KNOXVILLE, IOWA (August 13, 2016) – For the 56th time in history, the streets in Knoxville were bustling with sprint car fans and aficionados wringing their hands in anticipation of the running of the championship finale of the 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals. 50 laps. A three minute breaks after the first 25 laps with 25 laps to follow. One winner standing atop the podium at the end. It was race day at the world’s most famous half-mile oval. It was go time. Daryn Pittman was on the pole with the Ragin’ Cajun to his outside in the Priority Aviation/Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT)/Valvoline #41. Kerry Madsen and Jamie Veal made up an all-Australian row two as Donny Schatz and Chad Kemenah comprised row three.
The cars rolled out onto the speedway and aligned in their traditional two-by-two alignment before splitting and going four abreast in front of the 30,000 plus fans that filled the grandstands. Jason switched out his normal black Weld Racing wheels for bright, shiny chrome Weld Racing wheels. They were fancy as well as the talk of the town. Daryn Pittman would then pull out front in the missing man formation to honor one of their fallen competitors, Bryan Clauson, who succumbed to injuries from an accident the previous weekend. After the smoke from the fireworks cleared the air, the drivers gunned it one last time before Doug Clark slowed them down to pace lap speed to start the feature.
When the green flag waved, Pittman led Johnson’s Fischer Body Shop/Waco Metal/KSE Racing Products Maxim into turn one. Jason was running comfortably in the runner-up position as Pittman showed the way over the first 10 laps. Jason was closing in on him and overtook the lead on lap 11 before Pittman stole it back on lap 12. Before you knew it Donny Schatz, the 9-Time Knoxville Nationals Champion, had closed in on the front two and stole the lead on lap 13. Pittman would run second as Jason fell back to third. Just before the halfway point of the race, Jason drove his Jonestown KOA/FK Shocks/K&N Filters mount around Pittman coming out of turn four and into the runner-up spot by the time the caution flew for the halfway point of the race.
Philip, Jeff and Jakob went to work during the three minute half time break. Their instructions were simple: be aggressive in whatever you do so we can keep up with Schatz in his TSR #15 and hopefully put ourselves in position to win this thing. The boys did their job and Jason rolled back out onto the track. Restarting in single file order it was the #15 and then the #41. When the fierce competitors got back up to speed it was Schatz into the lead with Jason close behind. Jason was driving the Dissolvalloy Downhole Revolution/BMRS/FK Rod Ends #41 around the cushion and building up speed and momentum. He was not giving Schatz any room to run away. He closed in and on lap 27 he took the lead from Schatz. The fans in the stands were going absolutely berserk as most of them were trying to will the forty-one driver to the win in the biggest sprint car race of the year. The cheers from the crowd were deafening. But Donny Schatz is the best in the business and the Cajun chauffeur knew he would have to run clean lines consistently if he had any chance to beat him to the finish line. Schatz was right there setting up an incredible last 10 laps as the two fine chauffeurs put on a show that will be remembered for a long, long time. This one was one for the record books. Jason would lead lap 43 before Schatz got back by him for the lead. Unrelenting, the Eunice, Louisiana native stayed on the gas and called for anything and everything his Kistler Engines power plant would deliver to provide him the speed he needed, without spinning his tires, to get back by Schatz. It worked as the two touched wheels entering turn one with the Ragin’ Cajun taking the lead. He released his Wilwood Disc Brakes and shot down the back chute to build back up his speed. Schatz would battle back and as the two drivers sped down the front straightaway again as they approached a lap car. Jason slid underneath him forcing Schatz to use his brakes scrubbing off his momentum. Johnson seized the lead for good as he started to put some distance between himself and Schatz. But with one lap to go here came Schatz again. He closed the gap on Johnson’s Pro Powder Coating/CCC #41 and drove his #15 hard into three as Johnson cruised around the cushion. The Ragin’ Cajun headed down the front straightaway for the final time as Doug Clark waived the checkered flag with Schatz a few car lengths behind. The crowd gave him a standing ovation with everyone cheering loudly waving their arms in the air for the 2016 Knoxville Nationals Champion – Jason Johnson!
Jason Johnson had just won the 56th Annual 5-Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals in his Saich Family/MSD Performance #41 Maxim. He became only the 24th driver to win the prestigious race as he beat Schatz to the line with Shane Stewart, Daryn Pittman and Kyle Larson completed the top five.
After removing his Shell Shock custom painted Bell Helmet, a jubilant Johnson climbed atop his Vortex Racing Products wing as his Schoenfeld Headers cooled and the fans were still giving him a standing ovation and continuing to cheer for the winner as he was being interviewed. The ovation was earned and well deserved. His family, crew, sponsorship partners and friends were soaking in every aspect of the moment in victory lane and celebrating the huge victory with the man the fans affectionately call the Ragin’ Cajun. Unbelievable! Just simply unbelievable! But, it was now a reality. Jason Johnson will forever be the 2016 Knoxville Nationals Champion! His name will be etched in the record books as the winner of this race in 2016. His name will hang with the other winners of this prestigious race at the main entrance to the track under the midway for a long, long time. Memories were made for everyone on this night. A tremendous win and run for the forty-one!