Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight: Busy USRA Modified veteran Matt Johnson puts focus on victory lane, not points
WHEATLAND, Missouri (May 21, 2020) - Matt Johnson's busy work schedule precludes him committing to chasing points championships. But the veteran USRA Modified racer from Archie, in west-central Missouri, plans to make enough Lucas Oil Speedway to make an impact.
Each time, his goal will be the same.
Johnson said a strategic error in set-up ruined his chances to win in last week's Pitts Homes USRA Modified season opener in Wheatland. He will try it again on Saturday when the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series resumes with the Modifieds featured in a 25-lap, $1,000-to-win main event.
"That usually brings out good cars and we like racing against good cars," Johnson said of the added-money race. "Hopefully, we just don't make the same mistakes we made last week."
After a solid second-place run in his heat race, Johnson started fourth in the feature but fell out of the top 10 in the early going before rallying late to finish seventh. Johnson explained that he didn't pay close enough attention as the track was reworked during intermission and, with the Modifieds first up in the feature order, he missed on the set-up.
"That car was just too tight," Johnson said. "But the track was great. It was my own fault for not winning."
No matter the finish, Johnson said it was simply good to be back racing after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the season. He said his MB Customs car was ready to go in March and that he was so bored in the shop he wound up painting his trailer, including the tongue.
"We were busy at work, so that was good," said Johnson, who is a commercial agriculture general contractor through his business, Elite Construction. "We were lucky enough to have projects still going on so we didn't have to lay anybody off."
The job keeps Johnson busy enough that he plans a similar schedule to last season, racing three or four nights a month at Humboldt Speedway on Friday nights or Lucas Oil Speedway on Saturdays. Last season he ran seven times at Lucas and won twice, including one of the year's most-thrilling finishes on June 29 when he made a last-turn pass to edge Justin Johnson in a side-by-side duel by .150 seconds. Overall, Johnson had seven feature wins in 2019.
The 37-year-old Johnson began racing Street Stocks in 2001, right out of high school, at Adrian Speedway just about five miles from his hometown. He grew up going to the races there, watching his dad and uncle race and naturally developed a thirst to do it himself.
He also recalled watching stars of the MLRA Late Model Series at the time, such as local standouts Alan Vaughn, David Turner and Ron Bolin, win at Adrian.
"I always had an ambition for it, so I pulled the trigger out of high school and have wasted a whole lot of money since," Johnson said, with a chuckle. "But I wouldn't trade it. I have a lot of good memories."
He moved into Modifieds in 2003 and Late Models in 2009, earning MLRA Rookie of the Year honors. Johnson said that was the only season he's chased points. He returned to Modifieds in 2015 and now is a consistent contender just about wherever he goes in his MB Customs car.
"I have a lot of good help," Johnson said, mentioning crew chief Tommy McCoy, cousin Travis Hamilton and Hamilton's son, Cole. "Also my wife Megan, daughter Gracie and son Levi. My mom Lori, along with grandpas and grandmas on both sides have sure helped a lot over the years."
Team sponsors include Scott Bailey Racing Engines, TMR Technologies, Salmon Land and Cattle, Cutting Edge Coatings and his own Elite Construction.
Gates are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Saturday with hot laps at 6:30 and opening ceremonies at 7.
Adults (16 and over): $12
Seniors (62 and over)/Military: $9
Youth (ages 6-15): $5
Kids (5 and under): FREE
Family Pass: $30
Pit Pass: $30
For ticket questions or information for any event this season, contact Admissions Director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.