Brandon Johnson wins Hopkins Family Truckers 200 at SpeedWorld
Brandon Johnson definitely finished up the 2006 season as the hottest driver at Orlando Speedworld. During Crash-A-Rama, Johnson carted off a nice sum of cash for winning the night's Enduro race. Saturday night, Johnson led every lap of the Hopkins Family Truckers 200 but he would need two timely caution flags to do it.
Johnson wasted little time letting the other 28 drivers know who was the one to beat as he set fast time on Friday night with a quick lap of 15.142 seconds, just a tick of the watch quicker than Wayne "Rocketman" Jefferson's 15.169 and the 15.225 lap of Sean Bass. The field was extremely close in time trials with just a half second separating the top thirteen trucks.
Saturday morning practice would prove costly for young Jessica Murphy as the engine let go in her machine. Her crew spent the rest of the day attempting to install another engine, but for naught and Murphy was forced to watch from the sidelines after posting a great qualifying lap which would have placed her eighth on the starting grid.
The pre-race ceremonies featured NASCAR stars David Reutimann and David Starr who both had a chance to meet Tommy Hopkins, the young man whom the race was named for as he battles ALD, a rare blood disease. Tommy and his family were able to watch the race from the comfort of a motor home parked in turn four that was donated by Kelly Caudill.
The 200 lap race started straight-up from qualifying meaning it would be Johnson on the pole and Jefferson on the outside pole. Johnson sped to a quick lead only to see the caution fly on lap two as Chad Ashley spun in turn one. Bobby Owens pulled into the infield with problems and was out almost before the race started.
Johnson continued to set the pace as Sean Bass moved up to the second spot just before caution again slowed the field on lap 15. Dalton Zehr's truck slowed to a stop at the top of turn four as he was unable to get his disabled machine off the track.
Johnson, Bass and Jefferson continued to race nose to tail until Pat Mahoney's spin brought out the third caution on lap 24. From that point, it was 25 laps of green flag racing. However the fans attention on lap 35 turned to the skies just behind turn four as Space Shuttle Discovery rose into the heavens literally turning night into day.
As the Shuttle lifted out of sight, the fans settled back into their seats as Johnson continued to hold off a hard charging Bass with the biggest problem no being loads of lapped traffic. On lap 51, Bass slipped by Johnson in a gaggle of lapped trucks only to see the caution flag displayed for Tom North as he spun on the front stretch. Since the entire field had not completed the lap, Johnson was placed back at the point with Bass second. Third running Jefferson took his truck to the infield at this point in a cloud of smoke as his race was over.
Johnson continued to hold off Bass and a now-advancing Patrick Staropoli through three more minor caution periods before the half-way break at lap 101.
The drivers pulled their machines on the Bandelero track as their crews could change two tires and make any adjustments they could within the allotted 15 minute time frame. At the half-way point, the top ten were Johnson, Bass, Staropoli, John Kidwell, Michael Pilla, Chad Pierce, Chad Akins, J.R. Garcia, Mike Powers and Al Neuman.
Johnson's crew seemed to have made the right adjustments as he pulled away from Bass on the resumption of the race with Duane Barrus' spin on lap 109 the only slow-down for the next several laps. Staropoli's truck was also handling better and he passed Bass for second leaving Bass to contend with Pilla, who was also on the charge.
The next yellow did not come out until lap 140 for a harmless spin by Stuart Robertson. Eight laps later though, it was the "big one" as no fewer than 12 trucks were involved in a wild melee in turns three and four. Incredibly, there was no major damage inflicted and all the drivers were able to continue.
Johnson continued to lead the way during the final 50 laps despite cautions on laps 162, 176 and 186 that kept the field close to him. Meanwhile, Staropoli's truck began to get loose and he back slid through the field as Pilla shoved his way past Bass for second spot just before caution flew on lap 195 as David Hartin spun off turn four.
That would set up a green-white-checker finish and the fans were about to get their money's worth. Pilla decided it was time to win or crash and he pounded his way by Johnson to the lead only to see the caution flag wave as Duane Barrus spun in turn one. The caution negated Pilla's pass and set up a second green-white-checker run to the finish. Race director Brad Hockaday was livid on the Raceceiver radio admonishing Pilla's earlier tactics and advising him to drive "clean" or be disqualified.
Pilla put the pressure on Johnson, but the leader was ready this time and held on for the $2,000 win along with a ton of lap money earned for leading all 200 circuits, $100 Fast Time award from King Motorsports, and the Taylor Racing/Campi Family Racing Half-Way Leader Award worth another $200. Pilla came home second ahead of Bass, Chad Akins and John Kidwell. Chad Pierce drove to sixth followed by Mike Powers, Staropoli and Jason Vail. Vail earned the KARNAC.com Hard Charger award by advancing from 24th on the grid to his ninth place finish. Ricky Moxley capped off what started as a very frustrating weekend with a nice tenth place finish.
Rounding out the finishing field were Jessica Green, Kelly Caudill, Gerald Maxson, David Hartin, J.R. Garcia, Kim Sheffler-Bennett, Duane Barrus, Stuart Robertson, Steve Thompson, Tom North, Chad Ashley, Big Al Neuman, Pat Mahoney, Steve Smith, Barry Bartlett, Wayne Jefferson, Dalton Zehr and Bobby Owens.
The Legends Cars were also on the Hopkins card sponsored by Hearndon Construction and they would provide a wild finish to their 35 lap race.
2006 Speedworld and PBG Florida Tour Legends Champion Kory Abbott would set quick time over the 24 car field with a lap of 15.718 seconds just ahead of Brandon Thomson and Matt Bowers. Abbott would pull the "5" for the inversion placing Paul Schrein, Jr. on the pole with Josh Williams outside of him.
It would be Thomson making the quick move to the front as he shot from his fourth starting spot to the lead on the opening lap. Abbott quickly moved his way to second only to get spun by a lapped car on lap 12. Abbott was able to keep his car out of the wall and he was placed back in the second position for the restart right behind his arch-rival Thomson.
Caution flags kept Abbott from getting a chance to make a good run at Thomson as the yellow would fly five more times, the final one being for Leonard Hearndon's blown engine on the back stretch.
Abbott began to put the pressure on Thomson as the green came back out. On the final lap, going into turn three, Abbott tried just a bit too hard and the leaders touched. Thomson spun along with Abbott as third and fourth running Matt Bowers and Josh Williams were also involved.
Paul Schrein, Jr., running fifth when the white flag came out, missed the mess and sped across to take the checker, his first Legends Car win since returning to action earlier this year. Rookie Troy Mahrt scored his best finish to date, coming home second ahead of Andy Logan, Mike Verhaagh and Eric Eichelberger. Darrell Vance took sixth place ahead of Charlie Vest while Josh Williams managed to get his wrecked racer across the line for eighth. Dalton Bergman and Mitch Verhaagh completed the top ten.
Rounding out the finishers were Alex Kempf, Rick Wetmore, Tony Sansom, Thomson, Bowers, Dallas Ingram, Leonard Hearndon, Roberto Aguirre, Charlie O'Meilia, Shaughn McCormick, Bryan Silas, Brent Tyler and Gary Verdier. Abbott was disqualified for rough driving and placed last in the running order.
The Mini Cup racers ran feature events both Friday and Saturday night with young Daniel Miller topping Friday night's field taking the win over J.R. Garcia, Tom Melin, Brandon Beach, Jerry Parker, Austin Carr, Mark Hooven, Dan Suggs and Don Mays.
Saturday night it was Devin McLeod who out-powered the field to take the win as Miller would have to settle for second. Brady Marshall took third ahead of Zach Hoyt, Brandon Beach, Frank Pfister, Jerry Parker, Tom Mellin, Don Mays, Mark Hooven, J.R. Garcia and Chris Robinson.
Event organizer Rick Bristol would like to thank the many people who made the event possible including title sponsor RaceZingMania.com. Others who need to be recognized are Mike Murphy & Murphy Motorsports, Skip Honaker Racing, Barstow Transportation, RACECAR Engineering, Lightning Light Racing Bodies, Short Track America & Bill Green, The FASTRUCK Series, Luxury Chauffeured Services, Jill Overstreet, CINTAS, Advance Auto Parts, Jim Flynn & Business Archives (Trophy sponsor), RAMM Transport, Florida Lift Systems, and many others who donated time and money to help promote and support the event, especially Speedworld owner Mr. Robert Hart, who allowed the race to be able to take place at his facility.
In total, over $6,000 was raised for Tommy Hopkins and his family with more donations still coming in. The Hopkins family would also like to thank everyone involved in the event and especially the fans for their unbelievable support.
OFFICIAL RESULTS HOPKINS FAMILY TRUCKERS 200 ORLANDO SPEEDWORLD, DECEMBER 9
1. #41 Brandon Johnson 2. #24 Michael Pilla 3. #33 Sean Bass 4. #60 Chad Akins 5. #7NY John Kidwell 6. #30 Chad Pierce 7. #05 Michael Powers 8. #97 Patrick Staropoli 9. #8 Jason Vail 10. #38 Ricky Moxley 11. #50 Jessica Green 12. #53 Kelly Caudill 13. #15 Gerald Maxson 14. #02 David Hardin 15. #002 J.R. Garcia 16. #10 Kim Sheffler-Bennett 17. #33 Dwayne Barus 18. #51 Stuart Robertson 19. #20 Steve Thompson 20. #83 Thomas North 21. #87 Chad Ashley 22. #4 Al Neuman 23. #84 Pat Mahoney 24. #9 Steve Smith 25. #71 Barry Bartlett 26. #94 Wayne Jefferson 27. #119 Dalton Zehr 28. #40 Bobby Owens
1. #74 Paul Schrein 2. #71 Troy Mahrt 3. #1FL Andy Logan 4. #7 Mike Verhaagh 5. #47 Eric Eichelberger 6. #87 Darrel Vance 7. #57x Charlie Vest 8. #6 Josh Williams 9. #37b Dalton Bergman 10. #9 Mitch Verhaagh 11. #99 Alex Kempf 12. #79 Rick Wetmore 13. #56 Tony Sansom 14. #54 Brandon Thomson 15. #84 Matt Bowers 16. #4 Dallas Ingram 17. #37 Leonard Hearndon 18. #8 Roberto Aguirre 19. #48 Charles O'Meilia 20. #34 Shaughn McCormick 21. #57 Bryan Silas 22. #12 Brent Tyler 23. #44 Gary Vardier 24. #5 Kory Abbott DQ'D
1. #04 Devin McLeod 2. #00 Daniel Miller 3. #18 Brady Marshall 4. #67 Zach Hoyt 5. #1 Brandon Beachrr 6. #2 Frank Pfister 7. #6 Jerry Parker 8. #3 Tom Melin 9. #27 Don Mays 10. #7 Mark Hooven 11. #8 J.R. Garcia 12. #0 P. Chris