KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 11, 2017) – Everyone, and every team, is challenged and encounters adversity in the course of their own journey. What defines a person and a team is not the adversity per se, but rather their reaction and response to that adversity. After a strong night came to an early and abrupt end on the opening lap of the 25-lap feature, Jason and the JJR Marshall Racing team regrouped and had the Priority Aviation Services, LLC/All Pro Aluminum Cylinder Heads #41 Maxim nestled back in the pit area on Friday evening for what is known as the Hard Knox Qualifying Night, as well as, the SPEED SPORT World Challenge.
There were 72 cars registered to battle it out around the famed half-mile, black clay oval known as Knoxville Raceway for the four transfer or lock-in spots to Saturday night’s 57th Annual 5-hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals feature field. The format splits the field in two equal groups for time trials depending on the pill draw. Jason and the team drew the ‘42’ pill, which put them in Group 2 where they would be the third car out for their one lap qualifying effort. There certainly isn’t an opportunity to mess up your first lap in this format, so the Ragin’ Cajun matted the accelerator and got the Jonestown KOA/Saich Family #41 moving. He took the green and carried his speed into turn one on the low side. He came up off turn two and barreled down the back straightaway and into turn three. He had a good lap going and could see the waving checkered flag exiting turn four and stopped the clock at 15.872 seconds. That time moved him to the top of the speed charts and no one would dethrone him on this night as he was the quick timer in Group 2.
With six heats on tap, with Group 1 cars filling the first three and Group 2 qualifiers setting the field for the last three, there was a brief period of time for the team to get the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Weld Racing Maxim prepped for their eight lap heat race. Following a chilling rendition of the Canadian, Australian and American National Anthem it was time to turn circles around Knoxville Raceway when Tony Bokhoven announced “Leeeeeeeeeets Gooooooooooo Raaaaaaaacing” on the microphone to commence heat race action.
Following the conclusion of the first three heat races, Jason climbed into his Fibreworks Composites custom seat and buckled into his Crow Enterprizes safety harness where he would head to the track and start from the outside of row two based on the inversion of four in each race. Tim Kaeding and Cole Duncan sat on the front row with Kevin Thomas, Jr. sharing row two with the defending Knoxville Nationals champion. The top three finishers in each heat advanced to the 25-lap feature. After a slight delay when a push truck got up over Bobby Mincer’s right rear when pushing him off, the engines re-fired and the field was set to take the green. Tim Kaeding jumped into the early lead with Jason takin command of the runner-up position early in heat race action. Jason was up top with Kaeding down low. Kaeding was pulling away so Jason moved to the bottom and started to close rapidly taking the lead on lap 5. With two-to-go a yellow for a slowing Parker Price-Miller was displayed setting up a green-white-checkered dash to the finish. Jason led the single file restart to the green and stepped on it as he built a lead over Kaeding to win by 1.727 seconds over Kaeding and Duncan to earn a front row spot in the Hard Knox Qualifying Feature event.
The field was set with Jacob Allen and the Ragin’ Cajun on the front row as Aaron Reutzel and Cory Eliason made up row two with Joey Saldana and Cole Duncan in row three. When the green flag waved it was Allen across the start finish line first with Jason close behind aboard the Fischer Body Shop/CCC #41 Maxim Racing entry. He ran to the high side and used the momentum his Kistler Engines power supply was feeding him to take the lead coming off turn two on lap 2. He moved off the top and headed low as he was hitting his lines and driving the car the fastest way around the half-mile oval situated on the Marion County Fairgrounds property. He was checking out as the other competitors raced for positions 2 through 4. When the green and white checkered cloth flew it was Johnson winning in dominating fashion by 4.535 seconds over Logan Schuchart, Aaron Reutzel and Cory Eliason. The determined driver of the forty-one celebrated in victory lane before explaining, “Last night definitely didn’t pan out the way we’d been looking for.” He continued, “It was phenomenal job that David Gravel did last night getting full points. It kind of inspired me really. In our own way, we kind of did the same thing tonight. The guys gave me a fast race car. Hats off to the JJR Marshall team.” He concluded by looking ahead to Saturday night’s 57th Annual 5-hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals by pondering, “How cool would it be if we battled from the back and beat those guys tomorrow night?” as cheers rained down from the fans in the grandstands. A great performance by the driver and team to earn a spot in the biggest sprint car race of the year!
Jason and the JJR Marshall Racing team could not rest as they decided to use the same car for the 20-lap SPEED SPORT World Challenge. Philip and the crew made some quick adjustments and put on a new set of tires before rolling out on the track where they would line up fourth in the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/Waco Metal #41. Front row starter James McFadden jumped into the early lead in the Highlands Tire Center #3H with Thomas Kennedy in second and Jason running close behind in third just ahead of Dominic Scelzi and Lynton Jeffrey. Johnson disposed of any gap between him and Kennedy and dove low entering turn one to take the second spot before Kennedy slowed and drifted to a stop bringing out the caution. McFadden would lead the single file restart order to the green with the Cajun Sensation stalking him for the lead. On lap 7, the Ragin’ Cajun would pass the Australian World Series Sprintcars champion for the lead and started to build up a sizable lead. He was encountering lapped traffic, which was slowing his pace slightly, and before you knew it there was McFadden within three car length of your leader. The savvy veteran navigated lapped traffic on the backstretch to put some cars between him and McFadden before crossing under the checkers to collect his second trophy of the night by taking the win in the SPEED SPORT World Challenge. A relieved driver celebrated with his crew, family and friends in victory lane. He held his son Jaxx as the two Johnson boys smiled amidst the flashing bulbs of the cameras. Sure both wins were important to these two, but Jaxx was happy his Daddy listened and got his own trophy, or should I say trophies meaning two, after Thursday night’s disappointing end. A great run for the forty-one at Knoxville Raceway!