Speed but no Luck for Michael Johnson in Alabama
 April 30, 2014| 
  • Team News

MOUNT MORRIS, MICH. -- The race weekend started out promisingly with the announcement of Indiana-based BraunAbility joining Michael as a program partner for the balance of the 2014 season. Michael showed front running speeds during the Winterseries pre-season races at Barber Motorsports Park, posting the fourth fastest race lap in the final race earlier this year.

"We had a really good weekend at the season start in St. Pete and after we tested here during the off season and with the times we could run during the race at Winterfest I know we had a good car and I can run competitive times to run at least in the top eight, so I was really optimistic coming back to Barber," Michael explained.

Posting P9 and P10 in the first two promoter day test sessions was not what the team and Michael expected but conditions were much different then when testing or racing at Barber earlier this year.

"When we were here for testing as well as Winterfest it was really cold so now coming back and racing at much warmer conditions we were chasing the track a little and knew we needed some more adjustments especially for qualifying to get the lap times to start at least in the top 10," he said.

P13 in the only official practice did not improve the position within the 20-car field, but saw a improvement in times only being 0.4 sec off the eighth place So finishing in 15th place during qualifing was a disappointment for Michael who at least expected a top-10 starting position for race one.

"I know the time was there. We looked at my section times afterwards and I just could not put it together in one lap. Combining my fastest section times would have put as in the eighth starting spot which we needed for the race since passing here at Barber is just really difficult," said Michael.

The start of the race proved to be even more disappointing as Michael lost three positions in the opening laps.

"Coming to the green on the front straight the car directly ahead of me jacked up, so I had to jump on the brakes before even getting to the green and lost all my momentum going into Turn One. I was more or less a sitting duck in the first two laps until finally I could get in a rhythm starting to pass the slower cars ahead of me. When I finally caught up to one of my teammates running for a top-10 position one of the fuses came loose which caused the shifter to stop and I had to reach down in the cockpit to push it back, which cost me a couple of seconds and I lost contact to the cars running ahead of me. I caught them again at the end but that was already the last lap so I had to settle for 12th place."

But that was only half of the story with Michael towards the end posting the sixth fastest lap of the race which would see him starting in 10th place for the second race of the weekend on Sunday.  

"Overall we had a good first race and a good pace, it seems like my car was getting better towards the end when others would drop off, so we just have to qualify better and start further up so we don't lose too much time behind slower cars in the beginning of the race," said Michael.

Starting in 10th position Michael had a great start in race two and still was running in 10th place catching the cars ahead of him until his weekend totally unraveled.

"I knew from the race on Saturday that my car would be very good towards the end. So I took my time and had a great start. I was running in 10th place around halfway when I noticed that the cars ahead of me starting to drop off a little, so I knew it was go time now to get after them. I just ran a little wide going into Turn One and dropped the wheels over the outside curb and hit the ground a bit hard when the fuse came loose again and the shifter stopped working. My team even taped them down to prevent them coming out when I hit a curb or something hard, so now I could not push them down again and had to come into the pits to get it fixed. Obviously my race was ruined by then and even more so when I had to come back in for a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pits." Michael resumed to finish the race one lap down in 20th position.

"I am really disappointed," he said. "This for sure could have been a good top-10 run for us. Unfortunately, this is a totally new system for the hand controls we are running this year which has a lot more electronic parts to it then the system we ran last year in USF2000. My team JDC MotorSports is doing an awesome job with the car they are giving me but there are simply some elements we just have to fine-tune. We can only find those when we actually race the car since we never had an issue in both races or during testing or practice."

"The speed is there to consistently run in the top 10. We just have to filter out all the bugs, get stronger in qualifing and the start of the races and we will be right there."

He will not have to wait that long. The next double header weekend is only two weeks away on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of IndyCar's Grand Prix Of Indianapolis May 9-10.

“I’m really looking forward to running the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I did the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test a few years back and did very well. I’m excited to have all the bugs worked out of the car and show everyone what I can do!”

About Michael Johnson: Twenty-one-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 he 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 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-10 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 2014 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Follow Michael on Facebook michaeljohnsonracing, Twitter @racer54iscool and Instagram @johnsonracing54 or visit www.MichaelJohnsonRacing.com.

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