ELDON, Mo. — Water glazed James McFadden’s eyes. His lips quivered with every word.
The emotion of winning the Jason Johnson Classic Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series started to get to him.
“Jason (Johnson) was a close friend to our family and we spent a lot of time in Australia together,” McFadden said. “To get this is huge. It’s a privilege to be here and unreal to get the win.”
McFadden, of Warrnambool, Australia, had been through a crazy year already. He ran the DIRTcar Nationals in February and then was unable to returned to the United States from Australia for five months to continue running the Karavan Trailers No. 9 car for Kasey Kahne Racing due to COVID-19 restrictions. Once he was able to make the leap back over, he and the team toyed with a victory on multiple occasions.
Entering the night at Lake Ozark, they had no clear data to tell them a win would be guaranteed as it was McFadden’s first ever start at the third-mile speedway. But numbers on a paper – or lack thereof – meant nothing to the driver that cut his teeth on bullring tracks in Australia and to KKR, which scored a win at the track last year.
McFadden led from green to checkers in the 41-lap feature, holding off multiple challenges from teammate Brad Sweet to claim his second series win and the $15,000 top prize.
“It’s so good,” McFadden said. “We’ve been so close.
“I’ve got to thank my Karavan guys; KKR; Curb Records; Team ASE. I’m pretty pumped. This is my [most special] win. To do it is unreal.”
The teammates held the top two spots for the entire feature. Sweet closed on McFadden at various points throughout the race and tried to throw a slider on him in turns three and four twice. Both attempts failed as Sweet had to bail on his attempt or risk plowing into the side of McFadden.
Each time Sweet bailed on his slider he lost three car lengths to McFadden and allowed third-place Donny Schatz to close on him. On a restart with 13 laps to go, McFadden, Sweet and Schatz went three-wide for the lead, but their epic battle ended with another caution before the lap was completed.
The feature saw six cautions throughout the 41 laps and McFadden had every restart mastered. Sweet would dive into turn one to show his nose to McFadden in the corner, but the orange No. 9 car out powered Sweet’s NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 off turn two each time.
With a handle on the high groove in the closing laps, McFadden beat Sweet to the finish line by nearly two seconds.
“I nearly gave it away with three to go,” McFadden said. “When you’ve got Donny (Schatz) and Brad (Sweet) behind you, you’ve got to give it 100 percent. It’s tough. Those guys are racing for points. You don’t want to make a mistake and get in their way. Just super pumped to get the win.”
While Sweet had to settle for his second runner-up finish in a row, and his 10th second-place finish with the series this year, he and KKR made significant gains in the driver and team championship points. With Logan Schuchart, who is currently second in points, finishing 16th, Sweet is now 62 points ahead of him. And with Shane Stewart – driving the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41 – finishing 15th, KKR is now 34 points ahead of JJR for the team title hunt.
“I kind of got a little conservative thinking about the points, which sucks, you shouldn’t do that,” said SweetA. “He (McFadden) was fast and drove a great race. Just happy to bring the NAPA Auto Parts car home in second tonight.”
Schatz rounded out the podium.
“It was a guessing game of what was going to happen when they redid the track there for the Feature,” said Schatz. “It got really fast on the top and kind of took everything away from the bottom. Kind of thought that’s where it was going to go, so that’s the direction we went. We tightened the car up and got laid over a little too much.”
To see full results, turn to the next page.