PEA RIDGE, Ark. — In his 25th year of racing, Johnny Bone, Jr. of Pea Ridge, Ark., put together a career year on the dirt tracks during the 2011 season.
He didn’t break his personal season wins record, but his 22 feature wins in 44 starts against some big fields and stiff comeptition was remarkable and earned the 45-year-old the title of USRA RHS Modified National Champion.
“It’s been really stressful,” said Bone, who raced weekly at three tracks in three different states –none of them in his home state of Arkansas. “I didn’t think I could win it, but we were really dedicated to the USRA this season.”
Prior to the start of the 2011 campaign, Bone and his team thought it might be possible to pull off such a feat with the Humboldt Speedway in Humboldt, Kan.; Mid America Speedway in South Coffeyville, Okla.,; and Monett Speedway in Monett, Mo., all competing under the USRA banner.
“Around the middle of the season, we saw we had a really good opportunity to win it,” he recalled. “We knew we had to buckle down and stick with running our USRA races.”
On the way, Bone garnered eight wins each at Humboldt and South Coffeyville, five at Monett and a late-season triumph in the 6th Annual Bordertown Casino OctoberFAST at the Springfield Raceway in Springfield, Mo.
Just for good measure, he also had 14 second-place finishes and finished outside of the top five just once (ninth) en route to recording an astonishing 43 top-five finishes in 44 starts.
While he has hundreds of victories in a quarter-century behind the wheel of a race car, including 13 USMTS Modified wins during his career, Bone proclaimed that his USRA crown ranks at the top of his achievements.
“We had an extremely good year. I can’t complain at all,” he said. “I feel really lucky to have gotten the wins we did this season because, to be honest with you, the tracks we raced at are really tough places to go into and win against the competition there.”
This is Bone’s first USRA National Championship. He also finished fourth in the final 2010 rankings and third in 2008.
Making it even more difficult was the pressure coming from the north. Defending USRA RHS Modified National Champion Jason Cummins of New Richland, Minn., kept the heat on for most of the season and finished the season with a flurry of wins and three track championships in the Gopher State but came up one spot short of beating Bone and claiming his second straight title.
Cummins also finished third in 2009 behind Greg Skaggs of Bixby, Okla., and was 10th in 2007. Brad Waits of Zumbrota, Minn., is the only two-time champion, claiming the crown in 2007-08. Larry Herring of Lone Tree, Iowa, was the first USRA RHS Modified National Champion in 2006.
Bone will collect a national points funds check worth $10,000 plus track points funds and numerous contingency awards. He also captured his fourth straight track champion at Monett Speedway this season and will earn an additional $1,500 for that effort.
Cummins will earn $5,000 for his runner-up finish with Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., pocketing $3,000 for his third-place showing.