Local racing phenom Chase Johnson, who last year at age 12 became the youngest track champion in the 60-year history of Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, has ended his quest for another title.
Chase and his father Andy -- also a past champion -- have decided not to return to the Speedway for next month's season finale due to a disagreement with track management.
"That's the best track in the county, but we won't be racing there any more as long as the current management remains in place," says the elder Johnson, whose racing team is headquartered in Mt. Juliet.
He adds: "I won't rule out returning sometime in the future if some changes are made."
Johnson declined to elaborate on the dispute, saying, "We'll put it behind us and move on. Chase will continue to race, just not at the Fairgrounds."
"It was a tough season," says Chase, an eighth-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy who is widely considered one of the area's top young racing talents. "We got off to a bad start, and things kinda went down from there."
The reference is to a hard crash at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway in May that left Chase with a broken kneecap.
He attempted to race with his left leg encased in a soft cast, but was unable to operate the clutch on his race car. Forced to miss some early races, he found himself down in the championship standings and was unable to work his way back to the top.
Although the crash demolished his race car, it didn't dent his confidence or determination.
"I couldn't wait to get back out there," Chase says. "Racing is all I've ever wanted to do, and that hasn't changed. Sometimes this sport can be frustrating, but that's part of it. You have to push on."
Although his Fairgrounds Speedway season is over, Chase has one more race to run this season, the Nov. 7-8 Governor's Cup in New Smyrna, Fla. The race is one of the sport's most prestigious Late Model events, drawing some of the region's top drivers. It is also a chance for young races to gain widespread exposure.
Next season the Johnson team plans to tour in the Carolinas and compete for championships at various tracks in that area.
"I'm looking forward to it," Chase says. "I enjoy racing on different tracks against new competition."
Meanwhile Chase will swap driving for dribbling. He intends to play basketball this season at Mt. Juliet Christian.
"I enjoy basketball," he says. "But racing is still my sport."
Wright on: Lebanon's Hunter Wright can put the bow on a second straight Legends Series title in Fairgrounds Speedway's season finale next month.
Wright was on pace to also win the Legends crown at Veterans Motorplex (formerly Highland Rim Speedway) until a scheduling conflict forced him to miss a recent race and dropped him in the standings.
Another noted young Lebanon racer, Dylan Fetcho, is second in the Fairgrounds' Pro Late Model standings. Fellow Wilson County drivers Austin Brawley and William Hale are 14th and 18th, respectively.
Brothers Dalton and Peyton Hamlett of Mt. Juliet are seventh and 10th in the Limited Late Models, and Watertown's Darry Quick is 19th.
Information about standings and schedules at Fairgrounds Speedway and Veterans Motorplex is posted on the tracks' websites.
Larry Woody is The Democrat's motorsports writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.