Johnson had to race his way into the Showdown, and found himself competing against some tough drivers. Jarit Johnson, the younger brother of three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson, Matt Crafton, a regular on the Camping World Truck Series, and Andrew Myers, a Camping World Series West veteran, were all in the qualifying race.
Johnson didn’t make it into the main event that night. But he did gain some valuable experience running against some of the rising stars of NASCAR.
“Take what you can and move on I guess,” said Johnson, a 19-year-old from Canyon Country who will be racing regularly in the NASCAR Super Trucks division at Irwindale.
Johnson came on strong in his rookie season at Irwindale last year. He won the last two races of the season, including the season-finale 100-lapper, and did not finish worse than second in the last five races of the year. He was fourth in the Super Trucks standings at the track and was the rookie of the year. There were three rookies in the final top 10 Super Truck standings.
“I’m excited because I didn’t expect to do that good last year,” Johnson said. “And I kind of went into last year, just do your own thing, learn as much as you can, then next thing you know we’re running top five, winning races.”
Johnson proved to be a quick study, but he took a simple philosophy into every race: Follow the fast guys.
“You run with them and you learn where your limits can be,” Johnson said. “Once I got comfortable running up there, then we just fine-tuned and everything just fell together.
“After putting together a nice run to end the season, Johnson says he has championship aspirations. But it won’t be easy. Pat Mintey Jr. of Quartz Hill, the reigning Super Trucks champion, is expected back. Joe Herold of Poway, who won two races in only nine starts, will undoubtedly make his return to the track for select races. Mason Britton, a driver from Sacramento who finished third in the Super Trucks standings and won a race last year, is expected to return as well. The other two rookies in the top 10 from last year, Grant Hebner and Jeff Peterson, will most likely use the Super Trucks division to hone their skills for another season.
“In the back of m y head, the championship is number one,” Johnson said. “I think the best way to get the championship is what my dad always taught me. Go out and run as hard as you can every race. Take what you can get. Try not to put yourself in harm’s way. Win as many races as you can.”