Allmendinger misses big finish on NASCAR return in Richmond

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AJ Allmendinger just missed a top finish in his last scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Richmond, before he ramps up preparation for his Indianapolis 500 debut for the month of May.

Allmendinger, who last raced in NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway more than a month ago, once again made something out of almost nothing in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.

Had it not been for the late caution that jumbled the field, brought most of the field to pit road for fresher tires and bunched the field together for a green-white-checkered finish, Allmendinger could have cracked the top five.

Instead, he posted a 14th-place result from 24th on the grid. Allmendinger has finished between 11th and 16th in each of his four starts for Phoenix this year, respectable if underwhelming by his own wishes.

“I suck in qualifying this year. Need to work on it. Drive hard tomorrow,” Allmendinger tweeted after qualifying on Friday.

Come the race on Saturday: “Hard fought day by my guys @stevo511 @PhoenixRacing51 proud of their effort as always. Not sure why we struggled so bad on last green run. Great call by CC Nick Harrison to stay out on GWC finish. Did all I could with old tires. Wish I could have gotten the team a better finish.”

Allmendinger’s focus shifts back to IndyCar with Team Penske after a frustrating Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where his gearbox broke in Turn 5. Rookie orientation for the 500 occurs May 11-12, on opening weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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