Special from Lebanon Democrat – Young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson is looking forward to better times this year, after last season got off to a frightening start and had a disappointing finish.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” says the Mt. Juliet Christian Academy 9th grader who is considered one of the area’s rising stars. “Last season is behind us and I’m ready to move on.

Johnson, 14, two years ago became the youngest track champion of a major division in the 63-year history of Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, where legends have raced.

But after the success of 2018, 2019 got off to a crushing start.

Johnson broke his kneecap in a grinding crash in the season opener at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway. He missed a number of races during his recovery, and is still bothered by occasional pain in his knee.

The season finished on an equally dismal note when the team elected to skip the final race.

Chase describes last season as “rough” and says the issues were “challenging.” But, he adds, not all the times were bad.

“We came back from the Huntsville wreck and won the second race at Nashville,” he says. “There were some pluses in the season, some things we can build on.”

Instead of dwelling on past negatives, Chase chooses a positive approach to the future. One reason for the optimism is a new car to go with the fresh start.

“We built a really good Late Model car during the winter,” he says. “I can’t wait to try it out.

While last year’s hard crash served as a reminder of the hazards of the sport, Chase says it didn’t shake his confidence or courage.

“I couldn’t wait to get back out there,” he says. “Racing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and that hasn’t changed. I realize this sport has its risks, but you can’t worry about it. You have to put it out of your mind.”

In addition to running a full Late Model schedule at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Chase also plans to run several races at Montgomery (Ala.) Raceway and a couple of events at Pensacola, Fla.

Like all racers, Chase is quick to credit his local sponsors for their support: Action Homes, Complete Auto Body & Paint, Barrett’s Garage and Wrecker, Matt’s Transmission, and Pro Window Tinting.

“We’ve got great support from a lot of people,” Chase says. “I’m ready to start chasing a championship.”

The tornado that recently struck the area stuck close to Chase’s neighborhood, and he says he hopes for a rapid recovery: “We’re praying for the victims.”

By: Larry Wood – Lebanon Democrat
Photo: BAimagery