Jonny Carter should’ve been roughly a month into defending his WISSOTA national championship on Saturday at Jamestown Speedway.
Instead, the 29-year-old street stock champion from Lisbon, N.D., was dialing in a new car for the 2020 season at Jamestown’s annual test and tune. After climbing out of his now sparkling white No. 46 car following session No. 1, Carter expressed his appreciation for area tracks taking a cautious approach by delaying the start of the season in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a diabetic, so I’m glad to see taking the extra precaution,” Carter said. “I know everyone’s eager to get racing, but you gotta follow the guidelines and we’re doing it for the safety of everyone.”
Carter will unofficially fire up his national title defense Monday at his hometown track in Lisbon, the opening salvo in attempting to replicate an incredible 2019. WISSOTA is currently allowing just the accumulation of state and track points.
Carter won 24 feature races at nine different tracks last season, garnering track championships in both Lisbon and Jamestown. He won his 100th career feature race at Jamestown Speedway on Aug. 7, one of six feature wins on Jamestown’s quarter-mile en route to the top of the WISSOTA racing heap.
Carter said competition is a supreme motivator at staying sharp. Local drivers Billie Christ and Scott Gartner provided on-track motivation Saturday during Carter’s first two test sessions.
“I’m out here thinking I’m going to get beat every week,” said Carter, winner of the Stock Car Stampede in both 2015 and 2016. “You gotta stay hungry. These guys are tough and we just gotta try to continue to stay on top of stuff.”
Carter has replaced his championship-winning Stealth Chassis with a brand new Stealth cage built by Zach Frederick out of Richardton, N.D. Frederick also has a Stampede win under his belt, cruising to the streets victory here in 2012.
The black bars menace under Carter’s new white, green and gray paint scheme.
“We’re just shaking it down, making sure I tightened everything,” Carter said. “It feels good. It’s just a testament to Zach Frederick’s cars … really consistent.”
Consistency is key to chasing points titles, which Carter admits isn’t exactly the way he prefers to race. He prefers to win races -- and with that comes other things.
Carter tallied 3,322 points in 44 total shows garnering 23 more points than Justin Vogel of Brooten, Minnesota, for the national street stock title. Both drivers won 24 features, but Carter competed in 15 fewer feature events than Brooten.
The WISSOTA national champion is determined seasonally by points earned over a driver’s top 30 shows. Carter was also WISSOTA’s 2019 North Dakota streets champion, which takes into account a driver’s top 20 in-state shows.
“I’m not a points racer at all and the last month was pretty hell on me,” Carter said. “But everything has to fall your way. The good luck kinda has to stay there all year and when you get down a little bit you just gotta keep digging and go back at it again.
“My mentality is I just try to go win every race I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Carter finished outside the top five a remarkable four times in 2019, allowing him to secure the national title in far fewer shows than others. WISSOTA’s modified, super stock, Midwest modified and mod four champions in 2019 averaged over 62 feature events last season.
But it’s not like 40-plus nights ain't one heckuva commitment.
“I have a very understanding wife,” Carter laughed. “But we raced 44 shows last year and that’s one thing that we’re really proud of.”
Jamestown Speedway is scheduled to host its season opener on June 6, three weeks later than originally planned as state officials balance economic reopening with appropriate public safety. Jamestown is opening its grandstand to less than half capacity initially, part of a host of precautions, and by then Carter should have his new Stealth streeter fully dialed in.
Sheyenne Speedway in Lisbon is also scheduled to race May 31 following Monday's Memorial Day opener.
"It’s been a long spring, but hat’s off to all these tracks,” Carter said. “They’re taking the time doing this safely -- keeping us all safe -- which is huge.”