Pettyjohn Runs Race Of His Life To Capture Tuesday Night’s DIRTcar Nationals by Summit Late Model Headliner
Delaware Driver Calls $7,000 Victory At Volusia Speedway Park The Biggest Win Of His Career
BARBERVILLE, FL – Feb. 18, 2014 – Kenny Pettyjohn was almost at a loss for words after driving away from a star-studded field to capture Tuesday night’s 30-lap DIRTcar Late Model A-Main during the 43rd DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
A 46-year-old veteran from Millsboro, Del., who has been slinging cars around dirt tracks for nearly 30 years, Pettyjohn was victorious for the first time in more than a decade’s worth of February trips to the sprawling half-mile oval outside Daytona Beach.
“Shoot, I can’t believe I’m standing here,” Pettyjohn said after emerging from his Rocket Chassis machine in Victory Lane. “I think this tops every race that I ever won in my life. To a lot of these guys this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but for me this took a lifetime.”
Pettyjohn became the first driver from Delaware to win a dirt Late Model feature during the long history of the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit. He achieved the milestone with a powerful performance that saw him swap the lead twice with Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., before gaining command for good on lap three.
A caution flag on lap 20 barely slowed Pettyjohn, who pulled away following the restart to defeat the red-hot Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis. – a driver who has finished no worse than third with his new Rocket mount in his Sunshine State starts over the past five nights – by 1.075 seconds.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., passed Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., for third on lap 28 and finished in the show position driving the Rocket Chassis house car. Clanton, who advanced from the seventh starting spot to second by lap eight, settled for a fourth-place finish and eighth-starter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., completed the top five.
Pettyjohn, who started from the outside pole, was never seriously challenged after wrestling the lead from Briggs. He simply hit the setup perfectly for the fast track.
“Matt Barnes (of Rocket Chassis) came over and told me a couple things before the race and I think that put us right on time,” said Pettyjohn, who won the 2013 dirt Late Model championship at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway. “The car was really good – it was good everywhere to be honest.”
The caution flag on lap 20 – for a two-car incident on the inside of the backstretch involving Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, and Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. – did provide a moment of pause for Pettyjohn. It not only wiped out his near straightaway edge but also gave him a flashback to the one feature at Volusia that slipped through his fingers.
“We ran second here years ago,” said Pettyjohn, recalling his previous career-best Volusia finish on Feb. 12, 2002. “Don O’Neal passed me (for the lead) on lap 21 – and tonight we had a caution on lap 21 (the lap counter was turned back to 20 for the restart). That was pretty an unnerving feeling I had there.”
But Pettyjohn’s Clements-powered No. 38 had plenty of speed left to keep him in front.
“Really, it’s just a relief to win down here,” said Pettyjohn, who has enjoyed much of his dirt Late Model success at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del. “And to win on a national stage like this is a pretty big deal to me. It’s not about the money. It’s not about any of that. Hey, I’ve spent my whole life doing this, so it’s a relief.”
Pettyjohn, whose career-high payday remains the $9,800 he earned for a runner-up finish at Natural Bridge (Va.) Speedway, spoke the truth when he said the victory was about more than the first-place prize. In fact, the $7,000 he collected was earmarked for a cause bigger than him.
“We’re donating every dollar we make on this Speedweeks trip (to Georgia and Florida) to the Wounded Warriors (Project),” said Pettyjohn, referring to the charity that benefits wounded American soldiers. “When we get home, my car owner (Brian Donley of Abingdon, Md.) will cut a check and send it to the Wounded Warriors Project. With this win, I think we’re over $11,500 now for the trip.”
With 38 cars signed in for action, group qualifying was utilized to set the starting lineups for four heat races in the first of three DIRTcar Late Model programs during the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., registered the fastest overall qualifying lap at 16.050 seconds. Other group fast-timers were Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa (16.411), Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. (16.227) and Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. (16.052).
Heat winners were Briggs, Pettyjohn, Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., and Smith. The B-Mains were captured by Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., and Owens.
Owens was one of the night’s big stories. He made an unexpected appearance behind the wheel of a new Club 29 car from the stable of two-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan, who sat out the program to give Owens an opportunity to try his machine in competition.
The DIRTcar Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit concludes on Wednesday night (Feb. 19) with a 40-lap finale paying $10,000 to win. The DIRTcar Big-Block Modified will share the program, debuting at the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit for the first of four consecutive race nights.
Race time is 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
For more information on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, log on to www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
DIRTcar Late Model 30-Lap A-Main Finish (Finish Pos./Start Pos./Driver/Laps Completed):
1. (2) Kenny Pettyjohn/30
2. (4) Brady Smith/30
3. (6) Brandon Sheppard/30
4. (7) Shane Clanton/30
5. (8) Scott Bloomquist/30
6. (11) Billy Moyer/30
7. (5) John Blankenship/30
8. (10) Steve Francis/30
9. (17) Eric Wells/30
10. (12) Bobby Pierce/30
11. (19) Gregg Satterlee/30
12. (13) Jeff Babcock/30
13. (23) Chad Hollenbeck/29
14. (9) Brian Shirley/28
15. (3) Mike Marlar/21
16. (20) Rick Eckert/21
17. (21) Morgan Bagley/19
18. (22) Vic Coffey/19
19. (16) Tim McCreadie/18
20. (14) Casey Roberts/14
21. (24) Frankie Heckenast Jr./14
22. (1) Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs/13
23. (18) Jimmy Owens/12
DNS: Kyle Bronson
Heat No. 1 (8 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, 2. John Blankenship, 3. Brian Shirley, 4. Jeff Babcock, 5. Eric Wells, 6. Tyler Bruening, 7. Gregg Satterlee, 8. Raymond Merrill, 9. Chad White, 10. Mike Hammerle
Heat No. 2 (8 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Kenny Pettyjohn, 2. Brandon Sheppard, 3. Steve Francis, 4. Casey Roberts, 5. Morgan Bagley, 6. Stacy Boles, 7. Chad Hollenbeck, 8. Dan Stone, 9. Eric Jacobsen
Heat No. 3 (8 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Mike Marlar, 2. Shane Clanton, 3. Billy Moyer, 4. Kyle Bronson, 5. Jimmy Owens, 6. Frankie Heckenast Jr., 7. John Garvin, 8. Chase Junghans, 9. Jeff Beyers
Heat No. 4 (8 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Brady Smith, 2. Scott Bloomquist, 3. Bobby Pierce, 4. Tim McCreadie, 5. Vic Coffey, 6. Rick Eckert, 7. Don O’Neal, 8. Chub Frank, 9. Dennis Erb Jr.
B-Main No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Eric Wells, 2. Gregg Satterlee, 3. Morgan Bagley, 4. Chad Hollenbeck, 5. Raymond Merrill, 6. Mike Hammerle, 7. Dan Stone, 8. Stacy Boles, 9. Eric Jacobsen, 10. Chad White (DNS) Tyler Bruening, John Winge
B-Main No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Jimmy Owens, 2. Rick Eckert, 3. Vic Coffey, 4. Frankie Heckenast Jr., 5. Don O’Neal, 6. John Garvin, 7. Jeff Beyers, 8. Chub Frank, 9. Dennis Erb Jr., 10. Chase Junghans