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Clements Wins Wild Johnsonville 180 At Road America

Jeremy Clements poses with the winners sticker after the NASCAR XFINITY Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America. [Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images]

Jeremy Clements poses with the winners sticker after the NASCAR XFINITY Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America. [Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images]

by Paul Gohde

Jeremy Clements won the unpredictable Johnsonville 180 NASCAR Xfinity race Sunday at a damp Road America and admitted that “Road courses are wild races.” He also said that he loves to eat brats. Both were probably true today as Clements outlasted Michael Annett and Matt Tifft in a race that came down to the last corner of the next to last lap.

“I didn’t know who was the leader after our last pit stop. We had gotten to third and I thought then that we might have a shot,” said Clements who was driving a 2008 family-owned Chevrolet that had been severely damaged at Mid Ohio recently. “I didn’t see leader Matt (Tifft) at first and I knew that I had time to try to pass but I was impatient and thought, ‘yeah, I got to get this thing.’”

The attempted pass in turn 14 brought both cars together and the ensuing spin by both put their chances to win in jeopardy. “I didn’t mean to get into him. I knew I needed to get going ahead of Matt,” as they both tried to get back on the track first with the trailing Michael Annett about to pass them both.

“I got a little loose and had some wheel hop. I wish we could have raced side-by-side for the win,” explained Tifft. Clements righted his car first and held that spot for the final lap, winning by 5.602 seconds over Annett.

“When he was chasing me down before we got together I could see him in my rear view mirror and I knew he was closing” explained Tifft.

For Clements, who started 24th, the win was his first in the series after 256 starts and 14 years of trying. “I’ve always been in a family-owned team. It’s hard to even get to the races sometime. This feels like a dream come true,” said the Spartanburg, SC driver who admitted that their team’s equipment “has some shortcomings.”

Early leaders James Davison and Daniel Hemric both ran into trouble as Davison, who has raced in Indy cars and in Europe, was penalized for speeding while leaving the pits and dropped to 37th at the finish. Hemric’s Richard Childress Chevrolet was also caught going too fast in the pits on Lap 27 and finished 15th.

Pole-winner 18-year-old Austin Cindric, competing in his first Xfinity Series event for Roger Penske, finished 16th having led one lap.

Elliott Sadler finished 14th but maintained a 107-point lead over William Byron in the chase for the Xfinity championship.

Clements and his team were beside themselves with joy as they celebrated the unexpected win.

“I was licking my chops, man,” he admitted as he was trying to catch Tifft for the win. “After we spun I thought that I gave up the chance to win.”

Licking his chops for the win, sure. Ready to eat one of those St. John’s brats at Road America? Better than champagne for sure.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”