Mitchell DeJong. Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull GRC: Honda, OMSE reveal restructured lineup

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The Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE team will have a significantly altered lineup for Red Bull Global Rallycross’ 2017 season, with three Honda Civics running this season, announced Thursday during the “Project CARS 2” Rallycross preview event in Los Angeles.

Sebastian Eriksson stays on for his third season with the team, while he’ll have two GRC Lites champions stepping up for their first full-time campaigns in Supercars.

Young American Mitchell DeJong, who won the 2014 title, will have his first full year back after a couple years largely outside the cockpit. DeJong made his Supercars debut at last year’s season finale at the Port of Los Angeles in a third car.

Meanwhile Oliver Eriksson, the 2015 GRC Lites champion, will make his Supercars debut in the third car. Oliver Eriksson is the youngest son of OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson, but not related to Sebastian Eriksson, who now has ascended to the lead driver role within the team.

Joni Wiman, the Finn who peaked in the series with the 2014 Supercars series title, will not return for a fourth season. He won his first Supercars race at Las Vegas in 2015 but endured a tough season last year in the first year of OMSE’s partnership with Honda.

There’s also another name we wondered if we’d see here, and that’s 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, who doesn’t have a confirmed race program for 2017 but had been rumored to run selected races with Honda. He’s tested at Sebring earlier this year, and was announced to race a McLaren M23 chassis at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in August.

“Coming off Honda’s maiden campaign in Global Rallycross in 2016, we are ramping up for the 2017 season with a great blend of skill and experience, in addition to talented newcomers,” said Susie Rossick, assistant vice president of Honda Automobile Marketing. “The Honda Red Bull OMSE Civic team is excited to be back on the track and is committed to increasing its time on the podium.”

“It was an epic 2016 for us representing Honda Racing,” added Andreas Eriksson, CEO and Team Principal of OMSE. “We hope to not only climb onto the podium a few more times this season, but to learn more about the Honda Red Bull Civic Coupe’s true capability. It’s an aggressive machine and we have aggressive drivers who are eager to bring home great results.”

Red Bull GRC’s season premieres at Memphis the weekend of April 29-30. Qualifying airs at midnight ET on April 30, on NBCSN, with race coverage the same day at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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