KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 11, 2016) – When the day started the rain was falling and the temperatures in Knoxville were actually pretty mild. A nice break from the sweltering heat and high humidity as everyone prepped for the second night at the 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores. That would change as the sun came out throughout the day and really started to heat things up. Everyoe was sweating, but it would soon get even a little hotter as 60 fierce competitors readied themselves for action in the pit area at the famous half-mile track that sits on the Marion County Fairgrounds – Knoxville Raceway. It was race day!
So many times the key to a good night comes down to what number appears on the pill you draw that sets the time trial qualifying order for the night. The JJR team always seems to pull pills with big numbers etched in the little circular indicator that rolls out. On this night the number was ‘67’ out of 75 pills. Jason climbed into his Fibreworks Composites custom built racing seat and rolled into line 54th out of 60 cars aboard his Priority Aviation Services, LLC/Pro Powder Coating #41 Maxim. As he pulled the shield down on his Shell Shock custom painted Bell Helmet he had a look of determination on his face. His Kistler Engines motor came to life and he built up speed down the backstretch. He took the green and entered turn one on the high side. He darted down the backstretch and dove low entering turn three, exiting turn four with speed and crossing under the flag stand as Doug Clark waved the white flag. He stopped the clock at an impressive 15.595 seconds, which was fourth quick overall at the time. His second lap was a little slower at 15.873 seconds, but when time trials were completed his quickest time was fifth quick overall as always fast Joey Saldana bumped him back one spot.
With five heat races, the Eunice, Louisiana born speedster was scheduled to start from the eighth starting spot in the Fischer Body Shop/Valvoline entry as they invert the top eight fastest drivers under the Knoxville Nationals format. They only take the top four from each heat so you have to race your way into the show. No lollygagging around here at Knoxville. As the cars pushed off, second starting Jon Agan’s car would not fire. His unfortunate circumstances moved Jason up a row so he started from the outside of row three. Green flag, green flag and they were off and running. Jason seized the fifth position on lap one as Stevie Smith gave chase. He found the low line and started moving forward as he tracked down Kaley Gharst to move into one of the coveted top four spots. Brooke Tatnell would take the win after 10 laps ahead of Bill Balog and Dustin Selvage as Jason secured the fourth and final transfer spot. Lucas Wolfe rounded out the top five. He was in the qualifying night show and had a really good points night so far and moving in the right direction.
When the qualifying night points were tabulated and the 25-lap feature lineup was set, the Cajun Sensation would be the second highest points generator on the night at this point and find himself starting from the seventh starting position beside Australian Kerry Madsen. Dale Blaney and Justin Henderson were on the front row with Brooke Tatnell and Tim Kaeding in row two and James McFadden and Terryu McCarl in row three. As the strong field was set to race, they honored and paid a beautiful tribute to the late Bryan Clauson as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. piloted Clauson’s Matt Wood Racing (MWR) #17W ride in front of the field during the pace laps. When the green flag waved, Dale Blaney took the lead as Jason was truckin’ in his Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Waco Metal #41 Maxim. He wasted little time showing off his speed and skills as he drove into the top five. He was carrying his speed into the turns and driving off the turns with incredible power. He continued to flex his muscles as he move into fourth behind Blaney, Tim Kaeding and Henderson. A close call, really close actually, occurred as Henderson’s car slowed quickly coming out of turn four. Johnson’s cat-like instincts enabled him to narrowly squeeze by and avoid Henderson whose car stopped on the front stretch bringing out the yellow. Kaeding was now leading as Blaney, Jason and Terry McCarl would be nose-to-tail behind him. When the racing got back up to speed, Jason drove his forty-one under Blaney as the two were embroiled in a fierce battle for the runner-up position. Jason won out, but before things settled here was Terry McCarl pushing him for the position. McCarl wanted the second spot and the two drivers put on a quite a show over the next three laps. McCarl stole second, but Jason stormed back and dove underneath him as he started to distance himself from McCarl. His son Jaxx was cheering and waving his fist in the air each and every lap during the waning stages of the event as he yelled, “Go Daddy, Go! Go Daddy, Go!” Race leader, Kaeding, was checked out but Jason was giving chase as the checkered flag flew on qualifying night two at Knoxville. Keading took the win as Jason brought home second with McCarl taking the last step of the podium. Kerry Madsen and Dale Blaney rounded out the top five.
The Knoxville Nationals are all about earning the most points you can throughtout your qualifying night. When all the points were counted, Jason was the high point driver of the night in the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/Jonestown KOA #41 Maxim with 481 points. That incredible effort locked him into the front row of Saturday night’s 56th Annual 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals.
As the cars pushed out of the pit area and back to their haulers outside the track the skies opened up and it downpoured. The falling precipitation did not deter Jason and the JJR team and sponsorship partners from dancing in the rain as they unloaded the pit trailer and celebrated their success on this night at the Knoxville Raceway. A great night and a great run for the forty-one!