PEORIA, Ariz. — R.J. Johnson claimed the sprint car portion of the 46th annual Sands Chevrolet Western World Championships presented by Racers Advantage Store Thursday night at Canyon Speedway Park.
The 30-lap event was billed as a USAC Southwest vs. USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series event.
With approximately half the sprint car field taking to the track for Thursday night’s qualifier, USAC Southwest sprint car point leader Johnson earned the pole position for the 30-lap main event by accumulating the most points through heat race and qualifying race action.
After fellow front row starter Michael Colegrove jumped into the lead on the original start only to have it negated when Ronnie Clark and Dalten Gabbard had issues in turns three and four, Johnson gunned into the start on the second try and led all the way for his 11th overall win of the year in wingless 360 sprint car action.
Though he led every lap, he had his hands full most of the way with Bacon, Jerry Coons, Jr., and Dave Darland ultimately locking into Saturday night’s $7,500-to-win WWC championship feature as well by virtue of finishing among the top four.
With Johnson leading the way, Darland pressured much of the way until seventh-starter Bacon took advantage of lapped traffic to take command of second on the 19th lap. Following a caution one lap later, Bacon, the two-time Western World non-winged sprint car, champion kept the pressure on but was unable to take the top position away from Johnson.
After cracking the top five by the 12h round, Coons assumed the fourth position on the 20th round when fourth-runner Colby Copeland tangled with a lapped car and was forced pitside. Coons battled past Darland in the closing laps for the show position with Darland settling for the fourth and final lock-in position to Saturday’s main event.
After a slow start to the night, Aaron Reutzel bounced back to win the B main and then charged from 16th to round out the top five in the feature.
R.J. Johnson, Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Aaron Reutzel, Mike Colegrove, Stevie Sussex, Bradley Terrell, Gary Taylor, Tom Ogle, Parker Price-Miller, Bob Ream Jr., Bruce St. James, Josh Shipley, Ronnie Clark, Josh Grady, Shon Deskins, Colby Copeland, Ryan Linder, Mike Bonneau, Charles Davis Jr., Dalten Gabbard.