Successful West Coast Swing for Johnson
 September 12, 2013| 
  • Team News
USF2000-news

MOUNT MORRIS, MI. - The only race event on the west coast of the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda schedule at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., proved to be a worthwhile trip for Michael Johnson and the JDC MotorSports team. 


Johnson arrived early to take part in a charity event at a local animal shelter before hitting the track for the first time on Friday for a promoter test day, which saw three practice sessions.


Right from the get-go the entire JDC MotorSports team was up to speed with Johnson's new teammate Scott Andrews setting the pace logging the fifth fastest time of the 24-car field.


"It really helps when you have strong teammates to speed up the process of getting up to speed during a race weekend," said Johnson, after posting the 18th quickest time in the morning session. "There is simply more data and video to look at to see where we can improve the car as well as where I am losing or gaining time compared to my teammates Clark [Toppe] and Scott." 


For the second session of the test day, Johnson and his team improved the car greatly and he was able to move up to 12th fastest overall, just 0.6 seconds off of second place.


"We knew we had a good car and a good setup right from the start so we were definitely moving in the right direction during the second session," added Johnson. "It's great that we were that close to the front and with my teammates Scott and Clark running P1 and P7, I knew there still was plenty of room to improve for the final test session."


The final practice on Friday would take place at 3:20 pm PT, close to the starting time for race one the next day.


"Since the first race on Saturday would take place at a similar time and with similar track conditions as the final Friday practice, we decided to focus and work on a good race setup with used tires. I was pretty comfortable with how the car felt in the midday session."


Johnson ended up P16 during the final Friday practice but with his teammates posting the second and 12th fastest times, the team knew that the cars would also work under warmer conditions."


Saturday would see a one hour official practice session in the morning, followed by a 30-minute qualifying leading up to race one.


Johnson posted the 19th fastest time in practice, a disappointing 21st in qualifying but a strong 13th in the race.


"I had a great start and, due to the fact that some cars ahead of me got together on the opening lap and needed to pit, I gained several positions right from the start," said Johnson. "I caught up to my teammate Clark and together we actually were catching the group of cars ahead of us at that stage of the race. Clark and I had a good fight going on switching positions several times and it was great that I could keep him behind me at the end."


Unfortunately, a full course yellow ended the race behind the safety.

"I really was hoping that we would go back to green," noted Johnson. "Clark and I were both catching the cars ahead of us so a top 10 finish was clearly in reach for us today." 


For Sunday's morning race, Johnson would gain one grid spot, starting the race in 20th position. Unfortunately, typical Monterey Bay weather with heavy fog and poor visibility saw the start delayed over an hour and the race shortened to a 20-minute sprint where Johnson finished 17th.


"As bad as the fog was, I was worried that we would not race at all," said Johnson. "Overall I am happy how we made out. We had two strong runs, gained valuable points and positions in the championship and clearly showed the team's potential and that the team can run upfront." 


The next stop on the schedule for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will see Johnson and his team travel to Houston, Texas, for the final races of the season in early October, joining the full Mazda Road to Indy in support of the IZOD IndyCar Series.


This will also be the final two races for Johnson in USF2000 as he prepares to enter the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with JDC MotorSports in 2014. Testing is scheduled to begin in late September.


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 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 a specially modified race car with hand controls, and he became the first paralyzed racer to win in an open-wheel formula car 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 JDC MotorSports, step one of the Mazda Road to Indy program.

In his first year Johnson had several top-ten finishing positions in qualifying and races on his way to 15th position overall in the Series. 

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

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


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