Aaron Allison wins the first Mickey Thompson $20,000 race at the inaugural Southern Sportsman Showdown

Photo: Chris Simmons

A full day of racing was contested on Friday at South Georgia Motorsports Park as a generous assortment of Stock and Super Stock racers brought their best to the table. The event on Friday marked the first of three $20,000 races at the inaugural Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Southern Sportsman Showdown, and it was an enthusiastic battle of muscle and wit. In the end, it all came down to a Stock versus Super Stock final round in which Aaron Allison emerged victorious over Marion Stephenson.

The margin of victory in their close race was just .008-second. Allison clocked a .024 reaction time to Stephenson’s .073 and ran 9.017 (8.95 dial) to a 10.296 (10.27).

“This race is who’s who of Super Stock,” said Allison, the NHRA Division 3 Super Stock champion in 2016. “You look around, everybody is a world champ or national event winner, so this is really cool.”

Indeed, Allison came up against an assortment of tough competitors, starting with Slate Cummings in the first round of Super Stock. But when Allison threw down a .010-second reaction time and Cummings went red by .002, it was all over. In the second round, Allison scored a free pass when Rick Mann broke, but he didn’t get much of a break as he had to race Terry Emmons in round three.

Harvard Business School graduate Allison was fully aware of the steps necessary to continue his quest for the trophy, and so he dished out a .005 reaction time to Emmons’ .070 and clocked an 8.976 (8.95) to his challenger’s too-quick 9.837 (9.85). A foul start by Troy Huntzberry sent Allison along to the quarterfinals, and there he saw the win light when Byron Worner broke out by just a smidge more (9.696 on a 9.71 to Allison’s 8.959 on an 8.96).

Allison warmed up for his match with Ricky Pennington with a bye run and then advanced to the final on an 8.960, 147.18 on his 8.95 dial to Pennington’s 10.858 on a 10.85.

On the other side of the ladder, Marion Stephenson was socking away wins over Jeff Longhany, Marty Bogan Jr., and Pennington in the later rounds to lay the framework for his final-round meeting with Allison.

“The car was great, it moved less than two-hundredths all day,” Allison said, speaking of his SS/PBA ’90 Chevy Cavalier. “My dad actually built this car brand new in 1989, so we’ve had it this whole time. It’s got a special place in our hearts.

“This is a great race, when they announced it this winter, I said, this is definitely a race I want to go to. A chance to race four times in one weekend for big money at a great track. I’m from Northeast Ohio, so it was quite a trip down here – 900 miles – but the weather is warmer than Ohio, not as warm as I would have liked, but it was a great day. We had a good time, and it’s been.”

Fast, but no trophy
Stock Eliminator No. 1 qualifier Jim Marshall wheeled his H/SA ’77 Chevy Nova to the quarterfinals, but he was .075 at the tree against 2019 NHRA Stock champion Allison Doll and her C/SA Firebird and it cost him; he was forced to push the limits at the finish line and broke out. PB Candies was low qualifier in Super Stock, but a stunning .169-second reaction time was his nemesis, and Ed Longhany emerged from their first-round meeting with the win.

One to watch
Ricky Pennington was catching everyone’s attention in both Stock and Super Stock eliminations. Pennington just kept going rounds, setting up the potential to reach the final round in both categories. If he had been able to accomplish the feat and win on both the Stock and Super Stock sides of the ladder, Pennington would have been declared the winner of the event before the final even took place.

His day turned sour in his semifinals meeting with Stephenson in Stock, when his opponent was .030 on the tree to his .051 and got the nod in a double-breakout. Pennington ran 10.709 on his 10.75 dial to Stephenson’s 10.290 on a 10.30. In Super Stock, Pennington ran dead-on his 10.85 with a 10.858, but a .125 was the magic eraser that took his power away. Allison advanced to the final round of the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Southern Sportsman Showdown with a .064 light and 8.960 on his 8.95, while Pennington’s charge was laid to rest.

Action continues on Saturday at the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Southern Sportsman Showdown with another Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels $20,000 race and the highly anticipated Holley Performance 64-Car Shootout. Racing will begin with qualifying at 9am ET at South Georgia Motorsports Park.

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