By Dave Medler
In one of the most competitive and wild finishes of the 23 year history of the Schneider Brothers 200 Danny Johnson out of Phelps, NY wheeled the Byea Headers, Metropolitan Signs, No.121 Troyer to the $25,000 victory. Johnson who started 24th had to hold off late race restarts and challenges from Dave Camara and Brett Hearn to earn his third Schneider Brothers 200 win.
After a $25,000 roof dance in front of a cheering crowd Johnson said, “I never really expected this, to be honest with you. We came here just to try to do the best we could. I sure have to thank this team. I’m just the driver, it takes a lot more behind the scenes to make this happen.”
Paul Kinney and Dave Camara brought the forty-car starting field down to the starter’s green to open up the 23rd annual Schneider Brothers 200. With the opening lap complete Kinney led Camara by a bumper as they crossed the start-finish line. With multiple grooves all over the track Camara used the extreme outside to blast by Kinney and take early control of the race on the second lap.
By lap 5 Camara opened up a ten-car advantage out front while Kinney and Ronnie Johnson were having a tight battle for the runner-up spot. Jimmy Phelps and Steve Paine also ran together for top five spots.
One lap later the first caution of the race flew as Dale Planck and Gary Hager out of New Jersey made contact sending both cars around in turn four. Planck would lose a lap and Hager made a trip pit-side also going down laps.
Camara would jump back to lead on the restart and would stay there till lap 19 when Camara jumped the cushion in turn four allowing Kinney to slip by and retake the lead of the event. At this point behind the two leaders, Phelps, Paine and Ronnie Johnson ran in tight quarters trying to chase down the front runners.
Lap 25, the quarter-way of the first 100 lap segment Kinney was driving a masterful race in heavy traffic building himself a quarter of a straightaway lead over Camara. Paine, Phelps and now Tim Fuller joined the fray for the top positions.
Five laps later Camara used that same lapped traffic Kinney used to open a lead to close in on the leader as the two battled in and out of traffic. Two laps later, lap 32, Camara used the extreme inside and muscled his way by Kinney coming out of turn four to be scored the leader.
With 40 laps in the books you could have thrown a blanket over the top three of Camara, Fuller and Kinney. Ronnie Johnson and Alan Johnson were within striking distance of the top three. All throughout the pack the racing was hot and heavy with positions changing every lap.
Fuller would put constant pressure on Camara and even inched ahead on more than one occasion, but all that would change on lap 51 for the former winner. As he exited turn four and down the front straight, Fuller’s right front would collapse, ending his chance for the $25,000 payday.
On the lap 53 restart Camara once again took command of the race with Ronnie Johnson taking over second from Kinney, with Alan Johnson fourth. Brett Hearn now moved into the top five and would be a threat till the finish.
When the race hit lap 61 Hearn was able to slip by Ronnie Johnson for second and took off after Camara with his Small Block hitting on all cylinders. Four laps later Hearn caught Camara, then used the top side to be scored the leader of the race.
As the laps clicked off the counter towards the 100 lap break Camara would once again be scored the leader on the 71 lap. Behind Camara, Hearn and Ronnie Johnson ran side-by-side for second, with Kinney and Alan Johnson rounding out the top five.
With 25 to go Chris Hile would bring out the yellow to tighten up the field. On the restart there would be no lapped cars between the top five. When the green came back out Camara, Hearn and Ronnie Johnson pulled away for a three-car battle at the front.
With 14 to go Hearn found some bite in the middle groove to get back by Camara for the lead. Ronnie Johnson lost some ground on the top two as Pat Ward showed in the top five in fourth with Kinney fifth.
Another quick yellow would come out 6 laps from the 100 lap break. On the restart Hearn would have lapped cars between himself and second place Camara. When the red flag flew for the 15 minute break Hearn was scored the leader. Pat Ward moved into second with Camara, Ronnie Johnson and 2007 Schnider Brothers 200 winner Billy Decker rounding out the top five. Alan Johnson, Ryan Phelps, Kinney, Paine and Jimmy Phelps would start sixth through tenth in the last 100 lap segment.
After a few laps clicked off in the second segment Hearn built up a full straightaway lead over Ward and Ronnie Johnson. Decker and Camara were having a fierce battle trying to make up ground on the leaders.
On lap 115 Kevin Bates slowed, bringing out another yellow. Bates headed pit-side erasing the lead Hearn had.
After the field was put in order the green came back out on lap 118 with Hearn having to contend with Gypsum Teammates Ward and Decker. Hearn once again was able to open some distance as Decker worked his way around Ward one lap later.
A quick caution period would put two of DIRT’s best side-by-side for the restart with Hearn and Decker. Ward, Ronnie Johnson and Camara still held top five spots. Danny Johnson was now starting to make his presence known as he rim-rode his way to sixth.
When lap 135 was put in the record books Hearn still had a comfortable cushion, Ward worked back by Decker a few laps earlier. Decker, Camara and Johnson were still in contention for the win.
On lap 142 Ward, Decker and Camara went three-wide into turn three. When they came across the start-finish line Camara went from fourth to second.
