Legends champ, now Late Model rookie Jake Johnson took the big step in his freshman year in the division: he grabbed his first feature win. Johnson has seldom been far from it, but this time he left no doubt, finally outdistancing hard-charging Austin Blais to the stripe after holding off fellow phenom from Legends, Ryan Kuhn for most of the distance. Blais grabbed second, Ryan Lineham third, Kuhn in fourth and Rey Lovelace gathering up fifth. The Johnson-Blais-Kuhn trio in the top five shows the growing youth movement fascinating the speedway.
Johnson sat on the outside pole with another member of the youth movement on the pole: Branden Dion. They were into lap two before they broke their wheel-to-wheel run as Johnson nosed ahead in turn two but Dion held his ground and they fought it out. Into lap three and Jake-the-Jet had edged a half-car past Dion across the stripe. It wasn’t until turn two that Johnson had control of the front. He picked it up and generated a half-car lead as Kuhn came past Dion into second. Behind Dion, Blais was running fifth, ahead of division champ, Dylan Estrella, another not-so-elderly graduate of the Seekonk Youth Racing Association.
By now, the fast-moving field was strung out around the track.
Kuhn cut Johnson’s lead to a half-car as Dion and Blais were now door-to-door behind them.
Estrella came up to Blais’ bumper on lap nine while Ryan Lineham had rushed up behind Dylan. He began looking underneath and went by into fifth on lap 12. Estrella still lay ahead, as Lineham had passed the fading Dion.
By now, Johnson was two cars up on Kuhn, but Ryan closed to within a length and then down to a half. Estrella had watched Blais pulling away but added some afterburner and closed back up. Meanwhile, Charlie Rose had moved in and got under Dion into sixth on lap 17.
The Jet was a car-and-a-half up on Kuhn in lap 20, followed by Blais, Estrella, Lineham, Rose and Gerry DeGasparre, Jr. (who had just gotten by Dion.) There was little change into lap 25 save Lovelace moving past Dion onto DeGasparre’s bumper.
Kuhn closed on Johnson on lap 27, but then fell off a bit. The distance between the two yawed as they ran and Mike Teague now presented ahead of them as a lapped vehicle. Johnson cleared under and temporarily had a block between him and Kuhn. But Ryan remained undeterred and sailed past Teague to continue pursuit of the leader. It was a three-car lead for Johnson on lap 33. Kuhn had a 16-car advantage over Blais, who had Lineham to contend with on his tail.
By lap 38, they were closing on more lapped traffic, including Jeramee Lillie and Crystal Serydynski. Lillie moved up as the leader approached, then Serydynski gave the courtesy move as well.
But caution rained down going into lap 41 as Dion spun between turns one and two. Now Kuhn had the outside option on the front row with Johnson on the pole. Blais and Estrella were row two, followed by Lineham and Rose. It was side-by-side for a lap before Johnson could push his nose ahead at the stripe.
Blais came up to get under Kuhn while he was still outside and took over second with eight laps remaining. He immediately ran to Johnson’s bumper. In the meantime, Lineham got past Kuhn into third. Kuhn settled in ahead of fifth-place Lovelace. Nick Uhrig came up to debate sixth place with Estrella and the two hacksawed the position.