Photo by James V. Carroll

Johnson captures fourth-place finish

Jerick Johnson, driving The American Legion/David Law Firm 76 Freedom Car, beat his fastest practice lap during his two-lap qualification run Friday by 0:13 seconds. His 18.40-second qualification speed was sixth fastest. But the traditional inversion drawing shuffling the fastest cars advanced Johnson to the second-row at the start of the race.

Johnson's fourth-place finish tentatively places him in the second row for tonight's 25-lap feature. The next six night's starting order is determined by the previous night's finishing order. On Feb. 18, cars will again have to qualify for position.

"It feels really great to get back into the 76 Freedom Car after the three-month off season," Johnson said following Friday's race. "It feels even better that we started the season with a top-five finish - especially after a rough first practice day."

It was not cakewalk for Johnson on the half-mile New Smyrna oval. The 96 Car, driven by John Nutley, raced Johnson hard and tight the entire 25 laps. Johnson narrowly averted spinning in the corners a number of times when Nutley rubbed against Johnson's quarter-panel.

"At times it was like we were in bumper cars," Johnson said. "I had the faster car, but the 96 just kept making contact with us."

Johnson's fourth-place finish was all the more satisfying because a sluggish carburetor slowed his exit from the corners. He could pull away from most cars on the straight-aways, but bogged down exiting the corners.

"We'll work on the carburetor before Saturday's practice," Johnson said. "Hopefully we can pick up a little speed."

The second night of nine nights of racing at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing are scheduled to begin tonight at 7:30 p.m.