MECHANICSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA (September 28, 2017) – The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series ventured back to the historic Williams Grove Speedway for three consecutive nights of racing in the 55th Annual Champion Racing Oil National Open. The past winners list is prolific with names like Gordon Johncock, Larry Dickson, Lou Blaney, Bobbie Adamson, Kenny Weld, Kramer Williamson, Steve Smith, Smokey Snellbaker, Lynn Paxton, Doug Wolfgang, Kenny Jacobs, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Lance Dewease, Billy Pauch, Donny Schatz, Fred Rahmer and Jason Meyers just to name a few. So needless to say, the Williams Grove National Open is a race everyone wants to win so they can add their name to the prestigious list of winners.
There were 48 cars lined up in the front and backstretch pit areas at the famous half-mile ready to get to work. Based on the size of the field, the competitors were broken into two groups for qualifying. Jason was slated to be the first car out in Flight B aboard the Jonestown KOA/Winters Performance Products #41 Maxim. The tracks times were for the most part very consistent, but being the first car out in Flight B certainly seemed like an advantage for the Eunice, Louisiana born and raised racer. Unfortunately, when his engine fired he was forced to shut it down and coast back into the pit area. Crew Chief Philip Dietz, along with Jeff Bingaman and Jakob Weaver, wasted no time getting another engine pulled out and changed so he could attempt one lap at the end of the session. With the time clicking by quickly, the crew worked feverishly to get the new powerplant secured and all the lines hooked up. Just 24 minutes later, thanks to some yellow flag conditions throughout qualifying, the Ragin’ Cajun pushed off for his one lap on the clock. He did his best as turned a lap of 17.564 seconds, which 18th quick in his time trial set.
Falling one car short of a six-heat race format, the 48 competitors would be equally split and assigned to four heat races. Jason would line the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Valvoline #41 up ninth to start the fourth and final qualifying race with only the top five locking into transfer positions to the 25-lap feature event. He went to work as the green flag waved over the field and was using the bottom line trying to make a pass for position. Lance Dewease would lead and go on to win the heat race over Sheldon Haudenschild, Kerry Madsen, Ian Madsen and Kraig Kinser with Jason coming home in the seventh spot.
After Jason won the C-Main over Tony Stewart, the two professional racers advanced to the Last Chance Showdown (LCS) where they would have to charge from the back of the pack if they wanted one of the remaining four transfer positions to the feature event on the first night of the Summer Nationals. Jason would start 14th and got his elbows up early to get the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/K&N Filters forty-one moving forward. A number of cautions regrouped the field and each time the Ragin’ Cajun made his way forward. He was coming but the track was getting harder and harder to pass as it took on rubber ending his charge forward in the sixth position as Freddie Rahmer took the win over Lucas Wolfe, Dale Blaney and Brock Zearfoss.
Choosing to use one of his remaining two provisionals, Jason would tag the rear of the field and start in the 25th starting position. Pole sitter Greg Hodnett jumped into the early lead with Shane Stewart and David Gravel giving chase. Stewart would track down Hodnett and on lap 9 to take the lead. When the two drivers exited turn four, Hodnett tagged the outside frontstretch wall and came down across the track and made contact with Stewart, did a 360 spin and kept moving in the right direction where he blended back into the second spot, but the yellow was displayed. Jason had gained a few positions in the running order at this point, but was looking to get his Weld Racing wheels turning again. When racing resumed, the excitement continued as Stewart led the field into turn one with Hodnett driving to his inside as the two speedsters drag raced down the backstretch into turn three. Both carried a lot of speed into the turn with Hodnett making contact with Stewart as both backed into the wall. Moving up a few more spots, Jason was searching for more racing room in the Priority Aviation Services, LLC/MSD Performance Maxim, but the fast lane was limited to the bottom side making passing extremely difficult unless someone bobbled in front of you. David Gravel inherited the lead and would take the opening night win over Daryn Pittman, Lance Dewease and Donny Schatz with Cory Haas rounding out the top five. Jason came home was scored with a 21st place finish.
The night was not over for Jason and the JJR Marshall Racing team though as there still was the 25-lap Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals make-up feature to run that was rained out on July 22nd. A quick recap, back in July there were 38 cars entered for the race with Jason being eighth quick in Flight B with a lap of 17.527 seconds. He started fourth in the last heat race as Daryn Pittman led the distance over teammate Brad Sweet with Jason battling Anthony Macri and Brian Montieth for the show position throughout the race. Montieth would end up third with Jason coming home fourth as James McFadden made a last lap pass to secure the fifth and final transfer spot ahead of Macri.
Jason would roll into his 16th starting spot aboard the Waco Metal/ISC Racers Tape #41 Maxim as front row starters Greg Hodnett and David Gravel paced the field and brought them to the green flag. Hodnett seized the lead with Gravel close behind as Jason got shuffled back six or seven positions when Sheldon Haudenschild and Matt Campbell got together coming out of turn four at the start with Jason taking evasive actions to avoid the chaos. Danny Dietrich would track down and pass Gravel for the runner-up position and close in on the leader Hodnett as they approached lapped traffic. It was essentially a very slick and narrow, one lane race track by this point with the low line being not only the preferred line, but the only effective line to race in. Dietrich got a run off turn two and chased Hodnett into turn three. Hodnett entered low to get into that lane forcing Dietrich onto the brakes sending his car spinning up the track where Brian Montieth would run into him under yellow flag conditions. When racing resumed, the train cars got into line behind Hodnett and stayed on the rails as Hodnett took the win over Lucas Wolfe, Donny Schatz, Daryn Pittman and David Gravel with Jason coming home with a 13th place finish in the Priority Aviation Services, LLC entry behind the Double Down #7s car of Jason Sides. A good end to a tough night for the JJR Marshall Racing team, fighting back from early engine troubles that put them in an early hole. The resilient team will apply the lessons learned on this night and get back at it on Friday night at Williams Grove for night two of the Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals.