Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis was not particularly kind to Jerick Johnson and the 76 Freedom Car. But the American Speed Association Late Model Challenge Series rookie driver managed to parlay his back-of-the-field start into a 14th-place finish during the Sept. 14 race.
The race propelled Johnson into first place in Rookie Points competition, taking the lead from Billy Crane, who finished 22nd. Johnson also climbed into eighth place in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series, up from ninth after the Nashville race Aug. 15.
“It wasn’t exactly an easy weekend for us,” Johnson said, following the 100-mile, 80-lap race. “We struggled with tires during practice and qualification. We never got them the way we wanted. But considering the challenges we faced, I’m sure I speak for the whole Johnson Motorsports team when I say we’re very happy with what we accomplished here.”
Johnson and the Freedom Car, sponsored by The American Legion and The David Law Firm, escaped major mishap in a Lap 74 incident that sent two mangled cars to the garage. The Freedom Car sustained left-front bumper damage during the altercation at the track’s second turn, and slowed Johnson’s steady climb toward a top-10 finish.
Before the accident, Johnson had advanced as far as 12th place.
“In the end, things worked out pretty well for us,” car owner Jack Johnson said. “The team had worked very hard, and Jerick had to wrestle the car the entire 80 laps to come out ahead at the end of the day.”
The 76 Freedom Car will race Sept. 19 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, then compete in the season finale Nov. 9 at Memphis Motorsports Park, Tenn.