Jaxon Saathoff scores first home track win, Saathoff’s talk father/son racing
BEATRICE - A legend around southeast Nebraska and the world of local racing is Johnny “The Jet” Saathoff. A 4-time national champion with over 350 career wins, but now The Jet is passing his knowledge and experience down to his son Jaxon, who’s quickly climbing the ranks of the racing world.
Now, the 20-year-old driver from Beatrice is starting to see success of his own and is taking on the responsibilities that come with being a driver.
“I wouldn’t be in it if it wasn’t for him [Johnny Saathoff],” Saathoff said. “I was kind of born into it.”
Johnny owns Jet Racing, building IMCA race cars in Beatrice. Through the years of watching his dad operate the shop and now six years of racing against his dad, Jaxon has learned a thing or two.
“He has taught me the majority of what I know,” Saathoff said. “I may have learned a few things form a few lat model guys, but he’s definitely the main reason I know what I know now.”
After years of racing against each other in the IMCA Modified’s, Jaxon has begun to take on additional roles such as unloading cars at race tracks, making adjustments, and even driving the hauler on his own to races outside of Beatrice. Johnny has watched it all unfold with pride.
“It’s cool because he’s doing it all by himself,” Saathoff said. “Now he’s even working on my car, so I’ve been backing off, focusing on running a business and making enough money to pay for all this.”
After 43 years of racing, “The Jet” has accomplished just about everything there is among the IMCA ranks. He talked about his future in racing.
“I got like 358 IMCA wins. Like 450 total wins. It becomes day to day how much longer I can do it,” Saathoff said. “I just keep thinking one of these days someone will say ‘Hey, where’s Johnny?’. I don’t think I’d ever make an announcement saying this is my last year, because I’d never do it. I’d say I would, but I’d never do it.”
Racing with and against his dad is all Jaxon has ever known. He described what’d be like if that changed.
“I know he’d still be at the shop if I ever had questions, because I’ll always have questions, and he’d always be a phone call away,” Sathoff said. “But, not seeing him at the track, especially at Beatrice and Eagle, after racing with him every weekend, it’d definitely be weird because that’s all I’ve ever known since I’ve started.”
After six years behind the wheel of the 96 Modified, Jaxon has picked up wins at a few local tracks, but never at his home track, Beatrice Speedway. That is, until last Friday, when he finally got the monkey off his back. Finally having parked it in victory lane at the place his father’s won nearly 140 races, Jaxon and Johnny talked about what the moment meant.
“Growing up, I thought it was impossible to fill in his foot steps,” [Jaxon] Saathoff said. “I know I don’t have nearly wins as he has, but it’s cool to think maybe I have the potential to be what he is, someday.”
“139 times I’ve won here, with like 8-10 track championships, now it’s time for him to take over, so I can cut out,” [Johnny] Saathoff said.
From Bill and Chase Elliott to Richard and Lee Petty, and of course the Earnhardt’s, racing is known for its family ties, particularly father/son duos. Now, Johnny and Jaxon are experiencing that themselves.
“What’s crazy is when he goes down to Florida to go Lucas Oil Late Model racing, he gets introduced as Johnny “The Jet’s” boy,” Saathoff said. “A lot of the kids he races against, I raced against their dads. It’s cool because a lot of those people know who I am, and they’re all eager to help him out, because they know he’s my son.”
The Saathoff’s race well into the fall, but to see Johnny and Jaxon on their home track, here at the Beatrice Speedway, 3 races remain, the final three Friday’s in August.