After a year’s hiatus Casey Johnson will have an opportunity to chase a second Championship in the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes. Johnson is eager to return to back up his title from 2016.
“Just like anything else, I don’t want to see anyone else win, so I wanted to be back defending it,” Johnson said. “But we were there and in contention. John (Beale) had a shot at it. My car basically had a shot to win it, so it was fun to compete for it that way.”
Last season Johnson served as Crew Chief for John Beale, who finished Third in the series standings and won Rookie of the Year.
“It was a really different deal. I was able to learn a lot of things helping John,” Johnson said. “I had a base setup everywhere we went because we had success the previous year. I was able to fine tune it off driver feedback and what I could see. I think our program got stronger that way. I think we’ll run a little better this year.”
With a year of chemistry built into the team, Beale decided to put Johnson back in the driver’s seat.
“Casey Johnson is a hot commodity in racing,” Beale said. “He doesn’t just want to be a Crew Chief, he wants to race. I knew that if I didn’t put him in a car, someone else would.”
Adding a second team and second car for each of the six TUNDRA events this season will make more work for Johnson as the Crew Chief. However, he said the team expanded and he brought in a familiar face with former Car Owner Dennis Chase. Chase owns the car Johnson won the TUNDRA title with two seasons ago.
“I’ll set up the cars during the week and focus on mine at the track,” Johnson said. “Then I get feedback from John and Dennis puts it into place. We added some guys to the team to make it operate more smoothly.”
Although Johnson did not see as much action last season as he had in previous seasons or will in 2018, he did get a chance to fine tune his skills at several tracks. In 2016 Johnson admitted that tracks such as Golden Sands and Wausau were potential traps on the way to the title. However, he ran both tracks on occasion last year and gained experience – which could be a scary prospect for the competition.
“I’ll be a hundred times more confident,” Johnson said. “TUNDRA basically introduced me to those tracks, which is one of the reasons we wanted to run the series. I liked them enough to go back a few more times, so now we’re pretty solid at both of those places.”
Despite the extra confidence boost at those tracks, Johnson looks at the prospective TUNDRA roster and sees tough competition.
“You hear everyone is running TUNDRA this year,” Johnson said. “The series has the package to where it’s cheap and more teams can afford it. Making the races cheaper, everyone makes their cars better, so the competition is going to be there. I think it will be tough to get the wins this year.”
Perhaps one of his fiercest competitors could be in the pit stall right next door. With similar setups and potential success, there is a good chance both Johnson and Beale could encounter each other up front. What happens in that scenario?
“You’re going to have to be in the stands to find out. I can’t even answer that,” Johnson said. “Both cars would be set up the same, we’d just go and battle it out.”
This season Johnson and Beale Racing will welcome the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association as a sponsor. They are also sponsored by Hougan Farms, Pathfinder Chassis, Performance Part Supplies, Swift Springs, and Evenson Farms.
Kroll’s West Round One for the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes takes place Saturday, May 12 at Wisconsin International Raceway. The Super Late Models will be joined by the TUNDRA Sportsman and Triple Crown Late Models. Qualifying is at 5:15 p.m. with racing at 6:45 p.m. Adult admission (13 and up) is just $12. Kids 12 and under receive free admission.
Wisconsin International Raceway is located just past the intersection of Hwy 55 and KK outside of Kaukauna, Wis. For more information visit www.wirmotorsports.com