By T.J. Buffenbarger
JACKSON, Mn. (June 9, 2018) — With the $40,000 top prize on the line for the AGCO Jackson Nationals with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series Donny Schatz stopped Jason Johnson’s winning streak by winning Saturday’s finale at Jackson Motorplex. After winning both preliminary features including one that took place earlier on Saturday afternoon Johnson found himself on the pole and in the lead of the finale until Schatz passed him on lap 18 and held on through lapped traffic for the victory.
“This race team is what the difference is,” said Schatz in victory lane. “You wouldn’t have known I was here the last feature. These guys turned and switched everything but the seat. The car was awesome, we had a good balance tonight.”
The initial start of the Jackson Nationals A-Main was short lived when Ian Madsen bicycled and hit the wall in turn one and contacted the wall between turns one and two. Madsen was able to make repairs in the work area and return to the back of the field.
Johnson led the opening lap with Brian Brown on his back bumper. Further back in the field Daryn Pittman got over the cushion between turns three and four and then turned over in turn one. Cory Eliason had nowhere to go and was also collected in the incident. Both drivers emerged from their cars under their own power. Both team were unable to make repairs while the red flag was opened for crews to adjust the cars.
Immediately after the open red Pittman’s Kasey Kahne Racing teammate Brad Sweet ended up backwards in turn one with front end damage. Sweet’s crew made repairs in time for him to join the tail of the field for the restart.
Johnson continued to lead while Schatz drove around Brown to take over the second position. Johnson maintained a sizeable lead over Schatz until encountered slower traffic on lap nine. Schatz quickly closed in as Johnson was tied up in traffic. Behind them David Gravel and Brian Brown were exchanging the third position.
On lap 18 Schatz found an opening and got a run off the bottom of turns one and two and drove by Johnson in turns three and four to take the lead.
After a caution for a spin by Sheldon Haudenschild on lap 25 officials called for a single file restart citing a distinct advantage in one of the two lanes on restarts. Schatz pulled way from Johnson as the track began to take rubber. Johnson was able to close on Schatz with six laps to go, but Schatz was able to clear traffic faster than Johnson to gain enough of advantage to hold on for the victory. Johnson held on for second while Brown rounded out the podium.
Afterwards Johnson was still optimistic after winning two preliminary features but coming up one spot short in the finale.
“The MVT guys did a great job, it was a solid weekend. When it comes to these big races Donny isn’t going to make any mistakes. He was kind of in the catbird seat running in second there. He knew where I was at and kind of searched around. When he got by that’s when the rubber started coming in and it got really difficult to pass.”
“This race team is what the difference is. You wouldn’t have known I was here the last feature. These guys turned and switched everything but the seat. The car was awesome, we had a really good balance tonight. I could roll the bottom, I could roll the top. I kind of expected it to get a little rubber there, but at least we go to the front before we did. Traffic was a tough deal. Jason (Johnson) went high and I was going to the other spot.”
Schatz said it came down to being in the right place at the right time.
“Traffic was a tough deal. Jason (Johnson) went high and I went to the other spot.”