The world was a different place back when Johnny VanDoorn first won the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
For one, it was back in 2007 when he was an exuberant 19-year-old with youthful ambitions of national superstardom. For another, it wasn’t even the real All-American 400 in the sense that he won the 300-lap Super Late Model race that was paired with a 100-lap Pro Late Model race under the ‘All-American 400’ moniker.
But what hasn’t changed is VanDoorn’s love for short track racing, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and the 400 in his latest attempt to score a second Music City guitar.
“This place is kind of where I first made a name for myself. That was a special day. We’ve come back here a lot over the years but just haven’t been able to close out,” VanDoorn said. “There’s not a lot that applies from way back then. The cars have evolved over the years and the set-ups have too.
“We learned some things in the spring. We sat on the pole and finished third. Hopefully the notebook applies for 400 laps here too.”
VanDoorn qualified 10th but doesn’t believe that is indicative of his race speed.
“We have much better race speed than our qualifying stuff,” VanDoorn said. “I ain’t worried. The track was a little cooler than what we thought it would be and that was a part of it.
“It sounds cliché, and I hate saying it over and over, but if you just keep your nose clean and make it to the finish, you should have a shot at it. You look at the lap times and we’re all pretty equal so we just have to make it to the end and make the right adjustments.”
The All-American 400 will be VanDoorn’s final race of the season as his crew chief and brother, Butch, will welcome his first child with wife Toni at some point next month.
“Can’t miss that one,” VanDoorn said.
So naturally, that means no Snowball Derby appearance for the three-time CRA Super Series champion too. VanDoorn has made two appearances in 2010 and 2011, but also failed to qualify in 2009 and 2014.
VanDoorn wants to return to Five Flags Speedway in December at some point down the road, but never wants to be in position to miss the main event ever again.
“You have to be really prepared,” VanDoorn said. “You have to start planning in April, really. It’s something I want to do. It’s something I want to win, obviously.
“And we’re definitely thinking about how to do it.”
Winning the All-American 400 to close out 2018 certainly goes away to improving the outlook for 2019.