DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 4 - Zanotti Racing's Jake Johnson always comes into Daytona looking for success and he usually finds it. Since he'd won four times at the old venue, there was no reason for him to think that a new track on the outside of Daytona International Speedway would offer up any less chance of success. And it didn't as Johnson walked away with Daytona win number five on a cold night at the brand-new Daytona Short Track.
Add his victory to his third-place finish from last night, and Johnson had plenty to be happy about - and two more reasons to like coming to Daytona.
"Last night third and coming back from as far back as I did and tonight winning - it doesn't get any better than that," Johnson said. "Started in the front and stayed in the front and started in the back and came to the front. This place you never know what can happen. It's a new track and a new location, but it's still Daytona. It's the same dirt and fairly the same shape. I think it's just the first-race jitters. Everyone is kind of anxious, but this place has been good to me. This is my fifth win at Daytona and I think this is the only track that I've repeated a win at. This place has been great to me. It can go downhill quick, but so far it's been good to me."
Johnson was fast all night on his Honda, posting the second quickest lap in qualifying behind last night's winner Sammy Halbert, winning his heat race and finishing third in the Expert Dash For Cash. It all gave him confidence that he could win the National and he did just that, leading off the line and crossing the stripe in front on every one of the 25 laps. At the finish he was some 1.4 seconds ahead of Bettencourt Honda's Kenny Coolbeth, the Connecticut rider improving five sports after finishing seventh last night.
Coolbeth was the only rider who could keep Johnson in sight with the rest of the pack unable to keep pace.
Third place went to Jared Mees, another rider who had a complete turnaround from last night when he finished a struggling 10th on the Rogers-Lake Racing Honda CR450F.
The top four were mounted on Honda's with Scott Powersports' Johnny Lewis fourth, the Pennsylvanian another rider who had a solid week at Daytona with his sixth- and fourth-place finishes on the two nights.
Fifth tonight went to Jethro Halbert on the Woody Kyle Racing Yamaha YZF450 - one spot behind where he finished last night. Bryan Smith was another who improved, finishing outside the top 10 last night but ending up sixth tonight on the Werner/Springsteen Kawasaki KX450F.
Latus Harley-Davidson's Joe Kopp, Monster Kawasaki's Henry Wiles and Donald Mullen II rounded out the top 10 finishers. Wiles couldn't get his KX450 to hook up down low where Johnson and Coolbeth were running. Ditto for Kopp. Those two had finished second and fifth last night, respectively.
And what of last night's winner Sammy Halbert? The Washingtonian was again fast all night, winning his heat race and the Expert Dash For Cash, but it all went wrong on the opening lap of the National when he spun almost completely around on the exit of turn one. He couldn't save it and crashed, but was able to remount dead last. By the 14th lap, Halbert had worked his way up to 10th, but then his YZ450 failed him and he was forced out of the race.
J.D. Beach made up for finishing a close fourth to winning teammate Cameron Beaubier in the Supersport final at the road racing venue by bouncing back to win the Pro Singles final at the short track. And he did so after completing just four laps of practice for the short track because of his road racing commitments. Beach beat last night's winner Jeffrey Carver Jr. by 2.4 seconds. Defending Pro Singles Champion Brad Baker was third.
Daytona Short Track
1. Jake Johnson (Honda)
2. Kenny Coolbeth (Honda)
3. Jared Mees (Honda)
4. Johnny Lewis (Honda)
5. Jethro Halbert (Yamaha)
6. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki)
7. Joe Kopp (Honda)
8. Henry Wiles (Kawasaki)
9. JR Schnabel (Yamaha)
10. Donald Mullen II (Honda)