Race drivers aren’t noted for their patience.
That’s why, after two seasons of balky starts, young Wilson County hot-shoe Chase Johnson is chaffing at the bit to get going. He started last season with a crash and a broken kneecap that sidelined him for several races. This season’s start was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make up for lost time, Johnson plans to chase dual championships at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway and Montgomery, Alabama Speedway.
“It’ll keep me busy, but I’m looking forward to it,” said the Mt. Juliet Christian Academy ninth grader. “There’s no such thing as too much racing.”
Two years ago, at 12, Johnson became the youngest champion of any division in the 63-year-history of Fairgrounds Speedway. His dad, Andy, won the track’s premier championship in 2008.
Johnson got in one race early this spring before the shutdown, finishing 12th at Montgomery Speedway. When Fairgrounds Speedway launched its delayed 2020 season July 4, he posted another 12th-place finish in the pro late model division.
The Fairgrounds plans to run the full remaining schedule, pending further pandemic setbacks. Updates are posted on the track’s website.
“It’s going to be an exciting season,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a great car. I had some handling problems in that first race, but we’ll get it fixed.”
Johnson’s goal is to win the division’s rookie of the year, in addition to contending for titles at Nashville and Montgomery.
When he began racing at the Fairgrounds in his pre-teens – knee-high to a hubcap – Johnson sensed skepticism from some of the older drivers.
“I know what they thought: ‘Here comes a kid in a racing suit,’” he said.
They lost their skepticism when the kid started beating them.
Johnson hasn’t encountered a similar reception by Montgomery Speedway’s regulars, despite being a peach-fuzzed out-of-towner trying to make off with their trophies and prize money.
“Far as I can tell, I’m accepted,” he said. “I haven’t heard anybody say anything.”
In addition to running a full schedule at the Fairgrounds and Montgomery, Chase plans to compete in a race later this summer at New Smyrna, Florida Speedway.
During the shutdown, Johnson was not as idle as his motor. He occupied his time with golf and fishing.
“I caught some crappie and bass in Percy Priest,” he said, “and I got a couple of good stripers.”
He also got hooked on golf.
“I really like it,” he says. “I may try out for the golf team when school re-opens.”
But fishing and golf will play second fiddle to racing.
“Racing is my focus,” he said. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid watching my dad race.”
“He works hard at it and I’m glad to help him all I can,” said dad, Andy Johnson, who oversees his son’s race team. “He’s a good little driver and a great kid. I’m proud of him as a racer, but prouder of him as a son.”
Johnson is quick to credit his Lebanon-area sponsors for their support – Action Homes, Complete Auto Body & Paint, Barrett’s Garage and Wrecker, Matt’s Transmission and Parker Brothers Window Tinting.
“I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people, starting with my dad and step-mom,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have done anything without them.”