Jason Johnson Racing has consistently been one of the most competitive teams at Knoxville Raceway, including two Knoxville Nationals titles in the last five events (2016, 2019). Philip Dietz, the team crew chief, and co-owner, attributes part of that to the caliber of cars and talent they bring every year. But also, to a simpler factor
A clear view of his cars.
“I know as a mechanic and crew chief, I really like going there because it is a little bit easier to watch from the infield to kind of see what the car is doing or where you can be better and what adjustments you can make to make it better,” Dietz said. “I think that’s one thing where we’ve been able to excel. Kind of get [Carson Macedo] a little bit quicker and up to speed.
“The biggest thing is probably being able to watch the car and make it better. Other than that, obviously, equipment-wise too with our Maxim cars and Kistler Engines. Like we all work really close together… So, I think all of that combined is what has made us competitive at Knoxville over the last handful of years.”
Jason Johnson put his team on the map with his 2016 Knoxville Nationals victory over Donny Schatz, catapulting it to future successes at the Sprint Car Capital of the World. The team hasn’t finished worse than 11th in the last five Knoxville Nationals and has collected six victories overall at the raceway in the last six years between Johnson, David Gravel and Carson Macedo.
For the 61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s (Aug. 10-13) this year, Dietz will have two cars vying for the history-making win – Carson Macedo in the JJR #41 car and his younger brother Cole Macedo in the Dietz Motorsports #14J car. Along with the good visibility around the track, both cars won’t be hard to miss as Carson is running a special lime-green paint scheme and Cole – making his Knoxville Nationals debut – is in a fluorescent blue car.
Dietz already has experience helping develop young drivers into winning contenders, such as Carson and Parker Price-Miller. But the easy view from the infield will help him get both of his California drivers up to speed quicker than anywhere else.
“It definitely makes a big difference when you can get up close and see if your car is turning in,” Dietz said. “If it is too tight or if it is completely out of the racetrack. Any place that you go to where you are limited being able to see the car, you really depend a lot on driver feedback and what the car is telling you. Being able to see it up front, up close, allows for better changes or a better educated guess on what change can be made to make it better.”
By no fault of the driver, Dietz said its can be easy for a driver to misinterpret what they’re feeling with their car at the speeds they’re going. Being able to stand in each corner of the half-mile raceway and watch what the car is doing through the corner allows Dietz to see first-hand how its reacting to the track conditions and coach his driver through what they are actually experiencing.
“Obviously it can be very confusing as a driver because you’re going so fast,” Dietz said. “What you’re feeling might be 180 to what you think is going on. It is really important for the mechanic to see the car up close and the driver to feel the car and communicate when you can get on the same page to what he’s feeling to what I’m seeing. It really allows us to make better decisions on our set up.”
Cole will run his preliminary night on Wednesday, while Carson will run his on Thursday.
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