Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Simpson tops opening day of Road America practice

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson topped the charts in the first day of practice for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads to Road America.

Stephen Simpson’s lap of 1:55.057 was best on a rainy day at the Elkhart Lake track, the rain finally relenting in the second of two one-hour practice sessions in the afternoon.

Simpson and co-driver Misha Goikhberg have impressed all season for the John Church-led team, an elusive first win thus proving the only thing they haven’t accomplished. They sit third in the Prototype points standings heading into this weekend’s race.

The pair of Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.Rs (from Mustang Sampling Racing and Whelen Engineering Racing) were next, ahead of the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson – first of the Ligiers with Olivier Pla and Jose Gutierrez back in that car this week.

The new Ligier racing this weekend, the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson, topped the morning session with Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens at 1:59.977.

The second session times were more representative with a smaller amount of rain.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT (GT Le Mans) and the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R (GT Daytona) topped the GT classes in the second session, while Performance Tech Motorsports led both PC sessions.

There were no major incidents during the day, the only real issues being that the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS and No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis didn’t run in the morning session.

Of note, the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 lineups are switched up this weekend. Scott Pruett moves to the No. 15 Lexus he’ll now share with Jack Hawksworth, while Robert Alon goes to the No. 14 Lexus with Sage Karam. Also, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE has been removed from the entry list. The team was incorrectly listed and is yet to confirm its race return to action for any further races this year.

Third practice runs at 8:55 a.m. CT and local time on Saturday.

RESULTS: Practice 1, Practice 2

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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