It’s been almost three years since Jason Johnson completed his final lap, but his lasting legacy still burns just as bright as his passion ever did.
This fun-loving, hard-working soul from Eunice, LA was no ordinary Outlaw. After all, he’s the only Louisiana native in the 44-year history to win with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. He was proud of his cajun descent, so much so “The Ragin’ Cajun” name is still known all across the sport.
From his 12 World of Outlaws victories to his five ASCS National Tour titles to his iconic 2016 Knoxville Nationals championship, the on-track accomplishments ranged far and wide. However, to this day, his impact on the sport isn’t measured by his wins and losses, but the overwhelming content of his character.
He was a father. He was a husband. He was a friend. He was one of the good ones.
This Saturday, The Greatest Show on Dirt remembers him with the third annual Jason Johnson Classic presented by FK Rod Ends at Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, MO. The $15,000-to-win spectacle draws teams from all across the region in hopes of parking it just like Jason did. The event is promoted by Bobbi Johnson, Jason’s wife, mother of their son Jaxx, and co-owner of the still operating and successful Jason Johnson Racing.
Johnson was destined, even more so determined, to be an Outlaw from the beginning. His father Craig and mother Debra took him to World of Outlaws shows at Devil’s Bowl as a child and his father’s career helped inspire Jason himself to become a racer. Following high school graduation, he hit the road with Steve Beitler in 1994 for his first taste on the tour.
A year later, he made his World of Outlaws debut in 1995 at Texas’ Battleground Speedway. After his career didn’t take off the way he imagined, a move home to Louisiana was in store. In 1998, one long talk with his father changed the course of his career.
“If racing is really something you want to pursue, the best opportunity for you is to get on the road,” Craig Johnson told his 22-year-old boy.
All it took was a phone call and a train ticket for Jason to land on Steve Kinser’s crew in 1999. From there, a special bond with The King eventually got Jason back into the seat and helped launch his full-time career.
It all came full circle in 2003 when Jason’s first World of Outlaws victory came by beating Steve himself. Piloting the Harrison Trucking #22, Johnson drove from 13th and passed Kinser’s famous Quaker State #11 with six laps remaining to score an emotional win at The Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway.
With him in victory lane that night in October of 2003 was his cousin Phil Dietz and his wife Bobbi Johnson. Now 18 years later, Phil and Bobbi are two of the most integral parts in keeping Jason Johnson Racing alive as a true championship contending team on the World of Outlaws trail.
As his career took off, Johnson established himself as a 360 sprint car great on the American Sprint Car Series National Tour. His first title came in 2008 with The Shop Motorsports, and then an additional four titles followed in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 under the JJR / Stenhouse Jr. Racing banner. Along the way he honed his sponsorship skills and found lifelong friendships, including one with fellow competitor Shane Stewart.
In 2015, Jason and Bobbi accepted a new challenge and joined the World of Outlaws full-time. He won the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year award, an especially meaningful connection to Bobbi’s first husband, who tragically passed away in 1999.
Across four full-time seasons, Johnson and his #41 racked up several wins and became nightly contenders, rising to sixth in the championship in 2017.
“SHIT, I WANTED TO WIN!”
The most memorable and iconic moment of Jason’s impressive career came in 2016 at the Knoxville Nationals. In a duel that many will never forget, Johnson outlasted 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz to score the biggest win of his life.
Off the track, Jason added one of the greatest accomplishments of his life in May of 2013; when he and Bobbi became the proud parents of Jaxx Johnson.
Following his crash at Beaver Dam Raceway on June 23, 2018, Bobbi, Jaxx, Phil and the rest of Jason Johnson Racing forged on in the aftermath of his passing to ensure that JJR would continue down the path that Jason dreamed of.
Drivers David Gravel, Shane Stewart, Parker Price-Miller and now Carson Macedo have played a hand in keeping JJR in the limelight. Throughout all of the highs since that summer day, each of them have been about keeping Jason’s legacy alive and giving his name the results it deserves.
Gravel delivered JJR a second Knoxville Nationals crown in 2019 and nearly won them a World of Outlaws championship. Stewart won an incredibly emotional, surreal first outing in the #41 at Lakeside just last year. Now, Macedo is carrying the torch and already picking up wins as the newest driver.
On Saturday, Macedo takes the #41 to JJR’s home track for the most sentimental race of the year. Their shop in Rocky Mount, MO is located just about 20 minutes from Lake Ozark and the Jason Johnson Classic brings out family and friends from all over. Gravel won the inaugural event during his first year driving in 2019, can Macedo do the same in 2021?
While appreciative of every moment he gave us, we’re still left missing that wide-eyed, beaming smile that Jason flashed in his trademark wing dances with Jaxx. Maybe Macedo can give Jaxx another trip to victory lane this weekend.
From his family to his team to his fans, the sport of sprint car racing and the World of Outlaws are making sure that Jason’s legacy is one that is never forgotten.