2008 Season A 'Rollercoaster Ride' For Driver/Racing Engineer Richard Johns
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA (December 23, 2008) -- To say it was an unusual year for Richard Johns would be an understatement.
"It was a real rollercoaster ride," said Johns, an aspiring NASCAR driver and team engineer. "It started out where we were on top of the world only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us. The rest of the year was spent trying to recover. Honestly, we still haven't recovered completely, but in the end, we had some success. It was still a good year for us despite everything that happened."
After competing in 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series events in 2007 for Team Rensi, Johns (right) appeared to be moving up the NASCAR ladder landing a full-time Truck Series sponsor for the 2008 season. Contracts were signed and legally approved before the holidays and Johns was looking forward to a great opportunity wheeling the No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota in the Truck Series this past season. Then the bottom fell out just prior to the preseason test at Daytona in January when the sponsor defaulted on the deal never sending the team the money it had contracted for.
"It was pretty devastating," said Johns. "One day I'm at the shop working with the team, the next I'm getting a call saying the deal is blown up and I'm out of the ride. It was tough to swallow. It still is. It really changed my life -- and the lives of a lot of other people -- this year."
The sponsorship blow knocked Johns down, but not out. The 26-year-old Georgia native rebounded to drive in multiple series in 2008 competing in two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events, a trio of NASCAR Camping World races, and a host of Late Model Stock Car races including American Speed Association (ASA), Georgia Asphalt Series (GAS) and open events like the World Crown 300 and the Snowflake 100.
"We didn't get to race as much as we'd like to this year, but we were very competitive everywhere we went with our Late Model," said Johns. "We pretty much did everything except win a race in that car this season. We had a string of events in our Schoenfeld Headers/Bilstein Shocks Ford Late Model where we didn't finish out of the top-10 for quite awhile this season. Other than a mechanical problem at Bristol where we still managed to finish 16th, and an accident at the World Crown at Peach State Speedway, we were a top-10 car all year long.
"We closed out the year at the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway and were one of the fastest cars there. If we don't get spun out in the final 10 laps, we have a top-10 finish there too. We still wound up 11th, the last car on the lead lap. Just making that race (there were more than 70 entries for 36 starting spots) was really something, but to qualify well and be among the leaders at the finish says how good out Late Model effort was this year."
Johns also entered a pair of Truck Series events -- basically start and park efforts -- that resulted in the University of North Carolina Charlotte engineering graduate adding to his knowledge of the sport.
"Anytime you get behind the wheel of a racecar, you learn something," said Johns. "Different series, vehicles, tracks all provide a unique experience. You learn how to drive and gain experience figuring out what you need to do to make that kind of car or truck perform to its maximum potential on that kind of track. The more experience you gain, the better you get. We'd have liked to been in a more competitive situation in the Trucks, but anytime you can get in the NASCAR garage area, it's a good thing. You're going to learn something and it's never a bad thing to be seen there."
For 2009, Johns is hoping to network a host of opportunities.
"The perfect situation would be that I could just race -- just be a driver - but that's not reality, especially these days," Johns stated. "It would be great to find a Truck Series or Nationwide ride where I could drive and work with the team as an engineer. Unfortunately, those opportunities aren't really there unless you can bring a bag of money to the deal. If a NASCAR Cup, Nationwide or Truck Series engineering deal with a team comes along, I probably am going to take it even if it means not being able to drive full-time again this season.
[RJM%20Logo%2011.jpg] "If none of those things happen, I still have my engineering business - Richard Johns Engineering Racing Services -- and my Late Model. Right now, we're just taking it one day at a time waiting to see how things shake out. Whatever happens and whatever direction we wind up going, I'm confident 2009 will be successful for us. At the very least, it's got to be a lot more stable than what we experienced in 2008."