CONCORD, N.C. — Jason Johnson set the tone for the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series Friday night, winning the first night of racing for the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Johnson, who idled his winged sprint down victory lane for the fourth time this season, has made his victories count for the series’ most celebrated races in 2016.
“I’ll tell you what, these Priority Aviation/ Mesilla Valley Transportation guys have been doing a hell of a job all year long,” said Johnson, beaming on the front-stretch. “To cap it off at the end of the year with a victory in front of this great crowd…couldn’t say any more bout the facility at such an awesome event…to win is just an honor.”
Earlier in the year, Johnson recorded his second win at the prestigious 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores on August 13. At Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, the Eunice, La. native battled wheel-to-wheel with points leader Donny Schatz for a valuable extension on the event’s 56-year history. Johnson encountered a similar situation at World Finals.
Johnson, who started fourth in the feature, preceded the feature with a heat win and second place finish in the second Craftsman® Club Dash; Dale Blaney finished ahead of him. With Blaney starting second and fellow Platinum driver Brad Sweet on the pole for the 30-lap feature, Johnson faced an uphill battle chock-full of the sport’s most proven drivers.
Sweet, riding the high of winning the first dash of the night, started strong into the green flag. However, Blaney superseded his prowess and managed to take the top spot in the opening laps. Within the first three laps, Blaney increased his lead to 2.044 seconds. Two laps later, Johnson caught his stride and undertook Sweet exiting turn one for the second spot.
Sweet did not go down without a fight; he redeemed his spot on the race’s ninth lap. The two drivers thereon jockeyed for the runner-up spot, both using an under-over maneuver on each other for the next two laps. Johnson got the best of the battle, securing the spot exiting turn four on the 11th lap.
From there, Sweet faded. Logan Schuchart, who started seventh on the night, got around Sweet for the final podium position. While Schuchart was solidifying his spot on the podium, Johnson was cutting into Blaney’s lead. With 10 laps remaining, Johnson came within 0.382 seconds before the race’s first and only caution. By this time, the World of Outlaws regulars claimed six out of the top seven spots. Schatz was sitting in sixth.
“I’m very lucky to drive this racecar right now,” Schuchart said. “Our guys do a very great job, and it’s a fast car. I felt better as the race went on. I felt like it was the fastest car at the end of the race. The weather looks similar tomorrow so hopefully the track is similar.”
On the restart, Johnson closed the gap more than he had originally. Blaney and Johnson fought side-by-side, their cars parallel to each other exiting turn four with nine laps remaining. All the while, Schatz began his charge to the front. The seven-time series champion – soon to be eighth once he signs in for the event’s finale – made his way up to third with six laps left in the feature.
“These guys did an incredible job,” Schatz said. “The racetrack: you really didn’t know what was going to happen there. I’m glad those guys worked it. It made for a great race. I thought we were in really great shape coming through there. I tried to change and adapt to what I had. Tonight was definitely a big learning curve, and it’s definitely fun.”
Johnson proved to be too much for Blaney, and in the closing laps fell back. Johnson had sole possession of the lead. Schuchart and Schatz were able to get by Blaney, finishing one-two respectively behind Johnson. With Schatz’s charge, he recorded his 59th top-five performance of the year. Adding to the series’ success, the Outlaws placed in eight of the top-10 spots.
“We’re a privateer team, and we’re definitely financially driven,” said Johnson, earning the $12,000 purse. “So, it’s an honor to pull-off another victory.”
Schatz, who doubled-over into the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series, finished 15th in the 50-lap feature which preceded the Sprint class. Schatz said he is having “a lot of fun” dabbling in both classes, but his focus for the finale will be in sprint car.
“I don’t think I was cut-out to drive those cars,” Schatz said. “Those 50 laps seemed like 500 to me. It was brutal. Tomorrow will be a little better being able to run the sprint car first. So, we’ll see what happens with that.”
Feature – (30 Laps) – 1. 41-Jason Johnson  [$12,000]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart  [$5,500]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz  [$3,200]; 4. 1B-Dale Blaney  [$2,800]; 5. 49-Brad Sweet  [$2,500]; 6. 5-David Gravel  [$2,300]; 7. 2-Shane Stewart  [$2,200]; 8. 10H-Chad Kemenah  [$2,100]; 9. 9-Daryn Pittman  [$2,050]; 10. 83-Joey Saldana  [$2,000]; 11. 21-Brian Brown  [$1,500]; 12. 2M-Brent Marks  [$1,200]; 13. 5W-Lucas Wolfe  [$1,100]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides  [$1,050]; 15. 2L-Danny Lasoski  [$1,000]; 16. 71M-Dave Blaney  [$1,000]; 17. 18-Ian Madsen  [$1,000]; 18. 48-Danny Dietrich  [$1,000]; 19. 82-Sammy Swindell  [$1,000]; 20. W20-Greg Wilson  [$]; 21. 49X-Tim Shaffer  [$1,000]; 22. 7-Paul McMahan  [$1,000]; 23. 27-Greg Hodnett  [$1,000]; 24. 19-Paige Polyak  [$1,000]; 25. 51S-Stevie Smith  [$1,000]
-World of Outlaws Press Release
-Photo Credit: World of Outlaws Twitter