Opening night checkers a sign of success to come for top rookie Johnson

The feature winner his first night out in the division, Luke Johnson (left) ended 2016 as national rookie of the year in IMCA’s Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod division. IMCA President Brett Root is at right. (Photo by Bruce Badgley, Motorsports Photography)

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Luke Johnson accomplished the rare feat of winning his first race in a new division.

After the May 6 victory at Norman County Raceway, he followed with six more checkers on the way to earning the national Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod award.

“Winning rookie of the year and my first-ever feature were definitely the highlights of my season,” said the Moorhead, Minn., driver. “It didn’t get any easier after the first win but after we got some more things figured out with the car, we got six more wins.”

He won three times in all at Norman County and twice each at Buffalo River Race Park and Red River Valley Speedway. Johnson has been a regular at all three tracks since his mod-4 days and is partial to the West Fargo oval, where he finished third in the point standings this season.

“I wanted to go to a Northern SportMod and made the switch to IMCA, and I’m glad I did,” said Johnson. “I like the way these cars drive and handle. They run at a lot more tracks and a lot of my buddies race them, too. It’s fun to race with your friends.”

He didn’t set any lofty goals for his first SportMod season and was understandably pleased with the results.

“I just wanted to move up. I found a 2012 Shaw roller on line, bought it and put it together over the winter,” Johnson explained. “I wanted to get better and just win one race. We ended up winning seven features and national rookie of the year.”

“I had a great season and owe most of the credit for my success to my family and the rest of my crew,” he concluded. “I couldn’t have accomplished what I did without them.”

Starts: 42

Wins: 7

Additional Top Fives: 19

HIS CREW: Girlfriend Tyler Lashomb, parents Dennis and Eileen, brothers Justin, Shawn and Chad, Corry VanMil, Rob VanMil, Aaron Wetterlin, Bryce Bjerken, Chris VanMil and Frank Neisein.

HIS SPONSORS: Johnson’s Auto Repair, Valley Alignment & Repair and Action Towing & Recovery, all of Moorhead; Unlimited Auto Glass of Fergus Falls; Al’s Auto Parts, Taves Turkey Farms, Morty’s Bar & Grill and Centrol Ag Consulting, all of Glyndon; and Corey’s Car Care Center of Fargo, N.D.