MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Inside the ropes that separated the many fans from important personnel, mainly photographers and the race-winning Jason Johnson Racing crew, Carson Macedo basked in Williams Grove National Open glory.
“Wow, this is the highest-paying win of my career,” Macedo said Saturday night at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
“That’s 10 wins with the [World of] Outlaws this year,” he added. “I can’t believe it.”
Fifteen steps from the makeshift victory lane was Logan Schuchart, left alone in comparison to the celebration of his dreams. Schuchart had led the National Open until Macedo passed him with four laps to go.
“It sucks, it stings, and I’m hurt,” Schuchart said, “but we’ll come back next year and try it again.”
It’s easy to overlook that one driver’s shining moment is often another’s heartbreak.
Schuchart wasn’t alone. Brent Marks’ would-be second National Open win in three years collapsed with a rare misstep in traffic.
Marks looked every part of his formidable, 11-win self when he led the first 11 laps from the pole. Then catastrophe struck when Marks couldn’t clear a slower car off turn two.
Contact snapped his No. 19M sideways, a slow-motion turn of events as Marks did his all to keep his car pointed straight.
“Just met him in the wrong spot, spun out,” Marks said. “Tried to save it. Just didn’t work out. Had a really fast car tonight, just wasn’t our night.”
Marks is one of the most efficient passers in the sprint car game, using good judgement to work through the field. That made the fall from the lead that much more stunning.
“It’s been a long time,” Marks said of the last time he lost a race in lapped traffic. “And I always try to learn from those moments. The crazy thing about tonight is I was being patient, biding my time, trying to save fuel because the track was fast.
“I wasn’t expecting the lapped car to do what he did there,” he added.
Polishing off races from the lead at Williams Grove can come across as one of the most challenging tasks in sprint car racing.
Clean air and going unmatched is almost a sure thing for roughly five laps, but the turbulence of traffic stirs the waters and murky situations tend to arise.
Sometimes it’s almost better chasing the leader into mid-runs, something Schuchart demonstrated this weekend.
If it wasn’t for a number of cautions that compartmentalized Friday’s 25-lap feature, Schuchart could have upended winner Kyle Larson, whose pace predictably slowed in traffic.
On Saturday, it was Schuchart playing defense, fending off Macedo, who was on offense.
“He just ran a good race,” Schuchart said.
“All in all, two second-place finishes is way better than what we’ve done in the past here,” Schuchart added. “I’m 28 years old, so I’ve got a lot of years left to win this race.
“We’ll be back next year, and we’ll try and go at this thing again,” said Schuchart, who will admittedly need a few days to process where his National Open dreams had crashed down.
“I don’t want to look at it tonight,” he said.