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Hodnett gets past Johnson for Speedweek victory

June 30, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Greg Hodnett’s eyes must have lit up when he saw early leader Jason Johnson approach the back of the pack only 10 laps into Hagerstown Speedway’s portion of the 21st annual Pennsylvania 410 Sprint Car Speedweek on Wednesday night.

With plenty of time to survey the different grooves around the track, Hodnett, of Thomasville, Pa., took an outside line around Johnson on the 19th lap and left him in the dust to record his first victory of the week-long series, winning the caution-free 30-lap feature by almost 5 seconds and taking the $5,000 payday before a larger-than-normal crowd.

“In the open road, (Johnson) was as good or better than we were,” Hodnett said. “I was just trying the different lines, knowing that eventually we would get to traffic. I was trying to know where I could and couldn’t go, and obviously, you have a big advantage doing that in second place.”

Hodnett, the two-time and defending Pennsylvania Speedweek champion, earned his third win of the season at all tracks, and his first at Hagerstown Speedway since a 2006 victory at the Octoberfest 350.

“The guys did a great job,” Hodnett said of his crew. “We were very, very tight in the qualifying race and just had to work on it, massage it a little bit and the guys did a really nice job of getting this thing rolling around.”

After setting a fast time of 16.665 seconds in qualifying and winning his heat race, Johnson started from the pole and jumped out to the early lead over Hodnett, who started outside on the front row.

While navigating heavy lapped traffic, Hodnett closed in on Johnson over a few laps before zipping by on the high side to take the lead before pulling away.

“I closed up on him one lap; I think he slid up a little high and I got a good run off the bottom,” said Johnson, who’s from Eunice, La. “But I didn’t have the drive the second half of the race like I did the first half. It’s a sad feeling when you’re just sitting there watching the guy drive away from you.”

Johnson, who’s not a regular driver on the 410 circuit, said his team still has homework to do on tire preparations.

“We’re still trying to figure out these Goodyear tires,” he said. “I started moving around a little bit and sliding the tires, and obviously, after I came in, I realized I blistered them. Maybe I just overdrove the car a little bit too much when I got into lapped traffic. But these guys are tough and to come here and run in the top five, you’re pretty happy.”

Danny Dietrich finished third, followed by Alan Krimes and Tyler Walker, who won the previous Speedweek event at Grandview Speedway on Tuesday.

Hodnett was the fourth different driver to find Victory Lane in the series in as many races. Cory Haas won on Sunday (Lincoln Speedway) and Daryn Pittman scored the win last Tuesday (Bedford Speedway).

The series shifted to Port Royal Speedway on Thursday night and wraps up with shows at Williams Grove Speedway (today), Port Royal again (Saturday) and Selinsgrove Speedway (Sunday).

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