Posted: Thursday, July 10th 2014 at 3:00pm
Johnson goes 15th to 1st in NeSmith DLMS Magnolia win
By Roby Helm
Ronnie Johnson celebrates his fifth NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series win of the 2014 season on Sunday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway. / Photo: Heath Lawson
COLUMBUS, MS – Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN came from the 15th starting spot to win the 50-lap fourth round of the Salute To America Nationals for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series on Sunday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, MS. The victory was the second in as many nights for Johnson and his fifth of the season driving the NeSmith Chevrolet Special.
The defending NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Champion methodically worked his way to the front of the pack and took the lead from Evan Ellis of Plantersville, MS on lap 41. Johnson then pulled away, forced his way through heavy lapped traffic, and then survived a late caution flag to take just over a one second margin of victory under the checkered flag.
“I love coming to Magnolia Motor Speedway, but for some reason, I just have never qualified well here,” Johnson said. “We qualified 21st tonight, gained a couple of spots in the B-Main to start 15th, and then the track came to me in the main event. The Black Ice came in, and that just fits my driving style, and we had the right tire combination to get to the front.”
Johnson’s four-race Salute To America Nationals journey started off a series of setbacks in the first two races. He arrived at Talladega Short Track on Thursday night just in time to qualify, but his tenth fastest time was disallowed because he failed to go through pre-race tech. As the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series point leader, Johnson took a provisional, started 23rd and finished ninth.
On Friday night at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, AL, Johnson broke an axle tube in hot laps, unloaded his backup car, won his B-Main, started 11th and finished tenth. Johnson and his crew of volunteers who came along for the four-day tour repaired his primary race car for Saturday night’s race at Arkadelphia Speedway in Bremen, AL.
The National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee was back in his winning form on Saturday night, as he qualified second quick, and led all 40 laps at Arkadelphia Speedway for the victory. Then with the win after a bad qualifying run at The Mag on Sunday night, Johnson put the exclamation point on how one can overcome adversity to become a champion.
After leading the first 40 laps of the race on Sunday night, Ellis finished second. Chip Brindle of Chatsworth, GA took the third spot. Montana Dudley of Phenix City, AL was fourth and was the Rookie of the Race.
Tyler Burgess of Quitman, MS drove to a fifth-place finish and Grant Pearl of Anniston, AL finished sixth. Marcus Minga of Shannon, MS turned in his highest finish of the season with a seventh-place effort and Brent Barrett of Cleveland, MS was eighth.
Chad McCool of Millport, AL started 22nd and finished ninth and Chris Mullinax of Birmingham, AL rounded out the top ten. Ellis was the fast qualifier among the 39 entrants with a lap in 15.102 seconds. The two 12-lap B-Main races were won by Dudley and Johnny Stokes of Columbus, MS.
Ellis took the lead at the start of the race followed by Nick Thrash of Meridian, MS, Kyle Shaw of Millport, AL, Pearl and Neil Baggett of Shannon, MS. Baggett dropped out of the race on lap nine and Shay Knight of Columbus, MS moved up to the fifth spot.
The first of two caution flags in the race occurred on lap 29 when Knight spun in three while running fifth. The top ten for the double-file restart got shuffled up even further when Ashley Newman of Ripley, TN dropped out of the seventh spot during the caution period.
Ellis had Shaw, Brindle, Thrash, Pearl, Dudley, Johnson, Burgess, Minga and 12-year-old Cruz Skinner of Oxford, AL doubled up behind him for the restart. When the green flag came back out, Brindle powered around the outside of Shaw to take the second spot, and Johnson came from seventh to fifth.
The track came to Johnson’s set up after the restart, as he went to the high side to get around Pearl for fourth on lap 31, followed by Shaw for third on lap 32, and then raced Brindle side-by-side for second on lap 34. Johnson cleared Brindle for the second spot coming down the front straightaway on lap 35.
With 15 laps to go, Ellis had a half straightaway lead on Johnson, but with each lap that went on the scoreboard, Johnson was closing quickly on the race leader. By lap 40, Johnson had closed to within three car lengths, but that advantage for Ellis soon disappeared, as the Chattanooga Flash drove under Ellis to take the lead on the inside coming down the front straightaway.
Once he was on the point, Johnson began to pull away from Ellis, under the leader got in heavy lapped traffic. Ellis was reeling in Johnson, who was caught behind two lapped cars running side-by-side. On lap 47, Johnson found enough room to shoot the gap between the two lapped cars, and escape the advancement of Ellis.
Coming off the fourth turn on lap 49 to receive the white flag, Stokes spun and collected Burgess in turn two. That brought out the caution flag and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Stokes was ticketed with the caution flag and Burgess got his sixth spot back for the restart. In the two lap dash to the finish, Johnson pulled out to take a 1.031 second margin of victory under the checkered flag.
The next race for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Touring Division will be the $3,000-to-win No Till 50 at Clayhill Motorsports in Atwood, TN on July 19. Johnson will take a 108 point lead in the standings over Mack McCarter of Gatlinburg, TN into the next event.
For more information and rules about the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series, visit the series web site at nesmithracing.com.
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
Magnolia Motor Speedway - Columbus, MS
Race Results – July 6, 2014
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER
1. 15 5 Ronnie Johnson Chattanooga, TN 50 $2,500
2. 1 73 Evan Ellis
3. 8 38 Chip Brindle Chatsworth, GA 50 $850
4. 11 55 Montana Dudley (R) Phenix City, AL 50 $700
5. 13 2b Tyler Burgess Quitman, MS 50 $650
6. 4 8 Grant Pearl Anniston, AL 50 $550
7. 9 19 Marcus Minga Shannon, MS 50 $500
8. 16 110 Brent Barrett Cleveland, MS 50 $450
9. 22 13 Chad McCool Millport, AL 50 $400
10. 20 57m Chris Mullinax Birmingham, AL 50 $375
11. 14 57 Shep Lucas
12. 2 01 Nick Thrash Meridian, MS 49 $300
13. 7 3 Shay Knight Columbus, MS 49 $280
14. 19 11 Cruz Skinner Oxford, AL 49 $260
15. 3 2s Kyle Shaw
16. 23 56 Chris Noah (R) Rainbow City, AL 48 $240
17. 21 84 Randall Beckwith Kilmichael, MS 48 $220
18. 12 1 Johnny Stokes Columbus, MS 46 $200
19. 6 73n Ashley Newman Ripley, TN 27 $200
20. 18 222 Jamey Boland Cuba, AL
21. 10 24 Ryan Oswalt Northport, AL 19 $200
22. 17 51 Mack McCarter Gatlinburg, TN 18 $200
23. 5 21 Neil Baggett
24. 24 121 Michael Blount Sumrall, MS 5 $200
Link: NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
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