There are times in each of our lives where something happens for a reason. A driver and a cousin does something for the same mentor and in return, they pick up a big win this past weekend.
Casey Johnson started his racing career at Jefferson Speedway in Jefferson, Wisconsin in 2008. He started by running in the Bandit division, but he blew his motor halfway through the season and his father Jeff handed over his Late Model and told him to race.
Johnson’s friend, Kyle Chesmore, has been spotting for Casey since the time he started racing Late Models and they remain best friends today. Kyle Chesmore helped his cousin Dan Chesmore for 12 years until Dan hung up his racing suit.
Dan Chesmore won three championships at Jefferson Speedway in 2000, 2001 and 2004 and is second on the all-time wins list at the quarter-mile track.
Dan got to know Casey Johnson through Kyle and also working together at Ken Olson Used Cars in Cambridge, Wisconsin.
“When I started racing Late Models, I had no clue with what I was doing,” Casey Johnson recalled. “Kyle would tell Dan about what was going on and all of a sudden Dan just started showing up at the track and helping us out. He would bring his setup notes and start mentoring me behind the wheel.”
Dan Chesmore’s mentoring helped as Johnson won the track championship in 2010 and 2012 at Jefferson Speedway, starting a successful racing career that is still going strong today.
A few months ago, Johnson won the TUNDRA Super Late Model race at Jefferson and this past weekend, he won his first Wisconsin State Championship, a title that Dan Chesmore never won in his career.
While Sunday’s win was huge for Casey Johnson and Kyle Chesmore. Dan Chesmore had to rely on social media updates and text messages to find out what happened as he sat in his hospital room trying to heal from a recent setback.
In 2010, Dan Chesmore had a kidney transplant. Recently, he was admitted at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin after what he described as his body now rejecting the new kidney.
“I am not feeling the greatest as I am waiting for my stomach to heal after a blow out from steroids that I was on for my kidney rejection,” Dan Chesmore told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Because of me not having a strong immune system it is taking forever to heal and once it does, we will deal with my kidney rejection. I have been in the hospital for over a month with nothing to eat and a tube in my nose. I don’t know how much longer I will be in the hospital, but it’s been too long already.”
Chesmore is thankful that the stomach issue happened in the hospital. He said that if it happened at home, he probably would not be with us today.
Knowing that the Wisconsin State Championships was coming up at Jefferson Speedway, Kyle Chesmore brought up an idea to Casey Johnson.
“I just thought I would throw it out there and ask Casey if he would consider doing a special paint scheme for Dan at the Jefferson two-day show,” Kyle Chesmore said. “Casey said heck yeah because Dan helped him a lot when he was getting started.”
That paint scheme included taking Johnson’s well known No. 5 and putting it on the shelf for the weekend and replacing it with No. 27, Dan Chesmore’s number. They also did a special vinyl wrap on the right side of the car with the same paint scheme that Dan raced with at Jefferson.
Dan Chesmore was sitting in his hospital room on Saturday, September 13th when he got a Facebook message from Kyle.
The message read, “Dan Chesmore and Gail Reinke-Chesmore (Dan’s wife) we know you can’t be at the track this weekend, so here is something to show you we still stand behind you, and are going to keep rooting you on! Go Dan “The Man” Chesmore.”
Below the message was a video of Casey Johnson and his crew unloading the car from their hauler unveiling the special wrap on the right side of the car.
“It was a big surprise to me when they sent me that video of them rolling the car out of the trailer,” Chesmore said. “That made my weekend.”
On Sunday, September 14th, with Casey Johnson behind the wheel and Kyle Chesmore in the spotter stand, Johnson went out and won both of the 65-lap Big 8 Series features to win his first Wisconsin State Championship and taking Dan Chesmore’s name to victory lane.
“That was really cool,” Johnson said. “I could hear Kyle choking up on the radio after we won them both and I started tearing up in the car as well. Dan is a great mentor to both Kyle and I and for us to do this for him is incredible. It’s rare for someone to win both features, and for us to do that for Dan, it’s something we won’t forget.”
After the race, family and friends surrounded Johnson and Chesmore to help celebrate the big win. Even drivers who raced with Dan Chesmore congratulated them and respected what they did for the three-time champion.
“Casey did something that I never did, be a Wisconsin State Champion,” Dan Chesmore said. “When Casey first got into Late Models, I was done racing at the time and started helping them over the phone with adjustments and at the track. I knew then he was going to be a great driver.”
Kyle Chesmore said he is planning on bringing the trophy up to Dan’s hospital room, where it will stay during his duration.
Casey Johnson said that this wrap is a one-time thing.
“The only place we could do that wrap was at Jefferson Speedway. My career started there…our friendship started there. We just wanted to let Dan know that we are always thinking about him and wanted to make sure the racing community didn’t forget about him.”
Kyle Chesmore summed it up with this Facebook post, “Never thought Dan Chesmore and Casey Johnson would win the state championship at the same time.”
With Dan Chesmore in the hospital, he is not able to bring home an income for his family. Bills are adding up along with the fuel costs for the family to visit him in the hospital.
A friend of Dan’s wife has created an account on gofundme.com for those who would like to help the family during this tough time. You can learn more and donate by clicking here (http://www.gofundme.com/di7m9s).
You can also be an organ, eye and tissue donor by visiting donatelifeamerica.com.
– Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Director of Business/Midwest Editor. Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Photo Credit: Mark Melchiori