(Bill W) August 8, 2012 – With the 360 Nationals behind them, the Wayne Johnson Racing #77x team is ready to tackle the 52nd Knoxville Nationals.
Wednesdays with Wayne – The Big Dance!
(Bill W) August 8, 2012 – With the 360 Nationals behind them, the Wayne Johnson Racing #77x team is ready to tackle the 52nd Knoxville Nationals. They will qualify Thursday night. For most teams, a top ten finish in the 360 Nationals would be a highlight, but the three-time champion was just ready to move onto the next race.
With an early pill a definite advantage on Wayne’s qualifying night Friday, he drew late (37th), but registered the ninth quick time of the night. “I missed the first lap completely!” he says. “I said ‘Oh #&$@ I have to run the top this second lap to salvage anything I can get!’ I was able to get around the top when nobody else was at that time and we were happy with the lap. No one timed better than us after that.”
Starting fifth in his heat, he would advance to third and a transfer spot to the prelim A main event. “I didn’t know how the racetrack was going to play out, but starting on the inside off of four at Knoxville seems to be the best place to start,” says Wayne. “We got a really good start. I thought we were going to go by all of them going into one. We kind of got held up, and we ended up third. I didn’t want to push the issue too much unless I was clearly better.”
Unable to run a rough cushion, Wayne finished eighth in the feature after starting fourth. “We were just a little tight,” he says. “With the curb the way it was. It’s never been that way at Knoxville for me. Maybe it has been all year. There was a deep, heavy curb. You don’t really need it. Nobody can run it, so they come off of it, and it starts to lay rubber. It was nasty. We were flirting with disaster.”
There were no excuses. “We just weren’t good enough to get up through there,” says Wayne. “You never want to do that. You never want to back up. As bad as the car was, we were trying to keep it out of the fence and finish to race another day.”
The finish locked him into Saturday night’s 360 Nationals championship where he would start 11th and finish ninth. “We were maintaining,” says Wayne. “We were so tight the first night, that I freed everything up. We were way too free Saturday. It was basically the same outcome. We were just trying to get the best finish we could get.”
A last test with the 410 occurred at Sunday’s “Capitani Classic”. He would register sixth quick in the stoutest field of the season. “We won the 410 race earlier this year, but we’ve really been off with it,” says Wayne. “To make the show Sunday with 67 cars there was a bit of a victory. We just haven’t been that good with the flat wing and Goodyear tires. Not like we have in year’s past.”
Old data helped Wayne out. “(Curt) Brooks and I went through some of our notes from back in the FattFro days,” he says. “We kind of looked over that stuff and came up with a plan. I think we stumbled onto something. The car drove nice. We got an early qualifying spot, and took advantage of that.”
Starting fourth in his heat, Wayne trailed only Donny Schatz at the checkers. “We were the quickest car to start the heat,” he says. “We were running right there with Schatz, so I thought maybe we have something for these guys this year.”
Wayne started eighth in the feature, but missed on setup. Instead of staying out and maintaining, he pulled it in to save it for his qualifying night on Thursday. “I had made up my mind what we were doing with the car when they tilled the track up,” he says. “I freed it back up after that, and I just screwed it all up. I should have just left it alone.”