Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Races 4 and 5: A challenging weekend at Detroit Grand Prix

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson Detroit
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Despite starting the weekend woefully off the pace at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Jimmie Johnson kept alive an important streak during his rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series.

In each of his first five races on street and road courses this year, Johnson had avoided a last-place finish with his No. 48 Dallara-Honda.

On the 14-turn, 2.35-mile Belle Isle Raceway street course, Johnson qualified last Sunday for the first time this season but finished a lap down in 21st of 25 cars. That was a slight improvement on a Saturday in which he started 22nd and finished 24th.

Johnson had been putting together a solid effort and was running on the lead lap for much of the race before spinning through Turn 2 on Lap 54 of 70 and stalling to cause a yellow flag.

“Solid day,” Johnson said. “Really made a lot of improvements. Made one mistake and spun and cost myself a lead-lap finish and probably four or five spots on the track. But all in all, so many lessons learned, and I just keep stacking these pennies to get better and better.”

Johnson also had a special guest Sunday as he invited Jamin Davis, the Washington Football Team’s first-round pick (19th overall).

The former star linebacker at Kentucky has been a lifelong fan of Johnson, who spotted his interest on draft day and vowed to invite Davis to a race.

Davis, who grew up in a family of NASCAR fans, told The Associated Press that meeting Johnson was “a dream come true. The guy is so easy to talk to and now got his number I can reach out to him and set things up. Pretty cool. Everything happened so fast. H honestly didn’t think I’d have a chance to meet him.”

Johnson opened the doubleheader weekend by struggling through an extremely difficult Friday practice in which he spun and was more than 1.5 seconds off the next slowest car. His best lap was 4.5 seconds off the fast time by Will Power.

“I’ve done a lot of sim work at home and at (Honda) and nothing got me ready for the experience here,” Johnson, 45, said with a laugh. “I was just floored how technical this track is, how rough it is, how little grip there is.

“And I have a huge challenge ahead of myself this weekend. … The spin, I’m just trying to find the limits of the car and my ability. I just got into Turn 3 a little too fast and had a little too much rear brake in the car and did a little lazy spin, so it was one of those things that rookies do, and I’ll keep learning from those mistakes and getting better.”

He made “a massive pickup” for qualifying Saturday with some changes to correct a brake issue, helping shave nearly 4 seconds off his lap times.

But a mechanical problem forced a lengthy pit stop early in Saturday’s race under green for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who would finish 21 laps down but later said, “although the results don’t show it, we had a really productive day today.”

Johnson had extra help this weekend as Chip Ganassi Racing brought in racing veteran Scott Pruett as a driving coach.

Pruett won twice in CART IndyCar during a 10-season career that covered 149 starts, and he also made 51 Cup and Xfinity starts in NASCAR. He scored 60 victories in sports cars (including 41 with Ganassi in Grand-Am from 2002-13) before retiring three years ago to become the winemaker for Pruett Vineyards in Auburn, California, near Sacramento.

“This is a new adventure for sure,” Pruett told NBC Sports reporter Kevin Lee. “As many years as I spent with Ganassi, all the stuff I’ve done over the years with teammates and bringing them along and helping as much as I could, it seemed like a good opportunity.”

AUTO: JUN 12 INDYCAR - Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1
Jimmie Johnson finished 21 laps down in 24th because of a mechanical problem in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 at Belle Isle Raceway (Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NEXT: Johnson will be making his debut June 20 at the famed Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, which will play host to the ninth race in the 2021 season at noon ET (NBCSN).


JOHNSON’S ROOKIE SEASON

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is racing 13 road and street course events this year. Here’s how he has fared:

RACE 1: How Jimmie fared in the season opener

RACE 2: Rough day at the office in St. Petersburg

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)