Lonnie Wheatley, TUCSON, Ariz. (February 18, 2011) – Albuquerque’s Johnny Herrera emerged from a spirited duel with 2009 series champion Shane Stewart to snare his first Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters National win of the year in Friday night’s 25-lap Copper on Dirt preliminary feature event at USA Raceway.
Herrera and Stewart exchanged sliders, and some slight contact, over the middle third of the race before the New Mexico shoe asserted his presence for the $60,000 series championship by slipping away in the final circuits for his third career ASCS National win aboard the Wesmar-powered Champion Oil No. 45x Maxim.
“I’ll race people the way they race me,” Herrera explained after locking into Saturday’s $6,000-to-win Copper on Dirt championship finale. “He didn’t give me any room there in turn two that time and it got nullified by a caution, I had a chance to do the same a few laps later and squeezed him. Fair play is fair play.”
Stewart’s opinion differed. “Herrera’s done it to me all year so far. He’s got one coming, actually a couple of them.”
Jeff Swindell shuffled Stewart back to third moments after what proved to be Herrera’s decisive turn two move on the 19th lap, with Jack Dover quietly racing from 18th in a substitute role for reigning series champion Jason Johnson to claim the fourth and final transfer to Saturday night’s Copper on Dirt finale.
Herrera started Friday night’s feature event from the pole position, outgunning California’s Andy Forsberg for the lead with second row starters Logan Forler and Brady Bacon moving into second and third, respectively, before the red flag flew on the second lap for Kyle McCutcheon’s flip down the backstretch.
With the full moon in full effect, Bacon was eliminated from contention a lap later when he clipped an infield tire entering turn three that inflicted race-ending front-end damage.
With Herrera setting the pace, fifth-starter Tony Bruce, Jr., and seventh-starter Stewart were both on the move in the early going, moving up to second and third by the time another caution flew after eight laps for a John Carney II spin down the backstretch.
Stewart rallied past Bruce on the restart and went to work on Herrera for the lead. Stewart got the run he needed aboard Paul Silva’s Wesmar-powered Rockstar Energy Drink No. 57 A.R.T. entering turn one on the 13th lap and slid into and ahead of Herrera exiting turn two to take command.
But, before the 13th lap was completed, Bruce coasted to a stop in turn one with a shredded right rear tire, handing the lead back over to Herrera.
The dramatics were far from over though. Stewart offered up several volleys for the lead in the ensuing laps, with tenth-starter Swindell joining in the fray as well.
After swapping the point in turns one and two on the 17th lap, Herrera’s race-winning move came two circuits later when Stewart slid for the lead again through the same pair of corners. Herrera ducked underneath Stewart and squeezed the black No. 57 exiting turn two to retain command. As Stewart briefly lifted to avoid wall contact, Swindell charged by to claim second before the race’s final caution flew for Gary Wright, who stopped in turn four with a broken piston.
After the wild ten-lap stretch, Herrera slipped away on the low side over the final six-lap run to the stripe to secure the win with Swindell holding second in the Carl Edwards/RE Technologies No. 28 Maxim.
After brushing wheels under the final caution in dispute over position, Swindell was none too pleased with Stewart either. “That little kid is gonna get a lesson from this old man this year, I can tell ya that right now.”
After winning the night’s second “B” Main to transfer to “A” Main action aboard the JJR No. 41 Maxim, Dover quietly worked the low side throughout to claim the fourth. Dover had worked from 18th to ninth by the midway point, was fifth by the 17th lap, took fourth away from Forler and briefly surged past Stewart in the final circuits for third before settling in for fourth.
Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Aaron Reutzel climbed from 13th to claim his first career ASCS National top five with a late move around fellow Rookie contender Forler, who also posted a top career series finish of sixth.
Three-time series champ Tim Crawley rallied from 21st to salvage a seventh-place finish, with Mason Moore posting a series-best eighth. Dustin Morgan raced from 17th to ninth, with Seth Bergman completing the top ten.
Three-time ASCS Southwest champion Rick Ziehl was the top-finishing Southwest contender in twelfth.
Ziehl, Stewart, Forler and Herrera topped heat race action for the 38-car field. Calvin Landis made a mid-race move around Dustin Morgan for the top spot in the first “B” Main only to bypass the scales, with Dover racing past Joshua Hodges on the fourth circuit en route to winning the second “B” Main.
