Carson Macedo admits he hasn’t been himself over the past few weeks. A frightening crash at Knoxville in early June left him rattled both physically and mentally.
He and his Jason Johnson Racing team stayed dedicated. Macedo battled pain. A large supporting cast kept his spirits up. Since the incident, his finishes in the next nine races were solid with eight top 10s but not quite on the championship level he showed early in the season.
And heading into the 10th race after Knoxville, Macedo was beginning to feel like himself again. The result was a revitalizing triumph at Wilmot Raceway on Saturday night. Macedo rolled by Donny Schatz shortly before the halfway point of the Federated Auto Parts Larry Hillerud Memorial Badger 40 and held off multiple challengers on his way to Victory Lane for the second straight year at the Wisconsin oval.
The Wilmot win moved Macedo up to four World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car triumphs this season and 32 for his career. The Lemoore, CA native joined David Gravel as the only driver with multiple checkered flags at Wilmot. And most importantly, the win served as a much needed confidence boost. A reminder to Macedo and the entire team of their capabilities as they pursue a championship.
“I’m just thankful more than anything,” Macedo said. “It’s been a tough few weeks. I’ve had a lot of really good people reach out and be supporters. When you’re young you think you’re invincible, but the other week kind of knocked me back a little bit, that wreck. I feel like my guys have never given up on me – Philip Dietz, Clyde Knipp, Nate Repetz. They’ve been trying to give me the best car they possibly can. I just haven’t been 100% right.
“Coming into this week, I worked out all week and was just in a much better mind and place in my head. I felt pretty good about our chances. We were fast early in the night. I felt like we had a really good Heat Race. We were outstanding in the Dash, and they just delivered again in the Feature. These guys did an incredible job.”
When the green flag waved on the 40-lap main event, Macedo was on the pole, but it was Donny Schatz powering into the lead around Macedo’s outside.
While Schatz was the one who grabbed the early lead, Macedo refused to let him pull away. Macedo kept the Albaugh #41 a few car lengths behind Schatz. As the two entered traffic, Macedo was forced to fend off a challenge in the form of a charging Bill Balog. “The North Pole Nightmare” slid Macedo for the runner-up spot, but he was able to cross Balog over.
Balog’s challenge forced Macedo to elevate his game. Only a few laps after he’d briefly slipped to third, Macedo closed right back up to Schatz’ tail tank as they navigated slower cars. On lap 16, Schatz left an opening on the top side, and Macedo promptly took advantage. He ripped the cushion right around the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15.
After taking the lead, Macedo began to put some distance between himself and Schatz. Then Schatz slipped back a spot as Balog maneuvered by him for second.
A restart that came a lap beyond the halfway point gave Macedo a close moment as Balog got a strong restart. He attempted a slider but couldn’t clear Macedo. The #17B drifted up and above the cushion causing him to lose some spots and gift Brad Sweet the runner-up position.
“I was most nervous with Bill. I knew he wants to win really bad and was willing to throw a flyer to try and win the race,” Macedo said of the restart. “I kind of spun a little bit off the bottom and could hear him behind me. I went to the top thinking I’ll get a run, and he threw a big bomb and I just barely snuck around him.”
Once he cleared Balog, Macedo cruised ahead and worked his way expertly through traffic. A couple close moments where the cushion tripped him up caused some drama as Sweet closed in, but ultimately Macedo never allowed “The Big Cat” to have a legitimate opportunity at moving ahead.
The checkered flag flew to a very happy recipient. It’s not only a victory to boost the entire team’s morale. It’s also a boost heading into a massive week in Ohio that includes the Brad Doty Classic and Kings Royal.
“I’m thankful to be standing up here,” Macedo said. “When things are going good, you really kind of take for granted just how tough this is out here on the Outlaw tour. It felt really good to be back after lacking performance. Hopefully we can build on it. It’s good to have a little bit of momentum rolling into this week coming up. It’s definitely a big one.”
The runner-up spot belonged to Brad Sweet aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing/Napa Auto Parts #49 as he fell just short of his 13th Series win in the state of Wisconsin. Sweet is up to 16 World of Outlaws podiums this season and put a little distance between himself and David Gravel in the championship hunt. Sweet enjoyed the 40-lap finale, and the racing surface even reminded him a bit of his west coast roots.
“It was a tricky track,” Sweet explained. “It was actually a lot of fun. Lapped traffic was kind of wild there. I had a few close calls. The track was changing a lot… Once the curb got built up, it got a lot trickier. It was kind of a fine line between you either you’d enter with your right-rear too out in front of you and you got loose or you could get yourself too tight, and then you could get it right sometimes. It was a really fine line. It was kind of old school, kind of like a California track. My Napa Auto Parts guys gave me a great car.”
Rounding out the top three was a charging Sheldon Haudenschild. The Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing gasser drove from 10th up to third aboard the NOS Energy Drink #17. Haudenschild’s feelings mirrored that of Sweet’s regarding the puzzling track conditions at times.
“I feel like I only made one big mistake over in (Turn) 3, but it was just tricky,” Haudenschild said. “It was hard to get runs and throw sliders. The top was really fast. I felt really good early, though. We were able to move around, I feel like, probably more than anybody.”
KSE Hard Charger honors went to Caden Englehart. In his first career World of Outlaws Feature start, the Terre Haute, IN native drove from 24th to 15th.
For the second time in the last three races, Bill Balog earned the Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award as he set a new Wilmot Raceway track record.
The Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown was claimed by Noah Gass.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Bill Balog (seventh Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Carson Macedo (105th of career), Jacob Allen (57th of career), and Donny Schatz (516th of career).
The Smith Titanium Brake Systems “Break of the Race” went to Bill Balog after he challenged for the lead early before slipping to eighth.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars make their way to Ohio for a massive week. On Tuesday, July 11 Attica Raceway Park will host the Ohio Logistics Brad Doty Classic presented by Racing Optics with $15,000 on the line. Then it’s off to Eldora Speedway for two nights at “The Big E.” First, The Knight Before on Friday, July 14 pays $20,000-to-win. Then the 40th Kings Royal on Saturday, July 15 awards a huge $175,000 payday. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (40 Laps): 1. 41-Carson Macedo; 2. 49-Brad Sweet; 3. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 4. 15-Donny Schatz; 5. 9-Kasey Kahne; 6. 2-David Gravel; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 8. 17B-Bill Balog; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston; 10. 83-James McFadden; 11. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 12. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 13. 1A-Jacob Allen; 14. 20G-Noah Gass; 15. 71M-Caden Englehart; 16. 3N-Jake Neuman; 17. 23-Russel Borland; 18. 6-Bill Rose; 19. (DNF) 87A-Austin Hartmann; 20. (DNF) 7S-Robbie Price; 21. (DNF) 68-Dave Uttech; 22. (DNF) 7N-Darin Naida; 23. (DNF) 49J-Josh Schneiderman; 24. (DNF) 16TH-Hunter Schuerenberg