Michael Johnson Race Review: Night Before the 500
 May 30, 2013| 
  • Team News

MOUNT MORRIS, MI. - Michael Johnson’s first oval race ended in a seven car pileup after just two laps. The venue was Lucas Oil Raceway Park and the event was the 2012 ‘Night before the 500’. For this year’s famed curtain raiser to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the young racer from Flint, Michigan, was hoping for a far better outcome. 

The week at Indy started early for Johnson as he took part in the INDYCAR driver autograph session on the Wednesday before the race at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A full day of other marketing activities kept Johnson busy on Thursday before finally hitting the track on Friday the 24th for several test sessions as part of an official USF2000 Series test day. 

Johnson was quickly up to speed posting the 13th fastest time in the first session out of the field of 24 entries. Unfortunately, an early spin in the second session resulted in heavy damage as he hit a fellow competitor. He then missed the remainder of the session as it became a race against time to get the car ready for Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions.

The team used the first of two Saturday practice sessions to check systems and ensure the car was as it should be prior to the afternoon session of single-car qualifying and, of course, the 75-lap race, later in the evening. 

"I wasn't really pushing that hard during the two practices,” Johnson explained. “I just wanted to build my confidence back up after our mishap the day before and make sure we had a solid car for qualifying and the race.”

Johnson was the ninth car in line for single-car qualifying. With the track conditions improving as the session went on, the later runners proved to have an advantage over the early starters. A starting slot of 19th out of the 24 cars was the result of the early starting slot in qualifying but at least Johnson was on the inside for the all important run into Turn 1. 

Based on previous races, Johnson’s JDC team expected to see several full-course yellows during the race. The team elected to take a conservative strategy early on to stay out of trouble, stay on the lead lap and preserve the tires for the final run to the checkered flag. To everybody’s surprise all 75 race laps were completed under green flag conditions with the race completely incident-free. 

"I stuck to our strategy of staying out of trouble and saving our tires for the end. Unfortunately the yellow never came which would have boxed the field together again so at one point I simply had to go for it," said Johnson. 

As Johnson upped his pace, he once again demonstrated his true potential as his last two race laps were his fastest, matching the times of the front running cars. Johnson only was able to gain one position, finishing 18th at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Johnson, however, was quick to find the positives from the event. 

“Obviously I am a little disappointed but who would have thought that we would have a green flag race all the way. At least we showed our speed at the end and had a clean race so that's definitely better than last year. It's also good for me gaining more experience in race conditions since I ran in traffic pretty much my entire race so that for sure will help in the future."

With a few weeks off before the next event, Johnson will attend some promotional events on behalf of his sponsor, SpeediCath. He will be back in the JDC car, testing in mid-June to prepare for the upcoming doubleheader event at Toronto in July. 

The race will again be run together with the IZOD IndyCar series and will be the only stop outside the U.S. for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. 

About Michael Johnson:

Twenty-year-old paralyzed racer Michael Johnson is the first and only paralyzed licensed INDYCAR driver. Johnson was on his way to becoming a professional motorcycle racer, having won races and championships at regional and national levels, when on August 13, 2005 he was involved in an on-track racing accident which left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down.

After several years of recovery Johnson has started racing and winning again and now has set his goal to become the first paralyzed driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500.

Johnson drives his specially modified race car with hand controls, and he became the first paralyzed racer to win in an open-wheel formula car race during Round Two of the Skip Barber Summer Series at Watkins Glen International Raceway in 2011. He went on to claim two further victories at Road America, and finished the 2011 season with three wins, one pole position, four third place podiums and several top-five finishes.

In 2012, Johnson moved up to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with championship-winning team JDC MotorSports. This is "Step One" of the Mazda Road to Indy program.

In his first year as a professional licensed INDYCAR driver Johnson had several top-ten finishing positions in qualifying and races on his way to 15th position overall in the series. Johnson is, once again, competing with JDC MotorSports in the 2013 championship. 

Follow Johnson on Facebook @michaeljohnsonracing, Twitter @racer54iscool and Instagram @johnsonracing54. 

For more information, please visit: www.MichaelJohnsonRacing.com

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