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Luck Goes C.J. Johnson's Way With URSS Win at WaKeeney

WAKEENEY — Much to C.J. Johnson's surprise, two fortunate things happened for him Sunday night. Both ended up leading him to victory lane during the United Rebel Sprint Series feature at WaKeeney Speedway. Johnson notched his 34th URSS career victory after his car hit full stride midway through Sunday's race, and the top two cars — Mark Walinder and Jason Martin — both suffered damage when they collected together in turn 1 to end both drivers' nights. “I thought we were good, but we weren't great,” said Johnson, who won his third URSS race in WaKeeney. “We were fifth or sixth or so. Then all of a sudden, I found a spot on the race track. I don't know if nobody was there, but that thing locked down. It was the difference between night and day. I could drive it in as hard as I wanted to, and it would stick.” 

Mark Walinder led the field to the green, with Kirby Hagans outside the front row. Walinder would take the early lead, with Hagans in second until Mike Woodruff moved by him on lap three. Walinder would continue to set the pace on the 3/8th-mile oval as Martin, who started ninth, worked his way to the front. On lap eight, Martin got by Woodruff and began closing in on Walinder. Meanwhile, Johnson, who started 10th, didn't crack the top five until lap 13 — when he was able to get from sixth to fourth by passing Luke Cranston and Hagans. Johnson moved into third, with Cranston right on his heels on lap 16. But with eight laps remaining, Walinder's night ended in a puff of smoke from his motor. His car began to spin, collecting Martin, who had fallen in line right behind him. Both cars went off turn one, with Walinder's night done due to engine failure and Martin's night ending with a broken front axle. 

“I saw a big puff of smoke come out of (Walinder's) car,” Johnson said. “I figured he must have blown a motor. And Jason, he was just there. He didn't do anything wrong, and (Walinder's) car didn't do anything wrong. It was just one of those racing deals. It was probably just good I wasn't any closer at that time.” That gave Johnson the lead on the restart, with Cranston in second, Woodruff in third and Hagans in fourth. Johnson would get the jump on the restart and build a lead, but he was slowed by lap traffic, allowing Cranston to close the gap. 

“We were quite a ways back,” Cranston said. “Then that lap car kinda pinched him down big time. Then in three and four, we had a chance to get by him, but the lap car pulled in front of us on the front straightaway, so we had to get shut down there.” That allowed Johnson to pull comfortably back ahead for the win. Cranston finished second, followed by Ray Seemann, who started 11th. “I wish we would have gotten deeper in lap traffic,” said Seemann, who passed five cars in the final 10 laps. “I think the car was handling better than the two cars in front of us in lap traffic. But I was happy.” 

A total of 24 cars competed Sunday in WaKeeney, with 23 starting the feature. The top 11 starting spots in the feature went to Walinder, Hagans, Cranston, Woodruff, Zach Blurton, Josh Fairbank, Ty Williams, Brian Herbert, Martin, Johnson and Seemann, setting up hotly contested feature.

Heat race winners were Blurton, Woodruff and Williams.

Johnson won the Keizer Aluminum Racing Wheels Hard Charger Award, coming from 10th to first.

Feature results

1. C.J. Johnson, 2. Luke Cranston, 3. Ray Seemann, 4. Kirby Hagans, 5. Ty Williams, 6. Josh Fairbank, 7. Zach Blurton, 8. Mike Woodruff, 9. Kaden Taylor, 10. Judd Sheaffer, 11. Brian Herbert, 12. Jared Kern, 13. Jeff Radcliffe, 14. Cody Caldwell, 15. Craig Jecha, 16. Blake Bogenhagen, 17. Raymond Blackburn, 18. Shawn Radcliffe, 19. Garth Griffith, 20. Cody Keiswetter (DNF), 21. Jason Martin (DNF), 22. Darren Berry (DNF), 23. Mark Walinder (DNF), 24. Michael Williams (DNS).



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