As a young man, Johnny VanDoorn was propelled to the top of the Late Model world in November 2007 when he won the All American 400 at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville at the age of 19. Since winning his first Nashville guitar, the Coopersville, Michigan driver has grown into a championship driver that is a threat to win every race he enters.
However, VanDoorn has yet to repeat his All American success since that magical day. Now, after a year away from the 400, he is heading south to Nashville this Sunday, November 4 hoping to repeat his big win from 11 years ago.
“We’ve been close the times we’ve gone since then, but we haven’t been able to get that second win. Hopefully we change that this weekend. We ran very well in the spring at Nashville when we sat on the pole and finished third. Now we want to take what we learned then and make it last for 400 laps,” VanDoorn told Speed51.com.
While the desire to win is as strong today as it was in 2007, VanDoorn’s experiences in a race car have changed his perception over time, and those experiences have given him an idea of what he and his competitors will face this coming Sunday.
“I’m excited to be going back; 400 laps, it’s going to be a long race at that track,” he stated. “Some of these races get to be like high-speed enduros than anything, you got to have a car capable of winning, but you also got to do what you got to do to get to the end.”
“It’s grueling, muscle cramps, and you’re sweating the whole time. Fortunately, this race is in the fall, which helps, especially for a guy like myself who isn’t a big athlete like a NASCAR driver. But you’re still sore for two to three days after a race that long.”
The former ARCA/CRA Super Series champion knows that change is just another part of the game in motorsports, including at the Late Model level. Often times things get tougher for drivers, including the skill of their opponents and the rules that govern the sport. With the changes, including the original 400-lap distance after VanDoorn won a 300-lapper in 2007, it would make victory this time sweeter than the first.
“Everything changes, the sport has changed so much in the past 10 to 12 years as far as the way you race, how you race, the cars are so much different setup wise than it was back then,” he explained. “The tires are so much different and the group of people you’re racing against, but it’s no different than any other sport. You just roll with the changes. The ones that can adapt will rise to the top; the one’s that can’t run mid-pack.”
The final piece of VanDoorn’s eagerness for victory is that this will be his final time on track in 2018, ahead of his brother Butch welcoming a new addition to his family. Johnny could think of no better way to finish things off.
“This will be it this year for us. My brother Butch’s baby is due at the end of the month. So, we are not going to the Snowball Derby this year and will call it a season at Nashville. Hopefully we can end it with a win, it’s where we started back in the spring on a high note, and if we can end it on the highest note, that would be fantastic.”
Speed51.com will have Trackside Now coverage this weekend of the All American 400. You can also find full race highlights next week on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos