By: Kevin Ramsell
Two-time defending ARCA Midwest Tour champion Casey Johnson pulled away from the rest of the field to win the Howie Lettow Classic 100 on Friday evening at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin.
The victory was sentimental for his team, especially car owner Travis Dassow who credits the well known crew chief for everything he knows in racing today.
“In racing, we all have people who have helped us along the way. My car owner (Dassow) and Howie worked together for a long time and was really influential in Travis’s career and it means a lot to win it for him,” Johnson said after the race.
When asked how his car owner felt after the race, Johnson knew it meant something for him.
“Man, I don’t know if he got a bug in his throat or what it was,” Johnson said with a smile. “But it sounded like he was tearing up a little bit.”
Johnson’s path to victory had its bumps along the way. He took the lead at the start of the main event over fellow front row starter Rich Bickle Jr., who was competing at Madison for the final time in his career.
The first caution flew on lap 14 as the safety crew had to clean up fluid on the track. On the restart, Paul Shafer Jr. would get past Johnson for the top spot.
Second caution flew on lap 26 for Brent Edmunds contact with the wall in turns one and two. John DeAngelis Jr. would get by Shafer for the lead on the restart.
Two laps later, Johnson was running third but made contact with another car and was shuffled back to sixth.
Up front, 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter would get by Shafer for second and set his site on DeAngelis for the top spot with four-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion Ty Majeski following him on lap 30.
Five laps later, Sauter would get on the inside of DeAngelis in turn two and take over the lead with Majeski going to second.
Sauter had a nice comfortable lead over Majeski until the final caution flew on lap 78 when Jacob Goede made hard contact with the backstretch wall.
Johnson worked his way back to third when the caution came out.
On the final restart, Johnson would get to second and two laps later, would get by Sauter for the lead.
Johnson would pull away from the rest of the field and take the checkered flag in front of a large crowd.
“We knew we had a good pace and we got caught up in some stuff early in the race,” Johnson explained. “We made it back up and got to third and she was pretty used up. Once that caution came out, it allowed us to cool our tires and the car came alive.”
Sauter would hold off DeAngelis for second.
“We had a great car, and that last caution came out and I couldn’t see and I knew it was going to be a problem on the restart,” Sauter said standing next to his car with an oil filled windshield. “I drove down to one and was like whoops there is the corner. So I apologize to Majeski for hitting him, that was totally uncalled for and just couldn’t see out of my windshield. After I made contact with him, it knocked something out of the right front cause it just wouldn’t turn after that.”
DeAngelis, who led early, was satisfied with his third place finish.
“I thought we were going to have a winning car. We led some laps, but a couple of racing deals put us back a little,” DeAngelis said after the race. “We had to fight back and it was a hard thought third for sure.”
Majeski finished fourth with Bickle rounding out the top five in his swan song at Madison.
Jeff Storm finished sixth with Justin Mondeik in seventh. Luke Fenhaus was eighth and Dalton Zehr in ninth. Riley Stenjem rounded out the top ten.
NASCAR Cup Series playoff contender William Byron made his first appearance at Madison and was the evening’s fast qualifier driving for Wimmer Motorsports. He would pull off the track nine laps into the race with engine problems.
The ARCA Midwest Tour will be back in action next Saturday night at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin for inaugural Jim Sauter Classic 200. The winning driver could take home a possible $20,555 payday.