Water glazed James McFadden’s eyes. His lips quivered with every word.
The emotions 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, VIC, 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 #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.
The Aussie and KKR had done the same last year, picking up three runner-up finishes with the Series. They’d found success at other levels, winning the 360 Knoxville Nationals in 2019, but never scored a World of Outlaws victory together.
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 1/3-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 slid job attempts from Sweet, to claim his second career Series win and the $15,000 top prize.
“It’s so good,” McFadden said about finally getting a Series win with KKR. “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.”
KKR dominated the night with Sweet first setting quick time in Qualifying. Sweet and McFadden both went on to win their Drydene Heat Race and McFadden won the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash, holding off Sweet for the win.
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 3 and 4 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 1 to show his nose to McFadden in the corner, but the orange #9 car out powered Sweet’s NAPA Auto Parts #49 off Turn 2 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 #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,” Sweet said. “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 and made his own gain on Schuchart in the points chase. He currently sits third, 20 points behind Schuchart and 82 points behind Sweet.
“It was a guessing game of what was going to happen when they redid the track there for the Feature,” Schatz said. “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.”
Their championship battle is now down to three races to go.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, on Sat., Oct. 24, returns to Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo, IN. Click here for tickets.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (41 Laps) – 1. 9-James McFadden [$15,000]; 2. 49-Brad Sweet [$5,725]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz [$3,425]; 4. 2M-Kerry Madsen [$3,025]; 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,725]; 6. 87-Aaron Reutzel [$2,525]; 7. 14-Tim Kaeding [$2,425]; 8. 26-Cory Eliason [$2,325]; 9. 71-Parker Price-Miller [$2,275]; 10. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [$2,225]; 11. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg [$1,725]; 12. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,425]; 13. 1A-Jacob Allen [$1,325]; 14. 3-Ayrton Gennetten [$1,275]; 15. 41-Shane Stewart [$1,225]; 16. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$1,125]; 17. 2-Carson Macedo [$1,025]; 18. 83-Dominic Scelzi [$1,000]; 19. 7S-Jason Sides [$1,000]; 20. 18-Gio Scelzi [$1,000]; 21. 72-Daryn Pittman [$1,000]; 22. 11-Ian Madsen [$1,000]; 23. 2C-Wayne Johnson [$1,000]; 24. 21-Brian Brown [$1,000]; 25. 6-Bill Rose [$]; Lap Leaders: James McFadden 1-41; KSE Hard Charger Award: 2M-Kerry Madsen[+18]
Qualifying – 1. 49-Brad Sweet, 11.402; 2. 15-Donny Schatz, 11.464; 3. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 11.496; 4. 18-Gio Scelzi, 11.512; 5. 1A-Jacob Allen, 11.519; 6. 9-James McFadden, 11.575; 7. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 11.587; 8. 26-Cory Eliason, 11.599; 9. 71-Parker Price-Miller, 11.636; 10. 3-Ayrton Gennetten, 11.648; 11. 21-Brian Brown, 11.656; 12. 41-Shane Stewart, 11.669; 13. 2-Carson Macedo, 11.716; 14. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 11.727; 15. 14-Tim Kaeding, 11.742; 16. 7S-Jason Sides, 11.745; 17. 72-Daryn Pittman, 11.754; 18. 83-Dominic Scelzi, 11.808; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 11.844; 20. 11-Ian Madsen, 11.858; 21. 2M-Kerry Madsen, 11.86; 22. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg, 11.883; 23. 99-Skylar Gee, 11.954; 24. 24-Terry McCarl, 12.001; 25. 7BC-Tyler Courtney, 12.006; 26. 27-Tucker Klaasmeyer, 12.14; 27. 14E-Kyle Bellm, 12.205; 28. 6-Bill Rose, 12.226; 29. 35-Skylar Prochaska, 12.253; 30. 33M-Mason Daniel, 12.258; 31. 2C-Wayne Johnson, 12.319; 32. 75-Tyler Blank, 12.45; 33. 5-Kory Bales, 12.7; 34. 21B-Adam Parmeley, NT; 35. 6X-Frank Rodgers, NT