MECHANICSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA (October 14, 2016) – In Central Pennsylvania, the skies were clear and the sun was shining for a second shot at running the prestigious 54th Annual Champion Oil National Open which was postponed from two weeks earlier. It was a splendid day with 48 powerful 410 sprint cars lining the frontstretch and backstretch pit areas. All of the entries were competitive and proven cars. It was finally race day at Williams Grove Speedway’s historic half-mile oval.
The track officials had the surface ready, and after warmups concluded it was time for the two lap, individual part of the show – time trials. With 48 cars, there were two flights of time trials scheduled. Jason, aboard the Jonestown KOA/Waco Metal #41 Maxim, pulled the ‘66’ pill during the draw, which sent him out on the track forty fourth overall. His Kistler Engines motor came to life as the push truck roared down pit lane. The Cajun racer pedaled down and got the forty-one up to speed. He charged under the green flag and was setting a good pace. The track was fast. He drove hard into turn three and looked to have a great lap going but he was unable to finish his line through turn four. The same thing happened the next time around with the quicker of his two laps coming in at 16.821 seconds, which was only good enough for 38th quick overall.
The Louisiana-born driver knew he had his work cut out for him as he was slated to start seventh in the fourth heat race with only the top five locking into the National Open feature field. The front row of Joey Saldana and Lance Dewease brought the field to the green with Saldana showing the way in the Roth #83. Jason fell back to eighth on the initial start but powered his way back into the seventh spot at the halfway point of the race. A small puff of smoke on lap four turned into more smoke, and then even more smoke with each passing lap. Adversity set in as his entry was billowing smoke as he crossed under the checkered flag. He rolled into his pit stall only to find two holes, one fairly large, pierced in his rear end with gear oil leaking everywhere. Philip, Jeff, Jakob and some other help pitched in to put a new rear end in the car within a very small window of time so he could get out for the Last Chance Showdown (LCS).
Before you knew it, Jason was climbing back into the cockpit of his Priority Aviation Services, LLC/Fischer Body Shop Maxim for the LCS. The field was set for this event with formidable names like Stevie Smith, Doug Esh, Steve Buckwalter, Craig Dollansky, Brian Montieth and Brent Marks just to name a few lining the field. There were four transfer positions up for grabs and everyone wanted them. They each only had 12 laps to claim one the coveted positons as the green flag waved. Jason, starting from his eighth starting spot, got up on his wheel right away and used his KSE Racing Products to steer his way around the competition. T.J. Stutts was leading the field with Smith, Esh, Buckwalter and others giving chase. Jason was determined and had a fast race car. He used his skill and horsepower to move into the fifth position just after the midway point of the race. He started tracking down fourth place running Steve Buckwalter and made the pass as he was now following third place running Stevie Smith. A late caution regrouped the field for a two-by-two restart. When the racing got back up to speed, Buckwalter slipped by to regain the fourth position. But Jason would have none of it. He gassed her up, the car he was driving is affectionately named Stella, and passed him right back. Stutts went on to take the win over Smith and Esh with Ragin’ Cajun securing the fourth and final transfer position into the 54th Annual Champion Oil National Open.
There were 40 more laps of racing for Jason and the JJR team. They would be starting from the 24th starting spot in the field. He climbed into his Composite Fibreworks custom seat. Buckled his Crow Enterprizes safety belts. Pulled on his Bell Racing Helmet. And, the JJR crew pushed him back out of his stall and into pit lane. It was time to run the 54th Annual National Open in front of a packed house at the historic Mechanicsburg oval. Joey Saldana and Brad Sweet powered the field under the waving green flag. The sweet sound of sprint car engines filled the crisp, cool Pennsylvania fall air. Jason went to work with a few early passes as he quickly appeared in the top twenty. Hammer down he made some daring moves diving in low and drifting up to the cushion coming off turn four. He found a fast line in the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/CCC #41. He carried his speed around the cushion in turns one and two one lap and the next time through that area he was working the low line. Everything was working well as he was up to 16th place when the caution flag flew for Doug Esh on the twenty third lap. On the restart, a few cars directly in front of Jason got bottled up coming off turn four. Unbeknownst to anyone except him how he did it, he navigated through the tight racing to gain four spots. Unfortunately, a caution flag flew negating the pickup of spots on the track. When they got back to racing Jason continued his run forward advancing as far up as 13th place with ales than 10 laps to go. Abruptly the car started to slow a bit on the straightaways as his fuel load was dwindling down with five to go. Running 13th as he took the white flag the engine sputtered wanting more fuel. But the fuel was almost completely gone. Coming off turn four he lost another position but crossed the line with a respectable 16th place finish in his Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Valvoline #41 Maxim Racing entry as Danny Dietrich took the win over Saldana and Sweet. A disappointing end to a great charge through the field, but the JJR team and driver did an incredible job earning their way into one of the most prestigious and competitive races in the country. A good run for the forty-one!