JACKSON, MN – The officials at the Jackson Nationals presented the 42nd Annual AGCO Jackson Nationals with the finale on June 27 as it was the first crown jewel race of the 2020 season for the competitors.
A total of 45 cars showed up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes to take a shot at earning points to have the opportunity to take home the winner’s share of the purse.
Many of those drivers and teams represent the best-of-the-best in sprint car racing, including David Gravel of Watertown and the Jason Johnson Racing (JJR) #41.
Gravel and the team stuck together and overcame many challenges and obstacles to earn a total of 932 points which put him fourth overall in points after the two qualifying nights of racing that locked him in the King of the Hill Dash.
Before the evening of racing began though the JJR team was awarded the Best Appearing Car Award that was voted on by the fans.
“The award is a tribute to the team’s commitment to not only performance on and off the track, but also their passion to present their team and sponsorship partners professionally at all times as part of their value proposition,” read a statement released by JJR. “That focus and core belief was an integral, important and unwavering part of Jason and Bobbi Johnson’s vision when they formed JJR back in 2010.”
The award came with a $2,500 gift and the owner and team were appreciative and grateful to have the In Memory of Jason Johnson #41 sprint car sitting on the front straightaway to accept the award.
Since Gravel and the team were already locked into the King of the Hill Dash, they focused on preparing to compete on the evolving track surface as the qualifier races were run.
When it was their turn to hit the track in round two of the dash, they lined up on the outside of Brad Sweet on the front row with Parker Price-Miller and Sheldon Haudenschild right behind.
Gravel drove off the top and into the lead over Sweet, and led wire-to-wire over to take the win as Price-Miller and Haudenschild settled into the fifth and sixth starting positions for the feature.
Gravel and Sweet then moved into the final round against top point earners Logan Schuchart and Daryn Pittman.
When the green flag waved this time it was Pittman to the point with Schuchart chasing. Gravel was able to maneuver ahead of Sweet momentarily, but when Pittman took the checkers Gravel came home fourth with Schuchart and Sweet sandwich in between the King of the Hill Dash winner and Gravel.
The only thing that remained on the schedule of events for the 42nd Annual AGCO Jackson Nationals was the 35-lap feature event.
The horn sounded Gravel climbed into his office; he rolled onto the track and when the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series went four-wide, the forty-one was on the front row with Schuchart, Pittman and Sweet.
A talented group for sure, but each are fierce competitors. When the green flag unfurled, Schuchart wasted little time taking the lead and was out front early. Gravel was up on the wheel running in the sixth position. With 10 laps in the books, Sheldon Haudenschild tracked down Schuchart and made a pass for the lead with the leaders in lap traffic.
The two drivers would swap slide jobs with Schuchart wrestling the lead back; that alone was worth the price of admission.
Gravel fell back as far as eighth on a restart after the red was displayed for Parker Price-Miller who flipped in turn one. He was not done yet though. He used the last half of the race to reclaim his positions fighting back to sixth.
With six laps to go, Gravel battled his way back into the top five; however, it was Schuchart who would collect the win and the $30,000 winner’s check as he beat Sweet, Pittman and Ian Madsen to the finish line with Gravel rounding out the top five.
Following a 15th place finish in the Thursday portion of the show, after getting postponed and getting involved in an early race accident, Gravel and the JJR #41 team were determined to improve their performance with a strong showing on June 26 at the Jackson Motorplex.
Even after all of the challenges they encountered on the first night, Gravel and team were situated in 9th place overall in the point system with 452. There was 44 cars again registered one new addition to the field of competitors and one that was unable to continue due to mechanical problems.
With the luck of the draw, David would again be the 24th car out for his two timed laps against the clock. Digging around the 4/10-mile Jackson Motorplex oval and after his first lap, which he completed in 13.117 seconds, Gravel stayed on and hit all of his lines.
He rode the cushion around the first set of turns and then dove to the bottom through the second set to improve his time to 13.002 seconds. His speed carried him to second quick overall on the night, which is important because everything generates and adds to event point totals at Jackson.
Lining up sixth in second heat race that was loaded with talent with Sweet to his inside on row three as Price-Miller, Bill Balog, Austin McCarl and Haudenschild lined up in the front two rows.
Gravel wasted little time flexing his muscles on the track as he drove into fifth and with each passing lap was searching to move up on the leader board.
