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Las Vegas Bullring champ finally gets to drive on superspeedway

When he was distributing pit notes as a volunteer in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway media center during NASCAR Weekend, it took Justin Johnson less than a minute to run down to the starting grid, It has taken him a lot longer to get there in a NASCAR truck.

The four-time Bullring champion will turn his first laps on his hometown 1.5-mile oval during Friday’s World of Westgate 200 in a one-off ride in the No. 08 Kart Idaho Racing Toyota. At 34, he is thrilled to finally get the opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to run the track, but I never thought I would get the chance,” said the two-time Super Late Models champion during a break from duties at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School in Pahrump, where is an instructor.

He landed the drive when dirt track specialist Tim Ward, who drove the No. 08 in the Eldora Dirt Derby last month, was not cleared to compete on the Las Vegas pavement. Crew chief Sonny Wahl recommended him to truck owners John Wood and Travis Milburn. A bunch of Johnson’s local benefactors and racing pals, led by Chris Lowden of Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, helped him cobble together the necessary sponsorship dollars.

It will be Johnson’s second foray in the trucks after he ran a handful of races during 2011. His last start was at the 1.3-mile oval at Nashville, Tennessee, where he ran in the top five before an engine problem dropped him to 15th at the finish.

Keep on truckin’

“It’s been a long time,” said the husband and father of three children, who thought the window to drive in one of NASCAR’s touring series had closed. “I’ve got a family now, and that sort of slows things down, and (NASCAR car and truck owners) all want these young kids.

“I just can’t keep up with all this money they want these drivers to bring. Thankfully, because it’s my hometown truck, I was able to find partners to back us.”

The goal for his LVMS baptismal is simple: Run as hard as he can for as long as he can and stay out of the way of top drivers such as Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain and Stewart Friesen, running 1-2-3 after two playoff races.

“I want to keep the truck in one piece and I want to run the whole race,” Johnson said. “Just finish and have fun. I don’t care where I finish, as long as I do all the laps. “

But what if he does all the laps, finishes really well and gets his name in the pit notes he used to distribute in the media center?

“They’ll probably want me to do it again,” Johnson said with a wry chuckle.

“And then they’ll probably want me to come up with the money.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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