Johnny VanDoorn has done a lot of winning throughout his career, but not recently. After putting his own driving duties on the back burner for a few years to get a driver development business off the ground, VanDoorn returned to the seat last year. The 2016 season ended up being what could be defined as “tumultuous.” VanDoorn is now hoping to put all of that behind him when he makes his Rattler 250 debut at South Alabama Speedway on March 19.
The Rattler serves as the season-opening race for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco, and it will be VanDoorn’s season opener as well.
“This is the first time I’ll actually be racing myself,” VanDoorn explained. “I’ve been down there one time before with Erik Jones back when we were taking care of his cars in like 2011. But this will be my first trip back there in I guess six years and my first time driving it.”
VanDoorn said the purpose of running the Rattler is to get 2017 “kick-started” the right way, and also to put 2016 in the rear-view mirror.
“Last year was a terrible year. Last year was kind of a transition getting back into the seat instead of being on the spotter’s stand. We had a lot of good runs going last year and a lot of terrible luck. We had flat tires and mechanical difficulties. We were fast at a lot of tracks and could never seal the deal.
“I’m looking forward to this year though. We’ve spent a lot of time getting organized and getting more prepared. We’ve been working on things in the shop with our cars to make our cars better. We’re pretty excited to go down and give her a shot.”
The Michigan native said he has no set racing schedule for 2017 and has no plans to chase a championship in any series or at any track. Instead, he said his plan is to be at all of the big races. But no matter where he goes, VanDoorn said he and his team will be fully prepared.
And wherever VanDoorn goes, beginning with the Rattler, VanDoorn said the goal is the same. Most drivers say the goal is to win, but for VanDoorn the goal is to finish in the top three.
“Any time we go to the race track we have to go with the idea of qualifying top three and finishing top three,” explained VanDoorn. “Everyone wants to go there and get the pole and lead all of the laps and win the race. But realistically, to be successful you have to qualify top three and finish in the top three. When you consistently run top three and you’re in a position to capitalize, that’s when the wins start coming. So if we can go and do that then I’d be happy.”
Race fans can watch all of the action from South Alabama Speedway including the Rattler 250 for the Southern Super Series and and the Baby Rattler 125 for the Pro Late Models live on Speed51 TV by purchasing a two-day pay-per-view package for $39.99. Fans can also purchase individual day packages as well. A Sunday-only pay-per-view ticket can be had for $24.99 while a Saturday-only ticket can be purchased for $19.99. Fans can purchase their Speed51 TV pay-per-view packages here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo