- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
Eddie Johnson stumbled a bit as he climbed the steps to the podium after winning the NASCAR 250 Late Model Stock Car race Saturday at South Boston Speedway.
The veteran driver didn’t stumble at all during the race at the famed four-tenths mile oval, the Midlothian resident finishing ahead of a stellar field of competitors and taking home $10,000 for his efforts in the season-ending Late Model race.
Johnson is at his best in the longer races, and that experience came in handy Saturday as he came from 21st at the start of the race to win his first 250-lap race at South Boston, passing newly crowned South Boston Late Model track champion Justin Johnson on lap 210.
He held the lead from there despite three late-race cautions, winning by .522 second over Oxford, N.C. driver Jonathan Cash.
Justin Johnson, of Durham, finished third ahead of Tommy Lemons of Troy, N.C. and Deac McCaskill of Raleigh.
Australian driver Dane Rudolph finished sixth, followed by Lee Pulliam of Semora, N.C., Philip Morris of Ruckersville, Ronald Hill of Rougemont, N.C., and Dustin Storm of Partlow, Va.
The race winner steadily worked his way through the field to reach the seventh-place spot shortly after the halfway point of the race, was third by lap 151 and second by lap 165, before passing race leader Cash on lap 178.
Justin Johnson passed Eddie Johnson for the lead on lap 198, but Eddie Johnson returned the favor on lap 210, shortly after the mandatory caution at lap 200.
The race winner avoided the accidents that took some of the stronger cars out of contention.
An incident on lap five brought out the first of 11 cautions, and involved pole sitter David Triplett Jr., Nick Smith and Matt Waltz, with Triplett spinning and being hit by Waltz, ending the day for Triplett.
Morris, who recently clinched his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship, was involved in two on-track mishaps, the first on lap 130 when he and Smith got together, with Smith knocked out of the race.
Morris and sixth-place qualifier David Quackenbush got together on lap 235, with Quackenbush knocked out of the race.
The race winner endured restarts following two more cautions, the final one on lap 247, and used strong restarts to keep Johnson at bay the rest of the way for his first Late Model win at South Boston in 2009.
Johnson said the car was so good after the 200-lap break that he just couldn’t believe it.
“We made a few changes to it and we hit it just right. This is the biggest payday I’ve ever had. I’ve won Martinsville a couple of times, but they didn’t have the payday that they do now,” Johnson said.
“Luck played in our favor,” Johnson continued. “A lot of good cars got knocked out in front of us but this old car was built in 2001 and it keeps plugging along.”
Johnson recalled he was “stunned” once he built a quarter of a lap lead past the 200-lap break.
“I was thinking to myself that I wish this race would hurry up and get over with and nobody was saying anything on the radio.
“The car was just so good. I was better in the 50-lap segment that I was in the first 200-lap segment. The right tire had leaked down to 19 pounds and I know that had an effect.”
As is his custom, Johnson was patient and stayed in the middle of the pack before making his move.
“The car has been good and we just had to bide our time as to when we could go,” he explained.
“The car has been awful good and we just put the same setup on it that we’ve been running all year and it worked good,” added Johnson, who finished fifth in points in the Late Model Stock Car Division at South Boston Speedway this season.
“This tops the list of my most favorite and most gracious accomplishments, and I put this up there with the Martinsville win.”
Cash said he raced really hard but wished he had a little better car to race with Johnson for the win.
“We came up one position short but I’ll take second,” said Cash, who had to race hard to hold second-place over Justin Johnson in the last 50 laps.
“We were a little tight in the center and free off, and we adjusted to it and got better, but we just didn’t get it perfect,” he added.
“Anything over 150 laps, Eddie is tough, and there’s no better guy to run second to. He’s a heck of a nice guy and I congratulate him.”
Cautions and short runs hurt his chances, according to Justin Johnson.
“I knew we had a good racecar on the long runs, and if the race had been split in the middle at 125 laps it would have been a little better for us,” he noted.
“That short run just killed us.”
Johnson said his car was tight at the start and got better as the race wore on, but admitted it wasn’t a bad day.
“When you lead and come from 18th to first and you’re leading at the 50-lap break it’s a little disappointing,” Johnson noted.
“On top of that, we should have won this race last year and finished third, and I hate to be a sore loser about it, but we’ll get them next year.”