminary action, Elliott was the fast qualifier among the 28 entrants with a lap around the 3/8-mile high-banked clay oval in 14.553 seconds. The two ten-lap B-Main races were won by Teague and Walker Arthur of Forest, VA.
Elliott took the lead at the start of the race followed by McCarter and Johnson, but coming off the fourth turn on the first lap, a multi-car tangle from fourth on back ensued to bring out the caution flag and necessitate a complete restart. Elliott again took the lead on the second try with McCarter, Johnson, Greg Martin of Oliver Springs, TN and Jacob Anderson of Murphy, NC in tow.
Johnson began his march to the front from the third starting spot and by lap four had pulled alongside McCarter to battle for the second position. The two combatants for the series title raced side-by-side for a lap with Johnson on the inside and McCarter on the outside. Lap five saw Johnson work under McCarter to take the second spot
Works moved up into the top five on lap eight, but by that time, the lead quartet of Elliott, Johnson, McCarter and Martin had pulled out to a full straightaway advantage over the fifth-place runner. That all changed on lap ten when Todd Morrow of East Ridge, TN, Johnny Stokes of Columbus, MS, and Arthur tangled in turn one to bring out the second caution flag of the race.
Ballenger, Warren McMahan of White Pine, TN, Marty Calloway of Maynardville, TN and Noah got together in turn one to bring out the caution flag. Elliott again led the field down for the restart with Johnson, McCarter, Martin, Works, King, Anderson, Stokes, Jenson Ford of Piney Flats, TN and Arthur doubled up behind him.
Ford spun out of the ninth spot on lap 14 in turn two to bring out the fourth caution flag of the race. That moved Teague up into the top ten for the next restart. The racing got intense after the green flag came back out, as Elliott and Johnson battled for the lead.
Johnson was able to pull up alongside Elliott on the outside, but Elliott was able to get enough bite coming off the inside of the corners to drift up in front of Johnson to slow his high side momentum. On lap 16, Johnson looked again to the high side going into turn three, but made a sudden move to the bottom of the track and got his nose inside Elliott.
Elliott closed the door on Johnson in turn four, causing Johnson to get hard on the brakes and slide up the banking. That opened the door for McCarter to drive under Johnson for second coming off the fourth turn. Johnson gathered up his race car, and again set sail around the top shelf of 411 Motor Speedway.
Johnson caught back up to McCarter on lap 18, and then sailed around the outside to retake the second spot coming off the fourth turn on lap 19. The fifth caution flag of the race came out on lap 21 when Michael Blount of Sumrall, MS spun in turn two.
The top ten for the restart at the halfway point in the race was Elliott, Johnson, McCarter, Martin, Stokes, Henderson, Works, King, Teague and Noah. Johnson got up a head of steam on the restart and got alongside Elliott. With Johnson on Elliott’s outside, the leader could no longer drift up in front of the Hall of Fame driver.
Johnson nosed out in front of Elliott going down the backstretch on lap 23, and then cleared the leader to take the point coming off the fourth turn. Works was another driver on the move, as he got around Henderson and Stokes to climb into the fifth spot. Blount spun again in turn four on lap 28 to bring out the sixth caution flag of the race.
Martin and Works got together in the first turn on the restart while battling for fourth to bring out the seventh and final caution flag of the race. The collision sent Martin to the pits, while Works was able to continue and restart in the fourth spot left vacant by Martin’s departure.
After the restart, Johnson began to seal the deal. With ten laps to go, Johnson had pulled out to a half straightaway lead over Elliott, and with five to go, Johnson had stretched it out to a full straightaway lead.
With Johnson now out of his line of sight, Elliott had fast company and something else to pay attention to in the last five laps of the race. McCarter pulled up on the outside to challenge for the second spot. Elliott was able to keep McCarter behind him and take the runner-up spot.
The next three races for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series will take place over the July 4 Holiday weekend. Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, AL will host a $2,000-to-win 40-lap race on July 3, East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, AL will have a 50-lap $2,500-to-win race on July 4, and then it’s Penton Raceway in Penton, AL for a 50-lap $2,500-to-win race.
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
411 Motor Speedway - Seymour, TN
J.T. Kerr Memorial 40 - June 7, 2014
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER
1. 3 5 Ronnie Johnson Chattanooga, TN 40 $4,000
2. 1 J39 Jimmy Elliott Cleveland, TN 40 $1,250
3. 2 51 Mack McCarter Sevierville, TN 40 $850
4. 6 T35 Tanner Works Cleveland, TN 40 $700
5. 7 52 Ryan King
6. 22 56 Chris Noah (R) Rainbow City, AL 40 $550
7. 13 17 Matt Henderson Loudon, TN 40 $500
8. 15 29 Rusty Ballenger Sevierville, TN 40 $450
9. 11 117 Jake Teague Oliver Springs, TN 40 $400
10. 4 66 Adam Beeler Knoxville, TN 40 $375
11. 20 18 Chase Edge LaFayette, AL 40 $350
12. 12 87 Walker Arthur Forest, VA 40 $300
13. 21 79c Marty Calloway Maynardville, TN 40 $280
14. 18 24g Barry Goodman Spring City, TN 40 $260
15. 23 19 Marcus Minga Shannon, MS 40 $250
16. 17 33 Warren McMahan White Pine, TN 39 $240
17. 5 24 Greg Martin Oliver Springs, TN 27 $220
18. 16 1 Johnny Stokes Columbus, MS 27 $200
19. 8 64 Jacob Anderson Murphy, NC 27 $200
20. 19 121 Michael Blount Sumrall, MS 26 $200
21. 9 83 Jensen Ford Piney Flats, TN 18 $200
22. 14 56r Jonathan Rowan Whiteville, TN 12 $200
23. 10 8a Todd Morrow East Ridge, TN 9 $200
24. 24 31 Gusty Christenberry Seymour, TN 0 $200
Link: NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
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