The Fifth Annual Copper on Dirt at USA Raceway concludes on Saturday night, with racing action going green at 6:00 p.m.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters
Fifth Annual Copper on Dirt Preliminary
USA Raceway – Tucson, AZ
Heat Races (Top 16 in Passing Points to “A” Main; Balance to 2 “B” Mains):
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 20z-Rick Ziehl, 2. 99-Brady Bacon, 3. 5-Kyle McCutcheon, 4. 8-John Carney II, 5. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 6. 57x-Steve Stone, 7. 77-Dalten Gabbard, 8. 90-Lance Norick, 9. 12-Josh Grady, 10. 5az-John VanHorn.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 57-Shane Stewart, 2. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 3. 21-Zach Zimmerly, 4. 01-Gary Wright, 5. 88-Tim Crawley, 6. 41-Jack Dover, 7. 79-Calvin Landis, 8. 78-Jody Williams, 9. 15-Bud Goodwin, 10. 24-Justin Carver.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 2L-Logan Forler, 2. 92-Andy Forsberg, 3. 5h-Mason Moore, 4. 28-Jeff Swindell, 5. 55-Trey Starks, 6. 18w-Lorne Wofford, 7. 8az-Jordan Stetson, 8. 15c-Joey Chester, 9. 22-Mike Rux, Jr.
Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 2. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 3. 0-Zach Chappell, 4. 2-Dustin Morgan, 5. 23-Seth Bergman, 6. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 7. 41w-Joshua Williams, 8. 15d-Brady Demeree, 9. 1x-J.T. Imperial.
“B” Mains (Top 3 from Each Advance to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (10 Laps): 1. 2-Dustin Morgan, 2. 55-Trey Starks, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 15d-Brady Demeree, 5. 90-Lance Norick, 6. 8az-Jordan Stetson, 7. 78-Jody Williams, 8. 18w-Lorne Wofford, 9. 79-Calvin Landis (Disqualified; failed to report directly to scales after finishing first). DNS: 24-Justin Carver, 1x-J.T. Imperial.
Second “B” Feature (10 Laps): 1. 41-Jack Dover, 2. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 3. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 4. 41w-Joshua Williams, 5. 77-Dalten Gabbard, 6. 12-Josh Grady, 7. 5az-John VanHorn, 8. 15c-Joey Chester. DNS: 57x-Steve Stone, 15-Bud Goodwin, 22-Mike Rux, Jr.
Copper on Dirt Preliminary “A” Main:
“A” Feature (25 Laps): 1. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 2. 28-Jeff Swindell, 3. 57-Shane Stewart, 4. 41-Jack Dover, 5. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 6. 2L-Logan Forler, 7. 88-Tim Crawley, 8. 5h-Mason Moore, 9. 2-Dustin Morgan, 10. 23-Seth Bergman, 11. 55-Trey Starks, 12. 20z-Rick Ziehl, 13. 21-Zach Zimmerly, 14. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 15. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 16. 01-Gary Wright, 17. 0-Zach Chappell, 18. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 19. 92-Andy Forsberg, 20. 8-John Carney II, 21. 99-Brady Bacon, 22. 5-Kyle McCutcheon.
Lap Leaders: Johnny Herrera 1-25.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Points (Top 15): 1. Shane Stewart 395, 2. Johnny Herrera 393, 3. Jeff Swindell 345, 4. Seth Bergman 340, 5. Tim Crawley 336, 6. Trey Starks 326, 7. Brady Bacon 309, 8. Gary Wright 308, 9. Mason Moore 303, 10. Tony Bruce, Jr. 294, 11. Tim Kaeding 292, 12. Aaron Reutzel 286, 13. Dustin Morgan 282, 14. Kyle Larson 280, 15. Zach Zimmerly 265.
ASCS Southwest Points (Top 10): 1. Rick Ziehl 150, 2. Joshua Hodges 142, 3. John Carney II 135, 4. Kyle McCutcheon 130, 5. Joshua Williams 125, 6. (tie) Dalten Gabbard and Lance Norick 122, 8. (tie) Jordan Stetson and Josh Grady 116, 10. (tie) Jody Williams and John VanHorn 110.