KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Carson Macedo has both the ultimate honor and the ultimate responsibility during the next 10 days of racing action at Knoxville Raceway.
Macedo was tabbed to continue the legacy of the late Jason Johnson, who passed away in late June after a crash at Wisconsin’s Beaver Dam Raceway, by piloting the former Knoxville Nationals champion’s iconic No. 41 sprinter in both this weekend’s ASCS-sanctioned 360 Knoxville Nationals presented by Great Southern Bank and next weekend’s 58th annual 5-hour Energy Knoxville Nationals.
For the 22-year-old native of Lemoore, Calif., the chance to carry on the legacy of one of the prestigious event’s most beloved champions is one that he doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m super thrilled for the chance to do this, even though getting to drive Jason’s car came out of such a tragic situation,” said Macedo. “They could have picked anyone out there to drive this car and to be picked for this caliber of a ride at the biggest sprint car race in the world means so much to me.
“Jason accomplished so much in our sport, so to be able to drive the race car that he put on the race track week-in and week-out is pretty special to me,” Macedo continued. “That team has had a lot of success at Knoxville and has always been really fast there. To work with (crew chief) Phillip Dietz and be in this kind of a situation at Knoxville, of all places, is something that’s huge for my career.”
Johnson’s legacy at Knoxville Raceway is well documented in sprint car lore. He won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals in one of the most thrilling finishes in event history, banging wheels with multi-time World of Outlaws and Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz, and was also a force for years in the 360 Nationals, though Johnson never won that event.
The chance to drive Johnson’s No. 41 materialized thanks to Macedo’s friendships with both a former World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion and a West Coast-based team owner he drove for during his days racing back home in California.
Macedo first revealed the process to the public during an appearance on the World of Outlaws’ Open Red podcast earlier this week.
“How this all came about is actually something I haven’t told a lot of people about, but this deal came together through Jason Meyers and Tommy Tarlton,” Macedo explained. “They were talking before Jason flew out for the funeral about how they wanted to help Bobbi (Johnson) in some sort of way to get back on her feet and all that … so Jason asked Bobbi what their plans were going forward and what they wanted to do, and she said, ‘I don’t care what we do; I just want to run the Knoxville Nationals with somebody.’
“I think they wanted Jason (Meyers) to drive it, but Jason didn’t really want to drive it. I didn’t really know any of that at the time,” he continued. “Joe (Gaerte) and I knew it wasn’t in our budget to run the Nationals this year and I honestly didn’t even think I was going to have a ride for the race. I took a total shot in the dark, knowing that Jason ran a (No.) 14 car of his own earlier in the year with an engine from Charlie Garrett, and texted him almost jokingly about bringing the car out for Knoxville. He called me right away and was shocked that I didn’t have a ride, but said to let him think about it.
“It wasn’t until a few days later that he called me back and said he mentioned my name to Phillip (Dietz, crew chief) and Bobbi … and asked what I thought about them wanting to run the Nationals and some select World of Outlaws races as it fit into my schedule. Phillip called me after that and said everything was done right before Eldora … and I got excited right away; there was no way I was going to turn it down. Opportunities like this don’t come around often and I’m honored to be a part of the JJR team.”