The Johnson brothers were racing for more than a win on Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway.
They were racing for their mother, Dawn, who died unexpectedly on May 5, the day after the two last raced at the third-mile oval.
Kevin Johnson looked poised to ride to victory in the 50-lap Spots Modified feature as he led the field to a halfway break after 25 laps. But as the cars formed for a restart, Kevin Johnson exited the track and did not return.
That’s when brother Michael stepped up.
Garrett Jernagan led the pack to the green flag on the restart, but Michael Johnson had the lead before a lap was completed.
Michael Johnson then pulled away to beat Jernagan by a full straightaway as the final 25 laps ran caution free.
Once in victory lane, Johnson gave a slight fist pump before quickly being surrounded by family for a victory picture.
“I’ve got to dedicate this to my mother, we lost her a few weeks ago and she was riding with us,” he said.
It was Johnson’s second win of the season.
“We were way too loose in the first 25,” he said. “We made some adjustments and they worked.”
Jernagan finished second followed by Chris McKellar, Brylon Holder and Jason Nation.
Guy Ahlwardt started on the outside of the front row and took the early lead, pacing the field for the first 10 laps before Kevin Johnson went low in turn four to take the point.
Kevin Johnson held that lead to the halfway break with Jernagan right behind and Michael Johnson third. Ahlwardt was fourth with McKellar fifth.
In IMCA Stock competition, Cody Johnson, Michael’s cousin, raced to his first win of the season.
Cody Johnson held off a late-race challenge from his dad, Chad Johnson.
“I made too many mistakes, I don't know how he didn’t pass me,” Cody Johnson said.
Troy Patee finished third.
Porterville’s Gene Glover held off a late-race charge from David Wolford Jr. to win the 20-lap Mini Stock feature.
Glover held a full straightaway lead when a caution fell midway through and bunched the field. Wolford stayed close from the restart on, but not close enough to attempt a pass.
“That one restart kind of spooked me, but we got lined back up, hammer down and away we went,” said Glover of his second win.
David Wolford finished third with Brandon Wolford fourth.
In Mod Lite action, J.D. Brown led from start to finish for his first victory of the season.
He is the second winner in the past two races after Zach Forster, who had dominated the division since its inception, chose to leave the drivers’ seat after winning the first three races.
Brown opened up a large lead midway through the 20-lapper and finished two car lengths ahead of Kaden Cochrun, who won the last time out.
Anthony Balcazar finished third, followed by Candi Varney and Jeff Thompson.
With Forster out of the picture, the top five drivers are within a few points of one another.