Posted: Monday, June 16th 2014 at 12:15pm
Johnson dominates 'The Taz' for Chevy Super Series win
By Roby Helm
Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN hoists his second Gold Helmet Trophy of the 2014 season after winning the 50-lap Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series main event on Saturday night at Tazewell Speedway. / Photo: Brian McLeod
TAZEWELL, TN – Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN scored a dominating win on Saturday night in the 50-lap Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series main event at Tazewell Speedway in Tazewell, TN, driving the NeSmith Chevrolet Special. Johnson earned the pole position with Fast Time honors, took the lead on lap six, and never looked back to take his second straight series victory.
“The Chattanooga Flash” was aggressive, turning laps around the ¼-mile high-banked clay oval from the first practice lap, through qualifying while setting fast time at 11.871 seconds, and all 50-laps of the main event, he was asked after the race if he was mad at somebody.
“Things happen fast at this race track, and if you try to take it easy, you can end up going from being the leader to last in a hurry,” Johnson said. “When you get to the lapped cars, you’ve got to get by them in a hurry. When I was in lapped traffic, I didn’t know how big of a lead I had, but I saw the flashes from the photographers’ cameras, and that usually means you’ve got close company.”
Johnson’s closest challenger was not in the same frame of the photographers’ view finders. The closest challengers to Johnson were in a different zip code from the race leader. Johnson had almost a half lap lead on second-place before a lap 35 caution flag closed up the field with 15 laps to go.
When Johnson took the checkered flag, he had a 2.379 margin of victory over Tyler Crowder of Lamont, FL. Crowder was involved in back-and-forth battle for the second spot with Jacob Grizzle of Blairsville, GA, who finished third.
Jake Knowles of Tyrone, GA finished fourth and Dingus Griffin of Ohatchee, AL drove to a fifth-place finish. Matthew Turner of Dawsonville, GA charged from the 12th starting spot to finish sixth.
Jadon Frame of Winchester, TN was seventh and was the Rookie of the Race. Brent Barrett of Cleveland, MS took the eighth spot and Chase Edge of LaFayette, AL finished ninth. Lavon Sparks of Phenix City, AL rounded out the top ten.
With the win, Johnson extended his point lead over Crowder to 16 points. Johnson has 392 points to 376 points for Crowder. Griffin is third in the battle for the $10,000 National Championship with 370 points, and Knowles is fourth with 354 points. Grizzle has the fifth spot in the standings with 342 points.
Edge is sixth in the Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series standings with 316 points, and also takes over the point lead for the 2014 Rookie of the Year honors. Sparks and Frame are tied for the seventh spot with 306 points apiece.
Barrett is ninth with 304 points, and Mark Dowdy of Waterloo, AL moves into the tenth spot in the Chevy Super Series standings with 286 points after finishing 11th in the race. Joining Edge in the battle for the 2014 Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series Rookie of the Year honors are Frame and Barrett.
When the field took the green flag to start the race, Johnson raced side-by-side with the outside front row starter Crowder on the opening tour. Crowder had the momentum coming off the fourth turn to take the lead followed by Johnson, Grizzle, Griffin and Mack McCarter of Gatlinburg, TN.
The restart saw Johnson choose the outside for the “Dixie-Style” double-file restart behind the race leader Crowder. After the restart, Johnson cleared Grizzle off the second turn, and then dove to the inside to challenge Crowder for the lead. On lap six, Crowder got a little loose coming off the second turn, and Johnson charged underneath to take the lead.
By the tenth lap, Johnson had opened up a half straightaway lead on Crowder. Johnson caught the cars on the tail of the lead lap by lap 14. With Johnson pulling away from Crowder, Grizzle began looking inside the second-place car on lap 15.
The only thing that could slow Johnson down was a caution flag on lap 24 when Dowdy stalled on the backstretch. Before the caution flag came out, Johnson had almost a half lap lead on Crowder. Johnson left the rest of the field once again after the restart, and Grizzle was able to get Crowder for second.
Johnson hit a wave of lapped traffic on lap 33, but had over a half a straightaway lead on Grizzle. Sparks cut down a tire on lap 36 to bring out the fourth and final caution flag. Grizzle chose the inside for the double-file restart with Crowder to his right on the outside behind Johnson. During the caution period, McCarter gave up the fourth spot and went to the pits with overheating issues.
The top ten for the restart was Johnson, Grizzle, Crowder, Griffin, Knowles, Frame, Turner, Barrett, Edge, and Griffin. When the green flag came out for the restart, Crowder got back around Grizzle for second, and Knowles passed Griffin for fourth. The battle for second stayed hot and heavy for the next six laps, as the two drivers raced side-by-side.
On lap 39, it was Grizzle racing inside Crowder for the spot. Crowder sailed around the outside of Grizzle to reclaim the second spot on lap 40. Grizzle said, “Not so fast,” as he got back underneath Crowder for second on lap 41. Crowder returned fire on lap 42 when he drove around the outside of Grizzle, and then sealed the deal by putting a car-length between himself and the third-place driver.
While Crowder and Grizzle raced side-by-side, lap-after-lap for the second spot, Johnson got further and further ahead of them. Johnson had once again stretched out to a full straightaway lead by lap 44. Johnson was in lapped traffic at the end of the race, but was “cautiously aggressive” to the checkered flag.
Johnson was right. Things do happen fast at The Bad Fast Taz, as it took the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee 18 minutes and 38.480 seconds to run 50 laps including the four caution periods.
Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series
Tazewell Speedway in Tazewell, TN
Race Results – June 14, 2014
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER
1. 1 5 Ronnie Johnson Chattanooga, TN 50 $3,000
2. 2 47 Tyler Crowder Lamont, FL 50 $1,500
3. 4 99 Jacob Grizzle Blairsville, GA 50 $1,000
4. 5 66 Jake Knowles Tyrone, GA 50 $850
5. 3 49 Dingus Griffin Ohatchee, AL 50 $750
6. 12 10 Matthew Turner Dawsonville, GA 50 $700
7. 8 J8 Jadon Frame (R) Winchester, TN 50 $650
8. 10 110 Brent Barrett (R) Cleveland, MS 48 $600
9. 7 18 Chase Edge (R) LaFayette, AL 48 $550
10. 11 11 Lavon Sparks Phenix City, AL 47 $500
11. 9 88 Mark Dowdy Waterloo, AL 46 $475
12. 6 51 Mack McCarter Gatlinburg, TN 35 $450
Link: Chevy Super Series
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