PORT ROYAL, PENNSYLVANIA (October 15, 2016) – It was simply an idyllic fall day in Pennsylvania that was made even better by the fact that Jason Johnson and the World of Outlaw Craftsman Sprint Car Series were in town to race at Port Royal Speedway, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Speed Palace’. Situated on the Juniata County Fairgrounds, this half-mile oval was in pristine shape when the 45 competitors and teams arrived for the slightly earlier than normal start time. Promoter, Steve O’Neal, and his team had the surface ready and the fans showed up in droves to catch the action as the grandstands were packed full and the midway was bustling with excitement.
There were two flights of time trial qualifying groups scheduled for the night. Once again, the JJR #41 team pulled the ‘66’ pill during the draw, which meant they would be in the second flight for their two qualifying laps around ‘The Port’ as the sun was setting and the full moon rising on the horizon. Jason was the 39th car out on the track as he pushed the Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/K&N Filters #41 onto the track off turn four. His Kistler Engines powerplant came to life and he dropped his right foot on the loud pedal. Boom! He was off and took the green flag as he sailed into turn one and powered his way off the second turn. Whoosh! He charged down the backstretch and into turn three as he floated to the cushion in turn four. Just like that the first lap was completed in 15.766 seconds. A good lap, but not good enough. It was a fast and consistent track, so everyone was boogying around ‘The Speed Palace’. He stayed on the hammer and improved his lap time by .239 seconds the next time around as he stopped the clock at 15.527 seconds, which was 10th quick in his flight and 19th quick overall on the night.
There were four heat races posted with only the top five drivers transferring from each of the heat races. Time to get your elbows up. When the lineups were set, the 2016 Knoxville Nationals champion would start fifth in the fourth heat race to the inside of Davey Sammons. Daryn Pittman and David Gravel were on the front row with Lance Dewease and Dale Blaney right behind. Pittman led the field into turn one as Jason used the low line and slid up across the track in front of Sammons to settle into the fifth position. It was like a high speed freight train buzzing by each and every lap as the speeds here were crazy at this point of the night. Pittman took the win ahead of Gravel, Dewease and Blaney with the Ragin’ Cajun securing the fifth and final transfer spot in his Jonestown KOA/Weld Racing Maxim.
Locked into the 30-lap main event, Jason and the JJR crew watched as the track continued to evolve throughout the night. The barely noticeable cushion had pushed up to the base of the wall and the dust started to pick up as the night went on. It was a fast surface, but passing was certainly going to be at a premium on this night. After some last minute bar changes, Jason buckled his Crow Enterprizes safety belts and the crew rolled the Priority Aviation Services., Inc./BMRS #41 back into the pit lane to be pushed to the frontstretch for opening ceremonies. Local Pennsylvania driver, and former Outlaw, Lucas Wolfe was on the pole in the Zemco Speed Equipment #1 with another Pennsylvania-born driver, and current Outlaw, Logan Schuchart on the outside of row one in the Shark Racing #1s. Jason was on the outside of row ten with Shane Stewart in the Larson Marks Racing #2 to his inside. Lucas Wolfe would be your early leader with Schuchart in tow. Jason wasted little time as he drove aggressively around the topside of one and two the first lap and dove under the competition on the second lap finding himself in 13th place when the caution flag flew after two laps for the spinning Brock Zearfoss in turn three. On the restart, Schuchart drove into the lead as Jason battled for position aboard his Fischer Body Shop/Pro Powder Coating (PPC) speed machine. It was absolute mayhem on the restarts as these talented sprint car drivers crossed lanes trying to position themselves at high speeds for their entry into the first turn. Jason got shuffled back about four or five positions as he settled into a rhythm under green flag racing condition. This surface is hard on tires and with each passing lap the surface was grinding a little more at the much needed tread that propels you forward on these amazing machines. Jason maintained his seventeenth running position as Logan Schuchart collected his second WoO win of the year ahead of Greg Hodnett, Donny Schatz and Lucas Wolfe with Lance Dewease rounding out the top five. A great night of racing that didn’t deliver the exceptional results Jason and the team were looking for, but earning your way into the feature in Pennsylvania is a feat in and of itself as 20 cars went home after watching the event on this night. Sprint car racing is tough. Not everyone makes the show. That’s exactly what makes it the best form of motorsports night in and night out – the competitors have to earn their way into the money paying event. A good night of racing at Port Royal Speedway!