Hearn once again saw his momentum slowed and his lead evaporate as Billy Dunn brought out another yellow flag period.
After hounding Hearn for a few laps Camara found the bite he needed to get under Hearn and retake the lead on lap 158 to a cheering crowd. Ward ran third but was now contending with Danny Johnson. Decker was fifth.
Decker’s fate would be sealed on lap 162 as he suddenly slowed with a right rear flat sending him pit-side. Decker got the tire changed but lost a lap ending his bid for two Schneider Brothers 200 wins in a row.
When the green flew again it looked like Hearn was shot out of a cannon as he bolted away from Camara and retook the lead. That lead would be short-lived as two laps later, lap 168, Danny Johnson blasted around Hearn and grabbed the lead for the first time on the day.
With 25 laps to go showing on the lap counter Johnson, high, Hearn low, they were running about the same lap times with neither really gaining an advantage. Camara, Ward and Ryan Phelps ran in the top five.
Hearn running the bottom slowly reeled in Johnson and even showing his nose to Johnson. Seeing this Johnson abandoned the top side that got him to the front and switched to the bottom on lap 178 cutting off Hearn’s momentum.
Once on the bottom of the track Johnson found speed he needed to pull out to a full straightaway lead.
Camara showed he wasn’t done yet with his bid for the win as he worked his way by Hearn to grab second and set his sights on Johnson. Ward and Ryan Phelps still were scored in the top five.
The yellow Camara was looking for came out on lap 189 for Chuck Bower and Jim Davis.
When Johnson took off, Camara kept pace and when the two entered turn one Camara and Johnson made contact with Johnson holding the lead before another yellow set up a green-white-checker finish.
On the restart it appeared Camara got the jump and the lead but the starter didn’t like the restart saying Camara jumped the start.
The finish was a wild one as any of the top four cars showed they could win at the finish. In the end Johnson was first under the checkers in the wild scramble. Hearn moved into the runner-up spot. Ward brought home a close third with Camara right there in fourth and Ryan Phelps fifth.
When asked if he was concerned about bouncing the car off cushion for 100 laps Johnson said, “It really didn’t matter, we were coming to the front, I didn’t really think about it.”
One point of controversy amongst the fans was the two late race restarts between him and Camara. On one restart Johnson looked to hang back and step on the gas before the turn-four barrel. The next restart Johnson appeared to hang back and let Camara fire first. That restart wasn’t allowed because the leader is supposed to fire first.
“I just wanted to hang on to the lead. Every restart I seemed to go backwards, I just didn’t know what to do,” said Johnson. “At the end I just peddled it as hard as I could.”
Johnson said it was pretty simple how a month ago he was driving his old Troyer and Saturday he was behind the wheel of the Joe Beya-owned car. “They just called me up and asked me if I wanted to drive it. That was pretty much it.” Johnson also related that earlier in the night he thought he had a car that could qualify but had no idea how good and well prepared the Troyer car was.
“It feels great to win this event. Everybody comes to this event loaded for bear. If you don’t win you feel like a has-been, like maybe you can’t do it anymore.”
Pit Notes – Hats off to Jeremie Corcoran. With rain, cold and wind for the weekend he wouldn’t let Mother Nature beat him as he had a fast multi-groove track throughout the 200 and other events on the Schneider Brothers 200 weekend.
Eighty-one single car Modified teams signed in the pit area. It took Eight-Heats and Four Consi’s to fill the 40 car starting field.
One of the strangest occurrences happened after the Modified consi’s, Frank Cozze out of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania loaded up his huge hauler and was headed out the gate. Cozze didn’t realize he was in the starting field. One of the officials in the tower saw him leaving and got on the radio for someone to chase him down. One of the safety trucks took off out the gate and down the parking lot to stop him. About five minutes later Cozze returned, unloaded his car and joined the starting field.
Track management wants to thank all drivers, crews and fans who stuck around for the entire weekend despite the cold and rain.
(SCHNEIDER BROTHERS 200) – Danny Johnson, Brett Hearn, Pat Ward, Dave Camara, Ryan Phelps, Alan Johnson, Willy Decker, Paul Kinney, Matt Sheppard, Frankie Caprara, Billy Pauch, Roy Bresnahan, Steve Paine, Pierre Dagenais, Tom Sears Jr., A.j Romano, Elmo Reckner, Jeff Kotary, Gary Hagar, Brian Sage, Chuck Bower, Jim Davis , Ronnie Johnson, Billy Decker, Vic Coffey, Billy Dunn, Kevin Bates, Jimmy Phelps, Shawn Donath, Bob Henry Jr., Mitch Gibbs, Chris Hile, Brian Weaver, Gary Tomkins, Jim Witko Jr., Tim Fuller, Frank Cooze, Dale Planck, Billy Trexler Jr., Tim Sears.
(HEAT WINNERS) – Vic Coffey, Dave Camara, Jimmy Phelps, Brian Weaver, Paul Kinney, Steve Paine, Ronnie Johnson, Ryan Phelps.
(CONSI WINNERS) – Dale Planck, Bob Henry, Jr., Gary Tomkins, Frankie Caprara.