PRO 2 rookie overcomes hardship, defies odds to come out of Chicago on top.
The revamped PRO 2 class made for some wild racing action at TORC Rounds 1 and 2: The Chicagoland Slam. Drivers who had never shared a track, or hadn’t raced each other for several seasons, battled on the tight and treacherous clay track built into the infield of The Dirt Oval at Route 66 Raceway. Parity was the name of the game as all trucks had a shot at the win and the points lead coming out of Chicago – and just three points separate the top three drivers in the class after two rounds. But one man defied the odds to stand on top of the championship race…that man is Luke Johnson.
After a devastating crash at Crandon International Raceway in the TORC Series finale last fall, Johnson and his team had to scramble to get the Multicam/Red Bull/Cooper Tires sponsored PRO 2 rebuilt in time for the 2017 season. They rolled into Chicago early Saturday morning – long after fellow competitors. After just three laps of practice on the track and truck, Johnson had his work cut out for him with an 8th-place starting position for the main event.
The young driver called upon his impressive racing experience in the sportsman, Super Buggy, and PRO Light divisions and methodically worked his way towards the front over the course of the race, having some great battles with the other drivers one by one along the way. On the last lap, it appeared for a moment that Johnson was destined for his first PRO 2 win, but some controversial and unfortunate contact with Brad Lovell took both drivers off the top spot. Johnson was able to save the truck from a near-certain rollover, and went on to take third in the race; not the result he wanted, but his relentless efforts did win him the “Bad MOFO” Award and $250 in a custom wallet, courtesy of Vision Wheel.
A new day provided a new chance for the embattled Johnson, and this time, he would not be denied his first PRO 2 victory. The run was clean, but not without challenge from behind, as Brad Lovell pushed him hard lap after lap. In the end, a sneaky joker lap fake-out, clean driving, and a sheer will to win proved to be the formula for victory.
“Man, this is a dream come true,” an emotional Johnson said after emerging from his winning truck. “We went through so much this week to get here. To be standing on top of this box means the world to me.”
Johnson’s performance at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 Raceway was enough to earn him the series points lead after one event in PRO 2. The early success was much-needed for Johnson, who wasn’t sure if he’d have the means to compete in the entire TORC Series circuit for 2017. “Financially, this helps a lot. I have a lot of great sponsors that put up contingency for me, so as long as I perform the cash is going to come. I just have to stay on the box, and the races will keep happening.”
As the TORC Series travels up north for 2017’s first stop at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota, you’d have a tough time finding a driver more motivated than Luke Johnson. His last few months have been a story of an emotional rollercoaster featuring crashes, personal injury, and uncertainty about the future of his racing program, but he has proven his ability to rise above it all and achieve his dream of becoming a PRO 2 racer. Look for him to carry his momentum into TORC Rounds 3 and 4: Twin Cities Takedown on June 10-11, while a host of competitors stand poised to knock him off the top spot. You’re not going to want to miss it as TORC Series action continues!