Rain continued to be a problem for the National Short Track Championship at Rockford Speedway Saturday, but enough of the 250 lap event was run to declare Wisconsin star Casey Johnson the winner of the 54th annual event.
Johnson took the lead on lap 138, just in time for the lap 150 break for fuel, tires, and setup changes. Mother Nature, who had been looming in the distance for most of the afternoon, saw its opportunity and doused the high-banked asphalt facility with a steady mist, becoming heavier rain as time went on. The race was called after the break had concluded and the track had been “lost."
Johnson started last in the 22-car field after a poor qualifying effort during the original National Short Track Championship weekend at the end of September, but had shown speed during the morning practice session. The Edgerton, Wisconsin driver was able to pick his way through the rear of the field, then take advantage of incidents involving Alex Prunty, Rich Bickle and Ty Majeski.
Johnson’s spotter kept him updated of the pending weather situation, helping the driver know when to make his move.
“We knew starting in the back we’d have to keep our nose clean. Kind of pick them off as them came to us. We got through the first 75 kind of riding, grabbed a couple cars early then used some pit stop strategy. The car was really good, noticed Steve (Apel) was a little tight in the middle, so we knew where our strong spot was.”
For Johnson, winning at Rockford holds a special place in his heart.
“This is actually where I got my first start in Super Late Models, I ran second to Rich Bickle, learned a lot from him that day," Johnson stated. "This place is a different race track compared to anywhere else. Really have to get up on the wheel, beat and bang, knock doors, nobody gets mad about it because that’s just the way it is.”
With the National Short Track Championship victory, Johnson and his team may be adding one more race to their 2019 campaign: the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
“We got a bit more money in the budget," he said. "This was going to be the last one (this year), but I’d sure like to get South and run something. Maybe Pensacola, it’s a bit warmer, the wife might like that a bit more. [Not having to hire a pit crew] makes it way more appealing. That’s actually been the thorn in the side every year they’ve had it. The funding hasn’t been there to get down there with the full pit crew. Now that we just have to look for tires and get a good setup underneath us, it’s doable.”
Ty Majeski was chasing his 100th career feature win at Rockford Saturday, but luck would not be on his side. After running second for most of the race, he made contact with another driver in the second segment and was sent to the tail for the caution. Shortly after, the car developed a mechanical issue and was unable to continue.
Majeski knows the importance of what 100 wins would mean but is also thankful for the group that has helped him get there.
“It would mean a lot (to get win 100), anytime you can win 100 races is special in any type of motorsports. It’s a testament to my team and what we’ve been able to accomplish the last five-six years together. It’s really special.”
The No. 91 team and Majeski will look to Nashville on November 3 for their next chance at scoring his 100th career feature win in the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. You will be able to watch all the action from Nashville live on Speed51 with our PPV. Fans can purchase the PPV here.
Highlights, interviews, and in-car cameras from the National Short Track Championship will all be available on the 51 Network this week. For full coverage of the National Short Track Championships, subscribe today.
National Short Track Championship Unofficial Results
1 – Casey Johnson
2 – Brad Mueller
3 – Austin Nason
4 – Steve Apel
5 – Jacob Gille
6 – Michael Bilderback
7 – James Swan
8 – Jon Reynolds Jr.
9 – Josh Wallace
10 – Tim Lampman
11 – Josh Nelms
12 – Matt Berger
13 – Dennis Prunty
14 – Clay Curtis
15 – Rob Braun
16 – Jim Olson
17 – Rich Bickle
18 – Ty Majeski
19 – Jake Vanoskey
20 – Danny Church
21 – Alex Prunty
22 – Max Kahler
-Story by: Patrick Hahe, Speed51.com Great Lakes Editor