LAWTON, Okla. – official release — Phoenix ace R.J. Johnson has held the hottest of Arizona hands in non-wing sprint car racing over the past year and a half or so.
So it was only fitting that he carried that hot hand over to Oklahoma where he topped the opening round of the four-race USAC Southwest Sprint Car Series’ Second Annual “Freedom Tour” on Wednesday night atop the ¼-mile Lawton Speedway red clay oval.
Johnson denied native Okie Brady Bacon a win in front of his home state crowd in the process with a move into the lead 19 rounds into the 30-lapper for the $2,500 triumph.
“He was fast, I knew my best chance would be in traffic and a door opened up for me,” said Johnson.
Bacon’s view of traffic differed, commenting that, “I’m not really sure what they were thinking.”
After racing from sixth to win his heat race aboard the Ford-powered Michaels No. 77m Kodiak Products Sherman-chassis, Johnson gridded the feature field sixth with Bacon and Charles Davis, Jr., leading the way to the green flag.
But before the feature officially went green after a couple of failed attempts, Davis, Jr., was forced pitside with a flat left rear tire which moved Norman, OK, shoe Koby Barksdale to the front row outside and Johnson up to fourth.
While Bacon gunned into the immediate lead, Johnson slid right up to second and pressured the Broken Arrow, OK, native for the point several times in the early going before waiting for his opportunity in lapped traffic.
With traffic coming into play at the midway point, one Bacon miscue on the 19th round was all Johnson needed to take command.
A caution with five to go and then another as the white flag flew when Seth Bergman climbed the hefty turn four cushion gave Bacon extra life even as he kept the pressure on, but he was unable to capitalize with Johnson racing on to his first Freedom Tour win after missing out on last year’s Inaugural version.
Bacon settled for runner-up honors ahead of Yuma’s Mike Martin, whose rally into the lead on the initial start of the race was waved off by a caution.
After winning the second of two “B” Mains for the 34-car field, Aaron Reutzel charged from 18th to fourth with Barksdale rounding out the top five.
Dustin Morgan was sixth, with Casey Shuman rebounding from a broken throttle linkage in heat race action and then a pair of feature incidents to advance from 22nd to seventh after utilizing a promoter’s option for the feature.
Josh Pelkey was eighth, with Shon Deskins and Colby Copeland completing the top ten.
Martin, Davis, Johnson and Bacon topped heat race action with Bergman and Reutzel winning the B Mains.