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SBS Title Still Hasn’t Sunk In For Johnson

South Boston Speedway 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car Division champion Justin Johnson says the full impact of winning the crown still hasn’t hit home.

“It’s still unbelievable,” Johnson said after accepting over $10,400 in prize money and assorted prizes during Saturday night’s South Boston Speedway Awards Banquet.
“I still don’t think it has sunk in quite all the way yet. It’s an honor to be South Boston Speedway’s champion. It’s something that I want to repeat and that’s what we’re looking for next year.”

In what was one of the closest points races in the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division at South Boston Speedway, Johnson edged runner-up David Quackenbush of Lorton by seven points with Nick Smith of Hampton finishing third, 18 points behind Quackenbush.

Johnson won the championship by winning the season’s final points race in what was a must-win scenario.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Johnson, who had two wins and 14 top-five finishes at South Boston Speedway in 2009.

“I’m sure it was good for the fans. Everybody likes to see close racing and a close points battle makes it that much better. I don’t know that the drivers really want the close points battle. It gets your nerves going almost like mine were tonight on stage.”

Johnson says his plans are to return to South Boston Speedway this season and attempt to defend his championship.

“The 2008 season (in which he finished as the runner-up) was so frustrating that it made us want this one that much more, so we came back,” Johnson explained.

“This championship is so sweet that we want another one. So, we’re going to come back this season and see if we can win it again.”

Johnson said he will return with a new FDJ Motorsports car, but declined to divulge any further information about the car.

“It’s a secret,” Johnson noted with a grin.

“We’ll break it out the first race. We don’t want to give our other competitors a heads-up.”

Johnson was among four drivers who claimed their first career NASCAR track championship at South Boston Speedway. The other first-time champions included Limited Sportsman Division title winner Brian Pembelton of Amelia, former Scottsburg resident Chris Crosby of Raleigh, N.C. who won the Pure Stock Division crown, and Donnie Lacks of Goode, the winner of the Southern Vintage Modified title.

The champions received the lion’s share of the $51,415 in cash prizes and other awards that were handed out during Saturday night’s event.

Pembelton, who had two-time former South Boston Speedway Limited Sportsman Division title winner Bruce Anderson of South Boston as his crew chief in 2009, finished 63 points ahead of runner-up Danny Willis Jr. of Cluster Springs.

“I’ve been racing for over 10 years, and I’m honored to finally be called a South Boston Speedway champion,” Pembelton said.

“The past five years have been frustrating, rewarding, humbling, and yet, so much fun. I have spent the past seasons racing at South Boston Speedway and have come to realize there is no racetrack quite like it. I race against some very talented guys each week and they force me to stay focused and determined.”

Crosby won the Pure Stock Division championship by 11 points over runner-up Mickey Cassidy of Ringgold. He had only one win but 13 top-five finishes were good enough to put him over the top.

“I’m truly grateful to all of my family, friends and fans and especially South Boston Speedway, for allowing not only me, but everybody here, to do what we love,” Crosby told the audience.

He also credited his brother, Courtney Crosby, who finished third in the division, for his help and support.

“You’re the reason I strive so hard out there,” Crosby said. Looking at his brother.

“I know if I finish in front of you that I’ve beaten one of the best in our division.”

Crosby even thanked fellow competitor Jarrett Milam, with whom he feuded with late in the season, for his help.

“I hate that we ended the season on a bad note,” Crosby remarked in front of the audience.

“You did a great job building an engine for me at the beginning of the year. I can’t thank you enough. You’re another reason that I tried to be the best I could and try to catch you. I appreciate everything that you did even though things were the way they were.”

For Donnie Lacks, winning the track’s Southern Modified Division crown was a special accomplishment.

“I had two dreams growing up – one was to race in general, especially here at South Boston Speedway,” Lacks told the audience.

“My other dream was to drive Modifieds. To do both of them here at South Boston Speedway and win the championship is overwhelming to me. To have been able to race with my father (Bill Lacks) and brother (Darryl Lacks) makes it extra special.”