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Johnson wins Knoxville Nationals; NASCAR well-represented in finals

jason johnson photo

Jason Johnson won Saturdays A-main in the Knoxville Nationals Sprint Car race in Iowa.

The NASCAR community was well-represented in the marquee main event of Saturday’s 56th running of the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race in Iowa.

Jason “The Ragin’ Cajun” Johnson held off Donny Schatz in the final five laps of the 50-lap A-main race at Knoxville Raceway to win, taking home $150,000.

Upon climbing out of his race car, Johnson -- the 2015 World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year and five-time American Sprint Car Series champion -- dedicated the win to late race car driver Bryan Clauson, who died last Sunday, less than 24 hours after being involved in a Midget racing crash in Belleville, Kansas.

“I wasn’t giving up,” Johnson said, according to a postrace media release. “I mean, this is the biggest race of the year and the biggest race of my career.

“It was a golden opportunity, and I needed to make the most of it. I know (Schatz) wasn’t happy with me for crowding him, but I wanted to win.”

Schatz, who drives for NASCAR star Tony Stewart, won last year’s event. Saturday was only the second time Schatz has lost the finals in the last 11 years.

“We did everything we could,” Schatz said. “Jason [Johnson] did a great job. I didn’t think you could run that hard a pace for 50 laps, but he did, and once he got out there, I tried everything to catch him and just couldn’t do it.”

Shane Stewart, who drives for Marks Larson Racing – co-owned by Saturday’s Xfinity Series race winner at Mid-Ohio, Justin Marks, and Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson – finished third.

Daryn Pittman, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing, started from the pole and finished fourth.

Larson finished fifth. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver started third in the 22-lap B feature and was one of four drivers who advanced to the A main.

NASCAR veteran Brad Sweet, who also drives for Kahne’s team, finished 11th.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver and two-time defending Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu finished 12th.

Here’s the final results (and starting position) of Saturday’s main event:

1. Jason Johnson (2); 2. Donny Schatz (5); 3. Shane Stewart (8); 4. Daryn Pittman (1); 5. Kyle Larson (21); 6. Jamie Veal (4); 7. Chad Kemenah (6); 8. Greg Hodnett (18); 9. Ian Madsen (23); 10. David Gravel (11); 11. Brad Sweet (7); 12. Rico Abreu (17); 13. Danny Lasoski (19); 14. Tim Kaeding (9); 15. Kraig Kinser (25); 16. Logan Schuchart (24); 17. Terry McCarl (10); 18. Sammy Swindell (12); 19. Lucas Wolfe (20); 20. Dusty Zomer (14); 21. Jeff Swindell (16); 22. Kerry Madsen (3); 23. Dale Blaney (22); 24. Craig Dollansky (15); 25. James McFadden (13).

Lap Leaders: Pittman 1-10, J. Johnson 11, Pittman 12, Schatz 13-26, J. Johnson 27-43, Schatz 44-45, J. Johnson 46-50.

Hard-charger award: Kyle Larson.

Follow @JerryBonkowski