Photo: IndyCar

Dixon, Bourdais lead Honda’s charge in INDYCAR GP qualifying

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Four Chevrolets from Team Penske made the Firestone Fast Six. But, not to be overlooked, two cars from the Honda camp joined them, and even kept a fifth Penske entrant from getting in the mix (Simon Pagenaud failed to advance to the Fast Six and will start seventh).

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon kept Penske from taking the top four spots on the grid by qualifying in fourth, just ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, while Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais made it into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2017 and will grid sixth, his best starting spot of the season.

“It’s the first time we were a legit Fast Six car and we’re in the mix, we’re in the fight, this fight being in the middle of a Penske fest,” Bourdais quipped in the post-qualifying press conference.

Sebastien Bourdais made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

For Bourdais, the result comes on the heels of a hard crash on the first lap of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix that destroyed the chassis. As Bourdais noted, the Dale Coyne Racing team worked night and day to rebuild the car, and he was keen to emphasize their efforts.

“There were countless hours to build that car back up from what it was after Phoenix, which really wasn’t much at all left,” he explained. “So you know, they worked every day except Sunday. It’s a big testament to that small organization that’s really got inspiration to grow and develop, and it’s just a cool feeling.”

Dixon, the only driver to make the Fast Six in every road and street race this year, acknowledged that Honda has put in a workmanlike effort to catch Chevrolet and explained that, despite still lacking a little bit of raw pace, the package is more than capable to contending.

“I think with the road course kit that we have, I think the Hondas have been doing a pretty stout job,” he asserted. “(Chip Ganassi Racing) has been on both sides of the fence, so we know exactly how both of them work. So next week should be good, so don’t worry about that. But yes, excited for next week to see where it goes.”

Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix rolls off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.


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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski