ELDON, Mo. — It was rough and tough, and tricky and treacherous; a track Jason Johnson would have thrived on.
Leading all 30 laps on a “cowboy up” surface Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway, Brad Sweet checked a big one off his bucket list by claiming the third annual Jason Johnson Classic to the tune of $15,000.
His third win of the season marked the 61st of his World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series career.
“This is definitely one of my biggest wins,” Sweet said. “I know it’s not the Knoxville Nationals or anything, but memorial races just mean so much. We lost Jason a few years back and I’ve missed him ever since. I think about Bobbi, Jaxx, and his whole family still sticking with the sport after everything that has happened to them. They’re a lot braver than I am. I hope Jason is looking down on us and smiling tonight.”
Sweet, the two-time and defending World of Outlaws champion, was impressive all night long on the three-eighths-mile track. He set Slick Woody’s QuickTime, ran second in his Team Drydene Heat Race, and second again in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash.
Sheldon Haudenschild, a runner-up twice at Lake Ozark, had the honors of leading the field to the green flag in his Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink No. 17. But Sweet quickly drove the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 to the lead from outside the front row.
Outside of one stoppage for a flipped fourth-running Jacob Allen on lap six, it was a grinding 30 laps through lapped traffic.
Things heated up at halfway when the initial installment of lapped traffic slowed Sweet’s pace and brought Haudenschild to his back bumper.
Once able to sneak away, Sweet put on an absolute clinic. He lapped up to sixth position and crossed the finish line with an astounding margin of victory at 4.218-seconds.
“The night is all about honoring Jason and his legacy as a racer, as a father, and as a husband,” Sweet continued. “He was someone we all looked up to in the pits. He really made an impact on this sport. We really miss him. We want to take a moment every now and then and pause to remember him. Tonight is the night we get to do that. It’s truly an honor to win this race. This NAPA Auto Parts car was on rails. That’s a track that Jason Johnson would’ve had his elbows up on. He would’ve been tough to beat tonight.”
Haudenschild gave Sweet all he could at halfway, but the combination of traffic and conditions allowed Sweet to escape. Saturday marked his third career runner-up result at Lake Ozark and his third consecutive top-five finish at the Jason Johnson Classic.
“I’m gonna win this race someday,” Haudenschild told Bobbi Johnson afterward. “We were really good, but just Brad out-raced us, I think. I hung with him for a really long time, but he got through one pack of lappers better than me and it was game over. We want to win this one real bad. Even though it was rough it was awesome to drive. I had a blast.”
Coming home with a third-place finish and earning his first podium appearance of the season was James McFadden in the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 9.
“We just sort of rolled around and tried to keep out of trouble and capitalize on everyone else’s mistakes,” McFadden noted. “Tried to minimize my mistakes as much as possible. It was a tough race, though. I always enjoy this track, it’s a lot of fun. This is a good confidence booster for us. We struggled in Texas, so running third is great for sure.”
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