Johnson struggling at Detroit, trying to stay out of the way
DETROIT (AP) - Jimmie Johnson struggled to avoid the raceway in Belle Isle Park and was at times more than 5 seconds behind the leader's pace.
The most demanding track the seven-time NASCAR champion has ever driven was not good for Johnson in the first race of a two-day double race on Saturday: Johnson finished 24th, 14 laps behind, because a sensor on his accelerator had to be replaced during a race that was longer Pit stop.
"While the results don't show it, we had a productive day," said Johnson.
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Nor was he slapped in the face by Will Power.
After the lonely 75-minute training session on the temporary street course around Belle Isle Public Park, his strength simmered because an unnamed driver continued to hold him up every lap.
"Luckily I didn't see him getting out of the car ... if you could hit someone," said the Australian. “Don't worry, I'll get it. Not on the line. I don't get people on the trail. I'm getting him off track. That's how we do things in Toowoomba. "
It stirred up the paddock to find the culprit, though both Power and Pato O'Ward exonerated Johnson, saying the IndyCar newbie is doing a good job avoiding faster cars.
Johnson did this during the race on Saturday when he pulled to the edge of the track to allow Power, the then leader, to drive past him cleanly.
Johnson said ahead of the race that he spoke to Power immediately after practice, and Power revealed the driver who was in his crosshairs and assured Johnson that he was not the problem.
But Johnson admitted that the track was backed up when cars approached him because he is having a difficult time on the 2.35 mile 14-corner temporary road circuit that is so rough and bumpy in 2007 to restore.
No preparation on the simulator had made Johnson ready for the second road course of his career and the fourth IndyCar race.
"This problem is something I struggle with and it's mainly because I'm the slowest guy out there right now and everyone is doing everything to get through and then get back up," said Johnson. "It's unlike anything I've ever experienced before."
Paddock speculation suggested that Power's frustration lay with Ed Jones, and Power specifically said, “I just kept supporting everyone. This guy how often do you want to back up? At some point you have to set a lap time. "
When asked if the power offender might back down to dodge Johnson, Johnson said he didn't know.
"He didn't scold me," Johnson shrugged.
Johnson in Saturday's qualifying went 1 minute, 19.0944 seconds and retired on the first lap. O'Ward won pole for Saturday's race at 1: 15.5776, almost four seconds faster than Johnson.
Alexander Rossi qualified second with just 0.0808 separating him from O'Ward for pole.
Johnson is one of seven drivers in the field who will make their debut in Detroit, a track O'Ward described on social media as "a real old school street track." But in Spanish the 22-year-old was even more expressive and declared Detroit “Esta pistoooona es para HOMBRES” - or “this super track is for men”.
This weekend marks the first double-header weekend for the 45-year-old rookie on what is probably the most demanding track on the schedule. Chip Ganassi Racing recently added retired driver Scott Pruett to their support team and Pruett will take on an individual coaching role at Johnson.
Dario Franchitti is the official Ganassi driver coach, but will be spending his time on the radio with the other three Ganassi drivers, including championship leader Alex Palou, who will be the last to start due to an unauthorized engine change penalty during the Indianapolis 500 preparations.
Pruett should be on Johnson's radio for both races in Detroit, and Johnson said he still tries to get out of the way as he learns the track, the car, and improves in this new discipline. Pruett has driven IndyCar, NASCAR, and IMSA sports cars.
"I was the fastest on a series and watched newbies come in without being aware of what was going on around them," said Johnson. “On the other hand, Dario says to me, 'Hey, worry about yourself. I think you sometimes put yourself in a bad position because you worry about others. ”One thing I've seen driving one of these cars off-line is that it often takes a lap if not even longer to get up again. So I am aware. I will get out of the way, but I will not stray from the line. "
More AP car races: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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