Though Richard Johnson of Los Lunas is the front-runner of the Modified division at Duke City Raceway, he frequently glances in his rear view mirror to make sure others aren’t trying to pass him.
“There are some great racers here and at some of the other tracks,” Johnson said. “I’ve been away from the track for five years, and I hope the experience I’ve gained will help to raise the bar for some of the racers here.”
Johnson has been racing for 17 years — since he was a junior at Los Lunas High School. For the past nine years, Johnson has been running in the Modified division — arguably the toughest division at Duke City Raceway. On occasion, Johnson will stray from the Modifieds and try his hand at some other divisions, but his main focus is on the Modifieds.
“Sometimes I’ll run stocks for other people,” Johnson said. “I’ve have won the championship with Gordon Rex, and I ran some late models in which we won a lot of races.”
The Modified division is an entry-level open-wheeled division, meaning the front tires are not covered by the body, while the rest of the car is a full body. Modified racing may be the most difficult because of the specifications of the tires each car is required to have. The cars have to run on a nine-inch tires that are made to be a little slicker, leveling the playing field for the cars with smaller engines.
“Modifieds are the highest level you can race here,” Johnson said. “Plus, you can go anywhere in the country and the rules are pretty much the same.”
Johnson and his close friend and racing partner Bobby Bachechi, currently fourth in the point standings, both race Big Dog manufactured chassis. Johnson’s car has a 406 cubic-inch small block Chevy engine with flat-top pistons under the hood.
“The set-up is critical in the Modified division,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s set-up seems to be working. He is the current points leader in the Modified division at Duke City Raceway.
So why is it that Johnson seems so dominate in his division?
“I’m just really determined,” he said. “I’m really dedicated to this sport, and this is all I do. Some people do other things, but all I do is race. I am always trying to keep up with all the new advances in the sport.”
Despite his current lead in the standings, Johnson stays wary of the competition.
“There are a lot of good cars out here, and we’ve been fortunate to stay on top of our game,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of racers out here who could win on any given night.”
Johnson finished second in the main event last Saturday night, behind Albuquerque’s Butch Reid. Another Los Lunas driver, Andrew Frazier finished fifth in the race while Mike McClarran, also of Los Lunas, came in 10th.
In other racing action on Saturday, Los Lunas’ Ronnie Bell came in third in the Hobby Stock main event just ahead of Jeff Whyman, also of Los Lunas. Coming in eighth and ninth respectively were two other Los Lunas racers: Randall Trujillo and Phil York.
In the Street Stock division, Jay Pape of Bosque Farms and Jim Willis of Belen finished second and third, respectively. Also, Andy Tanner finished eighth, Thomas Winter finished ninth, Randy Ford finished 10th and Ronette Ford came in 11th. All are from Los Lunas.
In Late Model action, Robert Schorr from Rio Rancho won the main event, while Valencia County drivers finished in the next four spots. Willis, Rick Boelter, Squeaky Mendoza and Kenny Wheeler took second through fifth in that order. Ronnie Frazier of Belen finished seventh and Kenny Smith Jr. of Los Lunas took ninth.