SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Danny Johnson became the first two-time winner of the Race of Champions Dirt Series Icebreaker at Selinsgrove Speedway on Saturday, and he hasn’t been the first driver under the checkered flag yet in the four-year history of the event.
In 2009, Johnson was awarded the win when Ryan Godown failed to make the minimum weight following the race. This time, both apparent winner Dale Planck, who led all but the first lap, and runner-up Pat Ward were too light by a reported 15 lbs. each. That elevated Johnson, who had driven an impressive race from 16th to third on the track, to the victory worth more than $5,000 including contingency bonuses.
Billy Decker, who started 17th, and Brett Hearn were promoted to second and third, while Dan Vauter was rewarded for a spectacular challenge on the outside from 19th in the lineup with a fourth-place finish. Jimmy Horton completed the top five.
“You hate to win a race that way, but we’ll take it,’ said Johnson, who drove the No. 66 Atlas Paving big block owned by Mike Petruska.
Second-place Decker quipped, “If I had known the first two were light, I might have given Danny a little more bumper.” More serious, he commented on the double misfortune of Planck and Ward, observing, “You’re on the gas all the way around here, and the red flag meant the motor was running for a longer time.”
Unlike NASCAR where the fuel tank can be topped up before the weigh-in, RoC Series rules require cars to come straight off the track to the scales.
The red flag to which B. Decker referred came at the halfway mark of the 40-lap feature when Willy Decker (no relation to Billy) and Kevin Bates crashed violently on the front straight one lap after a restart. Bates flipped several times but W. Decker’s car appeared to be more severely damaged. Both drivers walked away.
Planck started fourth and took the lead from pole starter Ward on the second lap, never to be seriously threatened. Stewart Friesen pushed Ward back to third on lap 19, but was passed on lap 24 and lost his left-rear wheel on the 31st circuit. That set up Vauter’s outside run from ninth to fourth, which brought the crowd to its feet. Vauter eventually lost spots to Decker and Hearn.
Rick Laubach, who started 25th as a provisional starter, was sixth, Wade Hendrickson seventh, defending race winner Matt Sheppard eighth, Bobby Varin ninth, and Billy Pauch 10th as 18 of 30 starters were running at the finish. Pauch won the small block bonus.
Friday night small block race winner Jeff Strunk did not qualify for Saturday’s main event. More than half of the 62 entries went on the trailer after qualifying.
Danny Johnson, Billy Decker, Brett Hearn, Dan Vauter, Jimmy Horton, Rick Laubach, Wade Hendrickson, Matt Sheppard, Bobby Varin, Billy Pauch, Sr., Rob Bellinger, Dan Creeden, Rich Scagliotta, Stewart Friesen, Richie Pratt, Todd Burley, Gary Tomkins, Willie Decker, Kevin Bates, Glen Strunk, Brett Tonkin, Craig VonDohren, Billy Pauch, Jr., Jason Rood, Larry Solomon.