By: Jana Wimmer
Teenager Austin Nason took the lead eight laps into the Big 8 Late Model Series’ 68 lap feature Saturday night at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway and never looked back, winning his third Series race of 2014.
“It’s pretty special,” said Nason in victory lane, “Especially to win here, I’ve finished third, second and now I win, so it’s pretty cool.”
As Nason grabbed the lead early, behind him fast qualifier Jeremy Miller and Big 8 point leader Casey Johnson worked their way through the field. By lap 17 Miller was up to third, looking to continue his march towards the front. Johnson, looking to wrap up his second straight Big 8 Series title, started the race in fourth place and kept in step with Miller in the races early paces.
By lap 23, Miller climbed to second and began the task of closing up on Nason, who had amassed a large lead early in the race. Just laps later, the caution flag flew. The yellow placed Miller and Johnson right behind the leader Nason. Despite the restart placing both Miller and Johnson on Nason’s bumper, the youngster from Roscoe Illinois got a terrific jump on the restart and ran away from the field.
Over the course of the next 20 laps, Miller began to cut into Nason’s lead and by lap 45, Miller caught Nason and pressured him for the lead. Miller stalked Nason for the next seven laps, not able to find a way around, when another caution flag flew, unfortunately for Miller as he and John DeAngelis Jr tangled going into the first turn. The incident sent Miller to the rear and ended his hopes of capturing his eleventh career Big 8 Series win.
”I knew Jeremy was coming, I thought he was going to be pretty fast,” said Nason, “He got to second there and started running me down. On those restarts there I had to get going and that’s exactly what I did, then he went to the back and kind of just rode.”
On the ensuing restart, Nason got another terrific jump on the field, catapulting himself to the lead again as point leader Johnson moved into second place.
Johnson began his pursuit of Nason but no sooner had a mirror full of Zach Riddle. Riddle pressured Johnson, which allowed Nason put some distance on the battle for second. Riddle eventually grabbed second from Johnson in the race’s final laps. Nason won the race going away, with Riddle finishing second.
Johnson, meanwhile, held onto third place in the race’s final laps. The third place finish clinched the Edgerton Wisconsin racer’s second straight Big 8 Series championship.
“Me and Casey went at it all year for the championship,” said Nason, “It’s pretty cool to see him win and I guess to come home in second place to him, he’s a great guy and couldn’t ask for anything better.”
“It’s cool to repeat it again,” said Johnson, “It was all about consistency with Austin. He had bad luck in one race and I didn’t and that’s about all it came down to.”
Johnson’s second Big 8 Series championship makes him just the second driver to win multiple championships in the ten year history of the series (with Miller being a four-time series champion). Johnson finished the season with four Big 8 Series wins and currently sits third on the all-time Series wins list, behind Miller and Jon Reynolds Jr.