GREENVILLE, Miss. – Ronnie Johnson is well on his way to capturing his second straight $20,000 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series National Championship after picking up his seventh win of the season on Saturday night in the Rumble On Gumbo 50 at Greenville Speedway.
The race was definitely a rumble held under threatening skies that gave way to a full moon.
Johnson inherited the lead on lap 37 when a multi-car tangle on a restart sent early race leader Johnny Stokes to the pits with a cut down right-rear tire. Despite heavy left side damage, and his own tire losing air, Johnson held on to drive the NeSmith Chevrolet Special to his 24th NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series career win.
“This was a win by default tonight because I wasn’t that good at the start of the race, but the car got better as the race went on,” Johnson said. “Johnny Stokes was the man to beat tonight, and it’s a shame he got caught up in that restart wreck. He got sideways in front of me and I tried to swerve to get around him, but everybody just ran into everybody.”
Stokes took the lead at the start of the race followed by Johnson, Mike Palasini Jr., Ryan Colby and Brent Barrett. Palasini got under Johnson coming off the fourth turn on lap two to take over the second spot. Barrett got by Johnson for third on the next lap with an inside move in turn four.
The carnage of bent race cars began on lap eight when Kenny Carpenter tagged the third turn wall, and then rode on top of the wall before executing a slow roll and coming to rest on the car’s roof to bring out the red flag. Carpenter was able to crawl out from under his car and was uninjured.
Stokes had Palasini, Barrett, Johnson, Colby, Nathan Mayes, John Polasini, Neil Baggett, Chris Noah and Chase Washington doubled up behind him for the restart.
Barrett was able to get by Palasini for the second spot coming off the second turn after the restart. Stokes began to encounter lapped traffic on lap 13 with an eight car-length advantage on Barrett. Jason Botsford spun the JBR GRT down the backstretch on lap 15 to bring out the caution flag.
Stokes led Barrett, Palasini, Johnson, Colby, Mayes, Baggett, Noah, Polasini and Dewayne Estes down for the restart. When the green flag came out, Palasini tried to dive under Barrett in turn one, but Palasini got sideways in turn two and triggered a multi-car pile-up.
After the caution flag came out for the third time in the race, the cars of Colby, Noah and Polasini were done for the night. Palasini was ticketed with the caution flag and went to the rear of the field for the restart. That reshuffled the Top 10 that was made up of Stokes, Barrett, Johnson, Baggett, Mayes, Estes, Peter Hazzard, Ashley Newman, Washington and Hunter Carroll.