There is a quote that says, “it’s not tragic to die doing something you love” (Mark Foo). I’m not sure that the author had Sprint Car racing in mind when he said that.
Mark Foo was a professional surfer from Singapore. Though it seems he would have nothing in common with a Sprint Car driver from Eunice, Louisiana, Foo died in 1994 while surfing in California; while pursuing his passion and living out his dreams.
Jason Johnson made it to one of the greatest and most respected platforms there is in Sprint Car racing; traveling with the World of Outlaws and making a career of what he truly loved. We could all be so fortunate. It was a family affair. His wife and son both part of the team. He really was living out his dream.
I guess there is something to be said for dying while living out your dream. To die as an entertainer; giving fans something to watch, something to cheer for, something to free their minds from the stresses of everyday life, even if only for a few hours. I know that personally, racing was always that outlet for me, no matter what was going on in life.
It just doesn’t seem fair though to die so young; with family, friends, and hundreds of fans watching it all happen. Unfortunately that is the very scene that played out this weekend at Beaver Dam Raceway in Wisconsin. 41-year-old Jason Johnson lost his life doing what he loved.
How is it that the sport that gives us so much excitement, happiness, and joy can also bring such heartache and misery?
I did not personally know Jason Johnson, but I do know racing and I know family. No wife or child should ever have to watch the devastation and loss that Johnson’s wife and son were witness to Saturday night. Yet another racer with so much more ahead of him, not only in racing but also in life, stolen from this world much too soon.
I have heard that every driver knows the risk that he or she takes each time they get behind the wheel of a race car. But do we as family or friend really think that when they jump in for that heat or consolation or feature that may be last time we see them alive. No. I know that is not on my mind. But when something like this happens, the possibility seems to become more real.
It is too soon to know exactly what happened during the crash that took Johnson’s life. We as fans may never know, and really, it is not our place to know.
What I do know is that the racing community is a strong one. I have seen it. We have all seen it. Despite each fan having their favorites, those that they love to hate, those that they pull for weekly, in times like this, we are one community.
It was easy to see Saturday evening and throughout the day on Sunday. Every social media platform was inundated with thoughts and prayers for Johnson and his family and friends along with tributes to “The Ragin’ Cajun”.
In the days ahead, those of us in the racing community and those that were close to Johnson will likely continue to ask “Why?” It is not possible to get an answer to that; things like this are beyond our control. What we must do is lean on each other as we have had to unfortunately do in the past.
There are serious risks involved in this sport that we love. But there will almost certainly be something positive that comes from this tragedy; likely a new concern that will be addressed to improve safety for all drivers in the future.
For now, I would personally like to think that there is one epic Sprint Car race happening above us. Jason Johnson, Bryan Clauson, Jason Leffler, Kramer Williamson, Billy Kimmel, Kevin Gobrecht and a host of other racers gone to soon, all battling it out and having an absolute blast doing it!
As someone on Twitter put it, “Don’t use this as a reason not to attend races this week or any other time. Please attend as many as you possibly can. It’s what he would want you to do because it’s what he would do.”
Rest easy, “Ragin’ Cajun.”