Casey Johnson traveled a lot of miles in 2018, and we don’t mean just traveling to the track. The Stoughton, Wisconsin driver hit the track for 45 races and capped it off by winning the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series championship.
“It was a successful season,” Johnson told Speed51.com. “It had its ups and downs but being able to pick up the TUNDRA and Wisconsin International Raceway (WIR) titles made it one to remember for sure.”
Heading into the TUNDRA Series finale, there were nearly 10 drivers who could mathematically take home the title. Johnson wheeled his No. 5 machine to a runner-up finish and his fifth top-five finish of the season to claim the championship.
“It actually made it a lot of fun,” Johnson said of the championship battle. “There were nine guys that had a shot at it in the last race, so you knew you were gonna get the best effort from each team and it was gonna be a great race. We were just fortunate enough to come out on top of it.”
Not only was Johnson battling a slew of other drivers, but one of his fiercest challengers was his teammate, John Beale. Johnson also served as the crew chief for Beale throughout the season and though it was Johnson who edged his cohort for the title, it was a solid one-two finish in the point standings for Beale Racing.
“It was extremely tense to say the least,” Johnson said. “I knew how bad he wanted to win the title and knew it was gonna be a battle. We approached it like it was our biggest race of the year. Both cars were gone through multiple times to make sure things were perfect and we would both be in position to win, but at the end of the day I would’ve been glad as long as either one of us took the championship. Finishing one-two in points say a lot about John’s (Beale) operation.”
When you hit the track 45 times in one year, as Johnson said, there are bound to be ups and downs. He had two wins escape from his grasp with mechanical failures, including the $10,000-to-win Midwest Tour opener at Madison. The team also spent a lot of time in the shop repairing front ends on both cars, but the ability to re-group and bounce back is one reason the team stood tall when it mattered most.
“The biggest low point of the season was the electrical fuel pump burning out while leading under caution with around five to go at the Joe Shear Classic,” Johnson stated. “We had a mechanical fuel pump break while leading the TUNDRA race at Marshfield and to top it off, wrecked two front clips, one on the TUNDRA car and one on the Kaukauna weekly car. But the nice part about running 45 races a year is there are so many opportunities to go back out there and get the wins and the runs we’re used to having. That’s what the team kept in the back of their heads to get through the rough spots this year.”
When the door closed on the season, Johnson tallied two championships, seven wins, 27 top-five finishes, 34-top ten finishes and seven fast time. However, the highlight of his 2018 campaign was winning the Detjens Memorial race at State Park Speedway, a track that had eluded him so far in his career.
“I’ve finished second at that track pretty much every other time I had been up there and to come up and get the win in the memorial race of a driver with a reputation like Larry Detjens made it that much more special.”