By the fourth circuit he was up to fourth in the running order and was now pressuring Balog for the show position. He would steal that spot away from Balog on lap six and started to track down Price-Miller. He ran out of time as Sweet took the win over Price-Miller, with Gravel coming home third followed by Balog and Haudenschild as those transferring to the feature.
Gravel would start in the 10th starting spot in the 25-lap feature event. The track surface was widening out and racy. Every driver that made the feature was focused on doing their best and with the goal of adding to their point total.
When the green flag waved the forward march was on as the air filled with the sweet sound of 410 engines. During the initial lap, Gravel dropped back to twelfth but was not about to stay there.
He moved back into the top ten on lap three and just kept competing lap after lap. The racing was tight, but balancing his patience with his determination to continue to move forward, Gravel was gaining ground.
With 10 laps in the books he was up to ninth and actively looking for more. On lap 12, he would drive as far forward as sixth before getting embroiled in a three car battle for that position with Donnie Schatz and a hard-charging Jacob Allen.
Schuchart was the leader as Pittman and Sweet were racing hard behind him. Schuchart would check out by five seconds and go on to take the victory on night two as Pitman and Sweet rounded out the podium.
Price-Miller was able to secure a fourth place finish with Schatz coming home fifth. Gravel finished seventh as he crossed the finish line behind Madsen. His strong and determined effort all night netted Gravel an additional 480 points for the night bringing his cumulative total after two nights to 932 points, which was fourth overall, locking him into the final night’s dash and feature.
“A strong night and set of results for the team,” said Gravel.
Gravel and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series headed north to The Gopher State to kick off three nights of action.
After a strong showing at last year’s event – a runner-up finish on opening night, Gravel followed that up with a 6th place night two and topped it off with a 4th place finish in the finale – Gravel and the team were excited to be back to go racing on June 25.
After some back and forth format changes, the qualifying field for time trials was run as one group versus being split into two equal groups of drivers with Gravel the 24th driver on the track.
Gravel drove his high speed ride around the Jackson Motorplex and hit all of his marks to record a lap of 12.935 seconds with the white flag waving. His second lap was even better at 12.894 seconds, which kicked off the night the right way as he was 5th quick overall.
With an inversion of the top 24 qualifiers, Gravel started from the fifth position, with Stewart on the pole for the race. Before completing a lap, the yellow was thrown for Gravel as he spun to s stop between turns 3 and 4.
He re-fired the engine and joined the rear of the field for the restart. Stewart again seized the lead as the race was on. Gravel was up on the wheel and drove from the back into the top five after lap one.
Sweet, from his seventh starting position, was on the move and fighting for the runner-up position while Gravel was battling with Allen for the fourth position.
Stewart went on to take the heat race win over Sweet with Justin Henderson coming home third as Allen grabbed the fourth spot and Gravel rallied to gain the fifth and final transfer position.
Black clouds moved in and the water started to fall after the heat races were completed. With continued showers, race officials were forced to postpone the remainder of the event to the next evening. Grave was already locked in to the night’s feature event, but missed an opportunity to compete in the Fast Pass Dash.
When the 25-lap feature lineup was established, Gravel would start from the 17th starting position in the field.
He had a fast car, but certainly had some work to do as he was starting deep in the pack. When the racing action commenced it was front row starter Sweet jumping into the lead. But a red flag was displayed when Mark Dobmeier got upside down after contact that damaged Jason Sides and Gravel. Gravel took the forty-one pit side to the work area as the crew changed out the top wing and replaced the Jacobs ladders in time to push back out and tag the rear of the field.
When racing resumed, Sweet went back into the top spot as Gravel drove forward into the 18th position. Sweet was entering lap traffic in the latter stage of the race and maneuvering through on the narrow surface.
Gravel was able to drive forward and when Sweet saw the black and white checkered cloth wave Gravel was able to rally back and secure a 15th place finish.
It was a race of perseverance for Gravel and the #41 team as they end night one at Jackson in 9th position with 452 points.
UPCOMING EVENTS: A three-day holiday event for Gravel and Compamy will be next...On July 2-3-4, the World of Outlaws will be in New Richmond, Wilconsin at the Cedar Lake Speedway....The July 4 action will be braadcast the CBS Sports Network (Ch. 215) from 9-11 p.m.