LINEHAM WINS IT ON FINAL TURN
by Dana Rowe
Newly-crowned Late Model champ Ryan Lineham chased rookie-of-the-year Jake Johnson all the way to the final turn of the 50-lap feature at the Haunted Hundred, then, with Johnson and Lineham door-to-door, enter Vinny Arrenegado to nose under to create a three-wide situation and made contact with Johnson. Lineham rocketed ahead and crossed under the checkers for the win. Johnson slewed onto the grass of the infield but fought his handling, straightened out and roared down the grass to the finish, claiming fifth place. Three cars scrambled around the carnage to score between Lineham and Johnson: Tom the Bomb Adams, Jake’s cousin Dan Johnson and Ryan Morgan filled in third through fourth.
Arrenegado collected Mike Mitchell and they ended up sitting just off the asphalt in the grass of turn four. It was a fitting end to a wide-open feature race.
They started like they finished: Johnson and Lineham at the front. Behind Johnson in row two sat Ryan Kuhn, who had battled Jake all season for Rookie Honors and Adams sat on Kuhn’s shoulder. Not to mention modified ace Woody Pitkat in row three with Arrenegado on his shoulder. The heat was already on before they turned on the gas, Jake got away into the lead by a half-car as Kuhn got under Lineham and into second. Adams was fourth, followed by Arrenegado and Pitkat with Dan Johnson on the outside.
Attention focused on the Johnson/Kuhn matchup at the front as Lineham, Adams and Arrenegado filled the top five in hot pursuit. Lineham was able to edge Kuhn back to third on lap six, but four laps later, Kuhn repaid the favor and took the spot back again on a lap ten restart. Kuhn, running second, was on Johnson’s outside and Kuhn ran under him for second. Kuhn got onto Johnson’s bumper and Gerry DeGasparre got under Arrenegado behind Lineham.
By lap 13, Johnson, Kuhn and Lineham were running nose-to-tail but a Joey Parker spin on lap 15 brought another caution. On the green, Johnson and Kuhn ran wheel-to-wheel before Jake could grab the lead. Kuhn dropped onto his bumper while Lineham and Arrenegado were dueling behind them, followed by DeGasparre underneath a rapidly climbing Tom Scully, Jr.
Kuhn stuck his nose under Johnson on lap 21 and grabbed the front in turn three. Lineham continued in third and DeGasparre was working under Arrenegado behind them. Scully, Morgan, Dan Johnson and Mitchell pursued. But then, Michael Benevides and John Paiva spun in turn two, necessitating a lap 24 restart.
Lineham was on Kuhn’s high side while Jake and Arrenegado were row two, just ahead of DeGasparre and Scully. Kuhn nosed out then took the front in turn two. Lineham, Jake and Vinny lined up behind him. Pitkat spun into turn three and pitted for adjustments. For the lap 27 restart, it was Kuhn and Jake on the front. It took four restarts to get to lap 29. In that series, Kuhn had a tire go down after a three wide which also involved Lineham and Arrenegado.
Finally, Jake and Lineham came away on a lap 28 restart. Jake took the lead in turn four and Lineham dropped in to slam the door on Scully. They brawled it out with plenty of knocking about before Scully had second. But two laps later, Lineham took second back and Arrenegado got under Scully, looking for third. In the meantime, Jake had pulled out to a half-straight lead. Adams was debating fifth place with Nick Johnson. (All three Johnsons were now running in the top ten.)
Jake was able to keep the lead through another restart on lap 38 and Scully got under Lineham behind him. He went out to a six-car lead over Lineham and Scully as Scully succeeded in dislodging Lineham from second. Scully began to slowly close the distance to Johnson, followed by Lineham, Arrenegado, Adams, Rocco and Morgan. But Rocco spun in turn four, bring caution on lap 46.
Jake and Scully were side-by-side until Jake pulled ahead in turn four and Scully dropped in. He nosed into Johnson and found himself sideways with Lineham coming in from behind then dodging out of trouble. Scully fought it back into control but lost ground.
The final restart set up the dramatic finish, as the lead row had Johnson and Lineham with Arrenegado and Adams in row two, followed by Morgan and Scully. Then came Mitchell and Dan Johnson ahead of Nick Johnson and Ray Parent.
The two frontrunners whipsawed the lead for most of the final two laps until they could see the checkers waving as they battled through turn four. Suddenly Arrenegado entered the battle and chaos ensued, sending division champion Lineham to Victory Lane.
Sixth went to Scully, followed by Nick, Parent, DeGasparre, Bobby Pelland III, Nick Uhrig, Charlie Rose and Pitkat.