MERCER, Pa. — Brent Johnson, one of the region’s top stock car talents, was the surprise winner of the Jack Frost 150 held at Mercer Raceway Park Saturday.
Johnson was several laps down when William Henney pulled into the infield with 13 laps left in the enduro. Tim Callahan, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, passed Joel Wisser with five laps to go and then held him off in a one-lap dash for the cash in mini stock Snowflake 25.
Driving a Toyota wagon instead of his trusty Carolla, enduro meister Tim Gillette bolted out to an early lead in the headline event. However, by lap ten in the grind, William Henney drove from nineteenth on the grid to take the lead away. Henney’s Mazda Protege ran like a clock for more than a hundred laps. However, his car began to slow as the race entered its final stages. Many thought that Henney may have been pacing himself, for he had lapped the field sever times over. But, Henney suddenly pulled to the infield with just 13 laps remaining.
Henney’s misfortune gave the lead to Johnson, who was in a nip and tuck battle with Brian Sprague throughout most of the race. Johnson took second near the halfway mark, but he could never get much separation from the pesky Sprague.
Trailing Johnson and Sprague at the finish were Aaron Hill, Gillette and Ray Soos.
Johnson’s Chevy Cavalier, one of several entries submitted by Hill Racing. Remarkably, the car was put together in just one day when it was discovered that the original mount was not raceworthy due to a severly rusted chassis.
The race was halted twice for safety issues. The first happened when Luke Rutsky flipped his Ford Escort entering the third corner. He was unhurt, but his car was demolished. The second stoppage was to allow safety crews to check on the condition of the driver of a disabled racer. While he was fine, during that interlude, another car caught fire at the opposite end of the track. Firemen knocked the flames down quickly and that driver climbed out unscathed.
Before the Snowflake 25, Trooper Tim Callahan was seen napping in his truck in the pits. He had just come off the midnight shift before he left for the track. He needed the extra rest, as he was the only driver who attempted to run in both races. Callahan started the day in fine fashion, taking the win. His hopes for a top performance in the enduro were dashed when he made several pit stops before retiring from the fray.
It only took Callahan a couple of laps to advance from ninth to second in the Snowflake 25. Meanwhile, Joel Wisser was pacing the field.
Wisser held off several challenges from Callahan as the race went on. In one particular sequence, Callahan dove to the inside as they raced down the frontstretch, but he got his left wheels up on a snowbank that lined the inside of the track. That enabled Wisser to pull away. A couple of laps later, Wisser went high in turn two, but Callahan went even higher trying to make the pass on the outside. That maneuver did not work, either, and it looked as though Wisser may have gotten enough of a cushion to ensure that elusive first career win.
However, Callahan got a break when Wisser was attempting to put third place runner Rudy Troples a lap down. Wisser hesitated in choosing which lane he wanted to use to make the pass. That enabled Callahan to close quickly. Seeing an opportunity to grab the preferred inside line, Callahan made the bold move as they entered turn one. He got to the inside before Wisser and was able to him behind the lapped car. Coming off turn two, Callahn had the lead. He then opened up a safe margin over Wisser as the final laps unfolded.
With just one lap left, though, a caution gave Wisser another shot at the victory, as the lapped cars were sent to the rear of the field. Callahan and Wisser had a little difficulty getting the race going again. On the first effort, Troples tangled with another car and came to rest in the snowbank near the entry to turn one. After another failed attempt prompted the flagman, Donny Gallagher, to give Callahan a little guidance, Callahan got the race started cleanly. He led Wisser to the checkers by a couple of car lengths.
Finishing third was Jerry Batcher. Troples was credited with fourth. Fifth went to Mark Rozow. David Seibert, Alex Paden, Matt Cwynar, Joe Kenney and Josh Eackman completed the top ten.