PETALUMA, CA. July 21—No one could blame Chase Johnson if he was a bit nervous as he lined up in the front row at the start of Saturday’s Pit Stop USA 360 Sprint Car feature at Petaluma Speedway. Just one row behind him in the 13-car field was five-time track champion David Lindt Jr. and two rows further back was two-time champion Art McCarthy Jr. Championships aside, the two veteran racers hold a combined Petaluma Speedway total of 84 sprint car victories and reputations as never-say-die competitors.
But the 17-year-old Johnson, one of the bright young stars of the Speedway, wasn’t looking behind him. He was too busy concentrating on getting a good jump at the start and staying focused on holding the best possible line he could find. The result was a thrilling and flawless green-to-checkered flag victory by the fourth-generation driver that was highlighted by a daring but unsuccessful last lap challenge from Lindt.
“The start was the key, I wanted to be sure and get a good jump,” said Johnson, who entered the fray with one career triumph and second ranking in the points standings. “This one is huge for us we’ve been digging all year. It’s good to finally get a win.”
Second-row starter Richard Bailey stayed close to the leader for the first 10 laps before he spun, which lifted Lindt into the runner-up spot. With Johnson running fast and smooth Lindt was unable to gain ground until the final lap when he looked like he found a line on the bottom in Turn 3, where he stuck the nose of his car in tight but a slight bobble down low thwarted his bid and Johnson romped home with the victory over Lindt, Kirk Simpson, who clocked the fastest qualifying time of the year (12.607 seconds) in time trials, Geoff Ensign, and McCarthy.
Lindt’s third straight second-place finish prompted the fun-loving veteran to quip, “I’m in first this year for seconds.”
In the Carr Racing Chassis Dirt Modifieds five-time defending track champion Michael Paul Jr. of Petaluma was ready to head back to his shop and swap cars after breaking a drive shaft in hot laps but chose to stick around make the necessary repairs instead. The decision proved to be the right one for Paul who had the right set-up for the dry slick conditions. After taking the lead on Lap 2 the elusive veteran was slowed only by the several yellow flags. He repeatedly opened wide leads and easily posted his 38th career victory, third-best all-time behind his father Michael Paul Sr., who has 46 wins, and Joe Carr, who has 57.
The victory also narrowed the gap to just one point between the second-ranked Paul and points leader Oreste Gonella, who finished third. Second place went to Carr, Chris Sieweke was fourth, and Joel Myers, who started last in the 17-car field, was fifth.
Mike Learn, who tops the Lumberjacks Restaurant point standings, continued his “dream season” by notching his fifth straight feature triumph. Learn’s eighth victory in nine races ties the mark set by Woody Woodward in 2005 and his five straight wins is one shy of Dean DeVolder’s record of six straight set in 2007.
Steve Studebaker, the division’s second-ranked driver behind Learn, finished second for the third time and David Spriggs, who spun early and had to fight his way back to the front of the 13-car field, finished third. Fourth place went to Michael Drew, followed by Kevin Aguirre.
In the Dwarf Cars Santa Rosa’s Adam Johnson led every lap of the 20-lap feature from his front row starting spot to become the division’s fourth different winner in five races. Two-time feature winner, and former track champion John Peters, who grabbed second place from Tony Carmignani with three laps to go, finished second over Carmignani, Carroll Mendenhall, and Jack Haverty.
Points leader John Veeninga pulled away from the pack over the final laps to secure his second straight victory and fourth of the year but gained just one point over defending champion Keith Benson, who finished second, in the 20-lap BPT Carburetors Mini Stock feature. Veeninga now leads Benson by six points.
Veeninga and Benson, each with fourth victories, crossed the finish line ahead of Kimberly Ramirez and Josh Williams, the only other drivers in the eight car field to finish on the lead lap.
Results for July 21
360 SPRINT CARS
Fast time—Kirk Simpson 12.607.
Heat 1—Bradley Terrell; Ivan Worden; Chase Johnson; Geoff Ensign; Simpson; Billy Butler; Chase Wood.
Heat 2—Art McCarthy Jr.; Roberto Kirby; Richard Bailey; David Lindt Jr.; Matthew Haulot; Kenny Drew.
Main—Johnson; Lindt; Simpson; Ensign; McCarthy; Bailey; Terrell; Worden; Butler; Kirby; Haulot; Drew; Wood.
Heat 1—Chris Sieweke; Michael Paul Jr.; Joe Carr; David Lindt II; Will Fryckman; Tommy Bottini.
Heat 2—Raymond Lindeman; Norman Beck; Paul Anderson; Freddie Plourde; Rick Rogers.
Heat 3—Michelle Byron; Oreste Gonella; Chris Compton; Jerry Roy Jr.; Sean Wilson.
Main—Paul; Carr; Gonella; Sieweke; Joel Myers; Lindt; Lindeman; Bottini; Roy; Plourde; Anderson; Rogers; Compton; Wilson; Beck; Byron; Fryckman.
Heat 1—Steve Studebaker; Mike Learn; Paul Hanley; Michael Drew; Roger Miller; Gary Adams.
Heat 2—Shawn McCoy; Anthony Matthias; David Spriggs; Trevor Brady; Kevin Aguirre; Nathan Schleth.
Main—Learn; Studebaker; Spriggs; Drew; Aguirre; Adams; Matthias; McCoy; Hanley; Miller; Brady; Schleth.
Heat 1—Tony Carmignani; John Peters; Adam Johnson; Travis Dutra; Danny Marsh.
Heat 2—Jack Haverty; Scooter Gomes; Carroll Mendenhall; Kaitlyn Mendenhall; Mike Mangini.
Main—Johnson; Peters; Carmignani; C. Mendenhall; Haverty; Marsh; Dutra; Mangini; Gomes; K. Mendenhall.
Heat 1—Keith Benson; John Veeninga; Bradley Clark; Kimberly Ramirez; Josh Williams; Kelly Campanile (Hornet); Snazzy Duckworth; Daniel Dickinson.
Main—Veeninga; Benson; Ramirez; Williams; Duckworth; Campanile (Hornet); Dickinson; Clark.