During his appearance on Open Red this week, Jason Johnson Racing Tire Specialist, Nate Repetz, compared he and his fellow team members to puzzle pieces.
It’s an appropriate metaphor for this cast. Each piece of a puzzle has its own distinct size and shape, and when paired with the proper counterpart, they build toward a common goal.
The group consisting of Carson Macedo, Philip Dietz, Clyde Knipp, and Repetz all took various paths before connecting at JJR, and they’ve proven to work well in reaching a shared goal – continuing the legacy of Jason Johnson.
The fifth Jason Johnson Classic is set for Saturday, April 8 at 81 Speedway (Wichita, KS). In the years since Johnson’s passing, the team he constructed has moved forward and maintained its status as one of the top organizations on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour. No driver won more races than Macedo’s 22 victories from 2021-2022, and the team currently sits a strong third in World of Outlaws points.
For Macedo, his path didn’t cross with Johnson’s as he navigated the early parts of his career in California and eventually the Midwest. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until a trip overseas when Macedo began to get acquainted with “The Ragin’ Cajun.”
“I actually got to spend a little bit of time getting to know him (Johnson) over in Australia because we were the only two Americans that were racing over in Australia the year that I kind of got closer to him,” Macedo reflected. “I think that was the year prior to 2018, so kind of 2017-2018 off-season. He was just a really good dude.”
After Johnson’s accident in 2018, Macedo received the opportunity to drive for the team and picked up an emotional triumph during his prelim at the Knoxville 360 Nationals – also his debut in the #41. Then, ahead of 2021, the Lemoore, CA native was tabbed as the team’s full-time driver for the World of Outlaws tour.
“Now, getting to drive for Jason Johnson Racing I’ve seen all of the pieces of the puzzle that he had in place to build such a superpower team, in my opinion, with such great partners,” Macedo said. “I’ve said this to so many people. You don’t get that many good people involved in a team without being a really good person. The sponsors and the partners that he had in place and the people I’ve met through this team have been nothing short of amazing. I think that speaks for everything as far as his story and what he stood for.”
Johnson was the cousin of team crew chief/co-owner, Philip Dietz. Much of their time progressing in the motorsports world was spent together including many victories and a couple championships.
“Obviously, it’s very tough to show up and not have him here (at the racetrack),” Dietz said. “We miss him every day, and it’s hard to believe we’re coming up on five years.”
Dietz’ status as one of the most respected crew chiefs in the sport developed in large part due to his success alongside his family member. Now, Dietz oversees the operation how he knows Johnson would want.
“I think, for me, I still treat it like its Jason’s team. To me, it doesn’t really feel much different,” Dietz said of his ownership role. “He kind of set the standard years ago for how he wanted our team to represent between preparation, sponsorship, and professionalism.”
Serving as team car chief is former driver on the World of Outlaws tour, Clyde Knipp. Growing up in Missouri, home of Jason Johnson Racing, Knipp spent his early teenage years sweeping floors at the JJR shop – an opportunity to be around the sport he loved and a figure within it that he admired. Just a few years later, the then 17-year-old Knipp joined the Series with Johnson mentoring him at times. After departing from the driver’s seat, Knipp worked briefly on the Buch Motorsports crew before moving to his current role.
“Going back to Jason and I’s relationship, he taught me a lot about life and getting involved in the high level of Sprint Car racing with the World of Outlaws,” Knipp said. “Jason was always super hard on me but in a good way.
“To honor him at this race is very, very special. To be a part of the 41 crew with Philip Dietz as crew chief and alongside Carson Macedo and Nate Repetz, I feel like we have a really good shot at winning Jason’s race at 81 Speedway.”
The final piece to this puzzle is the aforementioned Nate Repetz. The Ag teacher turned tire specialist grew up in Pennsylvania as a fan of Jason Johnson. Like many, Repetz experienced a high level of emotion when Johnson won the iconic 2016 Knoxville Nationals.
“I still remember when he won the Nationals,” Repetz recalled. “I, obviously, had never been to Knoxville at that point, but I had the streaming up on the gate of my pickup truck while I was helping a friend work on some stuff. I remember hollering and screaming when that happened. It was really cool.”
At the time, Repetz could hardly imagine that just a few years later, he would be traveling on the World of Outlaws tour with JJR helping perpetuate Johnson’s race team and legacy.
“When this opportunity came up, I pretty much knew that if there was one Outlaw team I wanted to work for or that would be great to get my chance, it would be this #41 team,” Repetz said. “It really does mean a lot to be able to carry on this JJR legacy and keep things looking top notch through the fan perspective just like I used to have.”
This completed puzzle continues to honor Johnson’s legacy by fielding one of the strongest cars at the track every single night. The team has already picked up a win at Volusia Speedway Park, won the Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown mini-points series, claimed four Simpson Performance Products Quick Time Awards – currently leading the Series, three ahead of the second most – and Macedo is the only driver yet to miss the top 10 this season.
This group has ensured that they not only have a great chance to win the Jason Johnson Classic in Johnson’s honor this weekend, but they have an opportunity to win at any night. But a win on Saturday in Kansas would mean a little more than the many checkered flags they’ve collected over these past couple years.
“It’s pretty cool to be going to 81 Speedway and racing the Jason Johnson Classic,” Macedo said. “I’ve raced it a few times but never been lucky enough to win it, but it sure would mean a hell of a lot to this team. I know they’ve won it before with David Gravel, but to me as a driver, I would love to win it with them. I know a lot of family and friends are going to be around for that race. I know my team – Philip, Clyde, Nate and Brooke (Dietz) as an owner, too, would be pretty ecstatic to be able to win that race.”
The World of Outlaws will first visit US 36 Raceway on Friday, April 7, before traveling to Kansas for the $20,000-to-win Jason Johnson Classic at 81 Speedway, Saturday, April 8. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the tracks, you can watch both nights of racing live on DIRTVision.