Mt. Juliet's Andy Johnson, a former Fairgrounds Speedway track champion and one of the area's top drivers, has decided to hang up his helmet after almost three decades of running in circles.
But that doesn't mean he won't still be involved in racing -- it's just that he'll be outside the race car while his son Chase is inside, doing the driving.
Chase, a second-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, will compete in Quarter-Midget races at a track in Donelson this season, as well as in regional events in North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
"I've become involved with Chase's racing over the last couple of years, and finally decided there's no way I could keep doing both (racing himself)," Andy says. "I'm going to step aside and devote my time to Chase."
Andy, 39, was about his son's age when he started racing go-karts. He worked his way up to Mini-Stocks, and in 1997 won the division championship at the Fairgrounds. From there he graduated to the premier Late Model Stock Car Series, and captured the title in 2008, joining such past champions as Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton.
After all those years, will he miss racing?
"Not too much," Andy says. "It's not like I'm giving it up. I'll still be helping Chase get his cars ready, traveling to the tracks, working in the pits and so on. I'll still be racing, just not driving."
As for the thrill of competition:
"I get a bigger kick out of seeing Chase win a race than I get out of winning one myself," Andy says.
Chase, a personable, polite youngster who liberally sprinkles "yes sir's" throughout his conversations, says he appreciates the sacrifice his dad is making for him. And, having tagged along at his father's heels at racetracks from the time he could walk, he's aware of his father's legacy.
"He's a great driver," Chase says. "It was exciting to watch him race."
Last season Chase racked up several victories and his division's championship at the Donelson Quarter-Midget track. What does he enjoy most about racing?
"Going fast and winning," he says.
“Chase is a good little driver, "Andy says. "He’s smart, and he’s like me – he hates to lose. He’s grown up around racing, he’s always liked it, and it seems to come natural for him."
Andy, who builds and maintains his son's race cars in his Mt. Juliet shop, plans to spend at least the next couple of years on the Quarter-Midget circuit before considering moving up.
"I want Chase to enjoy himself, learn, and go at his own pace," he says. "I'm not going to push him."
Going slow, of course, may be difficult for Chase; it's simply not in his genes.
In other area racing news:
Fairgrounds Speedway: The track's season-opener is April 5, one of eight dates scheduled this season.
Highland Rim: The track's schedule is not yet posted, but it's expected to open in early April and run weekends through the fall.
Nashville Superspeedway: The Gladeville track will have no racing for a third consecutive season, but is being used for testing by a number of NASCAR teams.