ROSSBURG, Ohio — Sunday night’s Johnny Appleseed Classic by Miller Lite was a story of repeat wins, redemption and a near photo finish.
With 104 entrants in four classes victories went to Matt Miller (Sunoco American Late Model Series) Jim Nier (NRA Sprint Invaders), Jeff Babcock (UMP DIRTcar Modifieds) and Paul Pardo (Eldora Stock Cars).
By virtue of his second heat victory, Miller started on the outside pole of the 25-lap ALMS finale, and when the green flag dropped he was out front and sailing.
With a comfortable margin being built up over the field, all eyes were focused on the battle behind him, as the balance of the field used every inch of the clay surface to provide some of the fiercest racing seen in years.
Duane Chamberlain had his hands full holding back Brad Neat, Jeep VanWormer, Kent Robinson, while Wayne Chinn, and Scott James soon joined the fold. As Miller began threading himself through lapped traffic on lap 10, tough luck fell upon runner-up Chamberlain, as a right rear flat sidelined him to the pit area.
By this time, VanWormer had moved into third ahead of Neat, Chinn and Robinson; but with the Chamberlain departure that set him side by side with Miller on the double-file restart. Miller again got the jump on the green as VanWormer got engaged into a four car battle with Neat, Robinson and Chinn that set the fans into a frenzy.
After shaking them loose on lap 17, the chase was on, with VanWormer reeling in Miller lap after lap. With three laps remaining, VanWormer moved into contention to challenge for the lead; often pulling alongside down the back chute. A late charge for VanWormer to wrestle the lead from Miller was thwarted by a lapped car that Miller used to his advantage and registering yet another ALMS victory at Eldora in the final tune-up before the June 5-6-7 Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Mowers.
VanWormer finished a tight runner-up, followed in order by Robinson, Neat and Jeff Babcock who came on strong in the later stages.