There are achievements in motorsports that go well beyond the resume.
For Johnny VanDoorn, winning the prestigious Redbud 400 for a third time on Monday night at Anderson Speedway in Indiana was one such occasion.
That’s because the 31-year-old was racing for more than pride and a sense of accomplishment. He was racing with a heavy heart, literally gaving nearly everything he had to pull his No. 71 into victory lane at the high-banked quarter-mile.
Once there, VanDoorn needed to be extracted from the car, his face flush from dehydration. Upon receiving fluids and being cooled by CRA Super Series officials, VanDoorn was able to make his way to the podium. There, he explained why his ailment extended beyond the physical after 400 grueling laps in 90-degree temperatures.
“My dad is expected to pass away here any minute,” an emotional VanDoorn explained. “This one is for him. This one is for you dad. I love you.”
VanDoorn could not be denied throughout the evening. He qualified third but quickly found his way to the front and led well over 300 laps. And while he lost the lead to Jack Dossey III on the penultimate restart, he simply took it right back.
His final restart with nine to go against Dossey and a hard-charging Daniel Hemric was flawless. It was especially impressive given that both of VanDoorn’s pursuers had saved their final set of tires for the final 75 laps.
VanDoorn took his with 150 remaining — the call made by his crew chief, and brother, Butch.
“We had a hot rod all night, and we don’t get too many of those, and my only concern was pitting when we did,” VanDoorn said, wearing a hat of the company founded by his grandad and operated by his father.
“It doesn’t matter how good the car is. Tires are going to prevail. That’s been Butch and I, our weakness, in the past. Young driver and young crew chief. We lost races due to strategy. I feel like we have really started to figure that part out.”
As for Dossey getting by VanDoorn on the penultimate restart, VanDoorn never even considered for a second that it was going to cost him the win.
“We battled hard for the win, and he doored me a little, the stuff that racing is all about,” VanDoorn said. “But our car was that good. I just want to point out their sportsmanship. Jack’s guys were the first to come over here, Daniel too, giving me a fan and water. That’s what this about. We battled for 400 laps and they checked on me.”
Dossey won the CRA Super Series season-opener at Anderson in April and drove a really patience, thoughtful race but it just wasn’t enough to get by one of the best.
“That’s Johnny VanDoorn,” Dossey said. “I have a lot of experience here. This is my home track. He has a lot of experience here too, and he’s one of the best in the business. He doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is.
“I thought I could get him again on the final restart. I saw the crowd on their feet. I used him up. He used me up. That was just good hard short track racing. There isn’t anything wrong with finishing second to Johnny VanDoorn here.
“And we beat a Cup guy.”
The Cup guy, of course, is 2014 Redbud 400 winner and current NASCAR rookie of the year contender Daniel Hemric, making his second of three Super Late Model appearances of the season.
Hemric has a long history of conserving tires in Super Late Model racing, bolting on his final set in the closing laps and driving through the field not minutes before nearly getting lapped. This time, VanDoorn did lap Hemric, but he was the free pass recipient for the penultimate caution, and that gave Hemric his shot.
The 2013 Southern Super Series champion had developed a clutch issue early in the race and it was so bad that it actually made his new tires largely a moot addition at the end.
“We took off at the start and I could feel that something just didn’t feel quite right,” Hemric said. “I let Johnny go and the next caution came out, and as I went to accelerate, I could feel the clutch start to slip.
“I never would’ve thought we would make it all 400 laps. We went a lap down trying to take care of the left sides and luckily got another caution to get rights on this thing. We probably didn’t deserve a third-place but we’ll count our blessings and move on.”
The complete results can be found below.
1. 71 Johnny VanDoorn
2. 20 Jack Dossey III
3. 54 Daniel Hemric
4. 777 Cody Coughlin
5. 17 Josh Brock
6. 35 Greg Van Alst
7. 5 Dalton Armstrong
8. 50 Jett Noland
9. 22 Brandon Oakley
10. 83 J.P. Crabtree
11. 29 Austin Kunert
12. 41 Hunter Jack
13. 51 Stephen Nasse
14. 26 Travis Braden
15. 23 Eddie VanMeter
16. 15 Brett Robinson
17. 6 Logan Runyon
18. 53 Zachary Tinkle
19. 15 Brett Robinson
20. 26J Kyle Jones
21. 28 Jeff Marcum