For the second year in a row, the ARCA Midwest Tour championship came down to two drivers and single-digit points going into the Oktoberfest 200 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway. Austin Nason led Casey Johnson by a single point heading into the day and after qualifying, the championship would come down to who finished ahead of the other.
Johnson had a strong run in the Chase Motorsports No. 47 en route to a fifth-place finish in the 200-lap main event to win his first ARCA Midwest Tour championship. Nason finished only three positions behind Johnson in eighth.
Johnson of Stoughton, Wisconsin had previously won Big 8 Late Model Series, TUNDRA Super Late Model Series, and weekly track championships throughout Wisconsin during his career, but he calls Sunday’s ARCA Midwest Tour title his biggest achievement yet.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of things but this takes the cake,” Johnson told Speed51.com. “I’ve been wanting this for a long time, we’ve been racing for a long time. This is the elite series; this is the one you want and this is unreal.”
The two drivers traded the points lead throughout the season, with Johnson taking wins at Jefferson Speedway and Rockford Speedway in the first half of the season and Nason winning at the famed Milwaukee Mile. In true form, the points lead also changed hands several times throughout the Oktoberfest 200 as different strategies played out. Johnson pulled ahead of Nason on a restart around Lap 120 and made a late-race charge through the field to lock in his championship.
“Honestly we didn’t do anything to the car. We saved the tires early and kind of made sure we still had something,” he said. “We bolted some rubber on there at about Lap 120 and she came to life, we had a really good car. I think we could’ve grabbed a couple spots there at the end but we were just smart racing.”
Austin Nason held the points lead through much of the early stages of the race before fading toward the end and finishing eighth. For the Roscoe, Illinois driver, it was déjà vu all over again after coming up short in the points battle at the wire one year ago.
“It’s the second loss. We come here and struggle every year, it’s just hard to keep coming here and losing,” said a dejected Nason. “It sucks losing two in a row here. We’ve been strong all year long both years and it always comes down to here and we seem to struggle when we get here to this long race. It’s hard to do.”
The ARCA Midwest Tour title became the third championship Johnson has won in 2019, also having won the TUNDRA and Wisconsin International Raceway titles for the second year in a row. He goes for an unprecedented fourth 2019 season championship in two weeks at Dells Raceway Park in the Alive for Five Series finale, where he also leads the points after winning the most recent race in August.
“You couldn’t write this season any better. We’ve been fortunate to do so much and we still got one more championship to go after,” he said. “We’re going to put our heads down, get one more and celebrate when it’s all over.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.com for highlights, recaps, and more from Oktoberfest Race Weekend on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman