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Larry Ott: Johnson in driver’s seat for another points title

After emerging triumphant in the last two consecutive 358 Modified races at Ransomville Speedway, including this past Friday night, Danny Johnson will arrive at the Niagara County dirt oval for Friday’s 50-lap season points finale looking to put the cap on his eighth career point championship.

But with Erick Rudolph and Ryan Susice still nipping at his heals, Johnson knows there is much unfinished business that he must take care of if he is to earn another Ransomville title.

Johnson came into Friday night’s race holding a slim one-point lead over both Rudolph and Susice, who were tied for second in the season’s competition. After Johnson prevailed for the victory following an intense and entertaining battle with Rudolph, Johnson holds a five-point edge over Rudolph heading into Friday’s point finale. Friday’s win was the third for Johnson at Ransomville this season.

Susice was able to make a late race pass of Pete Bicknell Friday to finish third and keep himself within nine points of Johnson. Johnson has won Ransomville championships in 1987, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2001, and 2003; he also was a co-champion with Joe Plazek in 1996.

Johnson is also one of the most successful racers in the history of DIRT Motorsports/ Northeast, having claimed hundreds of wins and numerous track and traveling series championships throughout the United States.

After his latest win on Friday, Johnson thought about how another championship would measure up against the many others he has amassed at many tracks including Ransomville.

“It wouldn’t hurt to win this Ransomville championship again,” said Johnson. “I mean it would be a feather in the cap. It’s not going to make us or break us. It is what it is.”

Johnson is hopeful for the upcoming finish on Friday and used a very familiar cliché in Victory Lane when asked about his Ransomville championship prospects for 2014.

“There’s one point race left to go and you know what they always say - it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” said Johnson.

Johnson spoke about the very hard race he had with Rudolph on, giving his main competitor many compliments as well as praising his own team.

“Rudolph’s been hot all year and it’s tough competition so I’m lucky to have what I have here,” said Johnson. “I really appreciate all the guys who help on this team to make this thing as fast as it is. I just can’t believe it.”

Johnson started 10th last Friday, four spots behind Rudolph, and the event quickly became a two car show with Rudolph eventually leading until he was passed by Johnson. The two waged a strong battle throughout the course of the race with Johnson prevailing by about three car lengths.

Susice finished 20 car lengths behind Rudolph in third after starting eighth. The only problem that Johnson encountered all night did not happen until after he saw the checkered flag, when his car had to be pushed from Victory Lane back to the post-race technical inspection area after his car had electrical problems.

“The battery’s dead,” laughed Johnson. “We worked on the car all day and the battery went dead.”

Rudolph was disappointed with not winning the race, knowing that he missed a chance with a victory to gain the point lead heading into Friday’s finale.

“It seemed as the laps clicked off tonight that I was actually a little faster than him (Johnson) toward the end,” said Rudolph. “I just ran out of laps and he had a faster car at the beginning of the race and got by me but that’s how it is. There were a couple yellows there that set us up side-by-side a couple times and I got him a couple of times and one of the last ones he got us.”

After losing ground in the points chase, Susice needs to race well next Friday and hope for some breaks. Susice already has one championship to his credit this season, having claimed the point title in the local 358 Modified Tri-Track Championship Series which concluded last Sunday at New Humberstone Speedway. The 358 Modified Tri-Track Championship Series was a collective series of special event races run this season at Ransomville, Merrittville and New Humberstone.

“Well, we got one race left and it will be best man wins,” said Susice of the Ransomville points situation. “I’m just happy we’re at this point in the season where we’re able to have a shot at the championship. That’s all you can ask for.”

Pit stops

Tommy Catalano won his first career NASCAR Pro Modified feature race Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex. ... Defending Holland NASCAR Late Model champion Eldon King III, who sat out most of the season, also claimed his first win of the year at Holland.