CONCORD, N.C. — In the jubilation of Friday night’s victory lane celebration for Jason Johnson Racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, team owner Bobbi Johnson stood back and realized something.
She didn’t want the feeling to end.
In the wake of David Gravel’s victory in Friday night’s Can-Am World Finals opener, Johnson confirmed that, at the very least, the journey for JJR won’t end — at least not for a little while — telling Sprint Car & Midget late Friday night that she will keep Jason Johnson Racing open for business in 2020.
Johnson originally committed to run the organization in the wake of her husband Jason Johnson’s tragic passing for only the 2019 season, but after a year that included 11 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victories and a Knoxville Nationals title she knew she couldn’t walk away.
“I don’t know if a dream even is the reality of the year we’ve had,” Johnson said. “It’s been a phenomenal season all the way around, from the big wins to a ton of highs, you know, and a few lows … but not anything we couldn’t overcome and work through. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better driver this season. David has been phenomenal for us and we’ve so enjoyed how he’s fit in with this group and what he’s done for all of us, for Jaxx (Johnson, son) and just how he’s made this team what it is now.
“I was sitting in my hotel room this morning just thinking about the whole season and stuff and I know originally I said (we’d be) one year and done, but we’re going to continue here at JJR.”
Johnson noted that she had three boxes on her to-do list after hiring Gravel, but once she started looking deeper, there were other goals from members of her team that she wanted to help make possible if she could.
“My whole focus at the start of the year was that I told our crew I was going to give it 100 percent, give it my all and do everything I could possibly do to put a name on the car for the Nationals. I did that,” she explained. “I wanted to promote the race, Jason’s race (the Jason Johnson Classic) at Lake Ozark Speedway. I did that. And then I wanted to finish off the year down here strong, and David went out and we won one here at Charlotte tonight. So I feel like I checked off my three majors on my goal list this year. And then when I sat back and looked at it, it was just like, ‘man, I can’t quit.’
“Even though there might be a low next year, and we might not win a race, we have to go back and try again,” she continued. “Philip Dietz, Jason’s crew chief and cousin who stuck by us through highs, lows, everything … he wants to win a championship and I’m not going to deprive him of that (opportunity).”
Bobbi Johnson admitted that, while she knows she’s going to continue with the team next season, there are still unknowns as to exactly what the JJR squadron will look like for the coming years.
Current JJR driver Gravel has been the subject of speculation since his win at the Knoxville Nationals in August, with rumors swirling that he may go pavement racing with the support of four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who brought longtime sponsor Axalta to JJR for the Knoxville Nationals.
Johnson said she’s still working on getting her team’s deals shored up for the new season, but that Dietz would return to crew chief the No. 41 next season and that in some capacity, fans of JJR will still be able to see the car contending for sprint car victories in the months to come.
“We’re not planning on going away and we hope we can do this (winning) again a good bit next year,” she said with a smile.