The 2013 TORC Series presented by AMSOIL has been a non-stop battle in the Pro Buggy class for Luke Johnson. Luke’s been duking it out with some of the top short course buggy drivers in the class all season, simultaneously dealing with the harsh weather conditions that have cursed each track so far. This past weekend at Crandon International Raceway was no different. Luke put on a show for “The Big House” and earned his fifth straight win in Pro Buggy and more impressively his first career win at Crandon International Speedway.
Having skipped out on a quick trip back to his home base in Southern California after Bark River, Luke headed straight for Crandon and prepped his vehicle for one of the sports biggest stages. Track conditions were unfavorable, as sporadic storms rolled through Wisconsin. Practice on Friday was called off and track officials granted Saturdays qualifying only one lap. After that practice lap, Luke decided to take a gamble that in the end would earn him another trip to the first place podium.
Knowing the track conditions would be less than ideal, Luke made a judgment call that is pretty much unheard of in the Pro Buggy Class. Luke ran 32” BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires (instead of his normal 30” tires), which allowed him to hit higher miles per hour and not have his motor wrap out in the mud. This gamble ultimately paid off, as Luke had the fastest lap time as well as his first ever career win in Crandon.
“Crandon is such a legendary track and if you ask anyone out there, Crandon is it! To get a win after a second place finish in 2012 relieves all the stress of that inevitable first win at The Big House,” commented Johnson. Immediately following the fifth straight win, Luke texted the five time NASCAR Champion, Jimmie Johnson, and joked around about the lucky number 5. The two have become friends during the six year sponsorship from The Jimmie Johnson Foundation.
As the weekend progressed, the weather started to improve and the track started to dry out. Based on his success on the previous day, Luke stuck with his 32” tires in hope for the same results. Luke got off to an average start and was in fourth place early on in the race. Adrian Cenni flipped his buggy and in the process of avoiding the carnage, Luke stalled and dropped back to fifth. On the radio with father Ricky Johnson, Luke knew he’d need to push his PEAK Motor Oil Red Bull Undead Power #14 Pro Buggy to catch the race leaders. Luke was able to carry speed coming in to the turns, but lost momentum and wasn’t able to accelerate out of the turns fast enough.
However, Luke held his lines and knew that Scott Schwalbe was pressing. Going over a jump, Luke had the outside line and Schwalbe came in under Luke’s left backend, sending him in an aerial 360.
“I had never been in a wheel-to-wheel accident so I knew I was going for a ride,” commented Johnson. By the time Luke got going again, the race leader had passed him and he would finish the race in seventh place.
Luke now has a commanding twenty-five point lead in the Pro Buggy standings. Now halfway through the season and having won his first race at Crandon, Johnson has his sights set on a class championship and will return in the fall with the confidence to claim his ring.
Since sweeping the podium in Bark River, Luke has added two more sponsors to his 2013 race program. Sun Bum, a new high quality brand of sun care products specifically formulated for people who live and love in the sun, and Master Key Consulting, who stands at the forefront of the consulting industry, have both climbed on board to support the #14 Pro Buggy.
Also, Luke now rides with the #PrayersforHaley hastag on top of his roof to celebrate the remarkable story of 17-year-old Haley Claire Wilber from the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. In March of 2013, Haley was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease a rare genetic disorder that prevents the body from eliminating copper (found naturally in many foods) from the bloodstream. Haley’s symptoms presented suddenly when her liver began to fail after school one Friday – Haley and her family noticed no symptoms until the day she was admitted to the hospital. Within five days of admission to the University of Wisconsin Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin – Haley underwent a successful liver transplant surgery. The #PrayersforHaley hash tag trended on twitter as Haley’s high school classmates and friends spread the word about Haley’s illness, transplant and recovery.
Haley continues to recover and pursue her dream of one day being a nurse. Her family continues the #PrayersforHaley campaign in honor of Haley, the unknown donor whose gift of life saved Haley’s and in support of organ donation awareness campaigns throughout the country.
Next up on the TORC schedule is Midwest brawl at Chicagoland Speedway. Look for Luke to cushion his lead in the class and inch his way closer to a 2013 Pro Buggy Championship.