They raced against each other in Mini Dwarfs, battled in American Stocks and now quite often find themselves rubbing fenders in the Hobby Stock division.
Then they end up in the same house.
Brothers Cody and Nicholas Johnson are the third generation of an extended Johnson family that has been active in dirt track racing for several decades.
Their grandfather, Stephen, used to race and still builds cars. Their father, Chad, drives, as does Chad’s brothers, Tyler and Steven. Chad’s youngest son (brother to Cody and Nicholas for those charting the family tree) competes in the Mini Dwarf class.
On the other side of the tree, Bruce Johnson, brother of Stephen, used to race. His sons, Michael and Kevin, compete in the Sports Mod division.
“Just by the last name of Johnson, people know who you are,” said Nicholas, who is heading into his senior year at Stockdale High.
Said Chad, who just graduated from Stockdale: “It’s a really big family.”
And Johnsons really like beating other Johnsons.
“He’s my biggest competitor, he’s the one I want to beat every week,” Chad said of Nicholas. “That’s how brothers are. That’s how it is with my uncles and my dad, my dad with my uncles. It’s about bragging rights. You always want to beat family.”
The Johnson brothers are rookies in the Hobby Stock division, typically one of the most competitive, and are currently No. 1 and No. 2 in points at Bakersfield Speedway.
Cody has two wins and has finished all six races in the top five. He leads Nicholas, who has one win and two other top-five finishes, by 44 points.
“My goal at the beginning of the year was one win and I’m up to three (including one at The Dirt Track at KCRP) so far.”
The reason for his quick success?
“Basically luck,” Cody said. “One of the races I won was because two of the faster guys crashed, one of them I was lucky and got to the front quickly, and the other I started up front.”
Starting up front at the Speedway is now out of the equation for both Johnsons. The top 12 drivers based on a point-earned average are inverted, meaning Cody will start the 25-lap features 12th at best while Nicholas goes off 11th.
“It makes for a fun night,” Cody said of having to come through the field.
Nicholas got his first win in his second outing at the Speedway. He took the the lead coming to the white flag in the last race at The Dirt track, only to have the transmission break.
“I’ve had a couple of bad races, just bad luck,” Nicholas said. “Finishing races is my main goal. I just want to go out and have fun.”
Nicholas said he finds the Hobby Stocks easier to drive than the slower American Stocks.
“The springs and shocks make everything stiffer,” he said. You kind of have to manhandle an American Stock. There are a lot of things you can do to Hobby Stocks that you can’t with an American stock.”
The key to success, Cody said, starts far from the race track.
“It never stops,” he said of working on a race car. “You’re always working on them. You want it to look good and in order to have a fast car you need to be taking care of it.”
Short-track racing is close-quarters racing and quite often the Johnson brothers are running side-by-side or nose-to-tail. And, yes, at times there is contact.
“You try to be as careful as you can,” Cody said. “We had one race we both used our bumpers on each other. It made for interesting talk after the race, but we got over it.”
As family, and brothers, generally do.