Jimmie Johnson spins during wild IndyCar practice as drivers adapt in return to Detroit
The NTT IndyCar Series held a wild practice Friday for the Detroit Belle Isle doubleheader as Jimmie Johnson was among multiple drivers who went for a spin, and Will Power vowed revenge on an unnamed driver after turning the fastest lap in the session.
It’s the lone tuneup as IndyCar will hold qualifying sessions for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on each of the next two days ahead of 70-lap races Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (noon). Both races are on NBC.
Power was fastest Friday, turning a 1-minute, 17.2768-second lap around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street circuit ahead of Sebastien Bourdais (1:17.4291) and Pato O’Ward (1:17.5143).
DETROIT GRAND PRIX: All the details for the weekend’s races
But the Team Penske driver still was miffed after the 75-minute practice, telling NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider he planned to confront someone because “he causes me trouble all the time and just about had enough.”
PRACTICE SPEEDS: Click here for the speeds from Friday
QUALIFYING GROUPS: How they will go out Saturday
In a news conference later, Power said he hadn’t talked to the driver, whom he still refused to identify but said he would be exacting revenge Toowoomba style (referring to his Australian hometown).
“I can’t stand the last few races running back there, getting stuck behind wankers through exchanges that shouldn’t be even out there,” Power said. “I want to get up the front, man.
“This dude ... how many times you want to back up? You eventually have to do a lap time. Don’t worry, I’ll get him. Not on the track. I don’t get people on the track. I’ll get him off the track.”
Power did confirm the offender wasn’t Johnson, who spun 15 minutes into the practice in Turn 3 but was able to avoid damage to his No. 48 Dallara-Honda.
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who has been involved in at least one incident in all four race weekends so far in his rookie IndyCar season, was last among 25 cars in the session.
His fastest of 26 laps was 1:22.7353, more than 1.5 seconds behind 24th-ranked Scott McLaughlin, who turned only five laps after smacking the Turn 5 tire barrier with his No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet.
After three weeks out of the car, Johnson said he had knocked the rust off in a Road America test earlier this week and simply struggled to learn Detroit’s punishing course.
“I’ve done a lot of sim work at home and at (Honda) and nothing got me ready for the experience here,” Johnson 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.”
Johnson has extra help this weekend as Chip Ganassi Racing has 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.
“I got a call from (CGR managing director) Mike Hull, and he said, ‘Hey, Scott, how would you like to get out of the vineyard and all the wine stuff and all the Lexus stuff and come be a part of the program with Jimmie.’ Made a few phone calls, talked to Jimmie, talked to the team, and it just looks like a great opportunity moving forward, so I’ll be working with him on track. I’ll be talking about strategy, I’ll be sitting here calling races. So it’s going to be quite a bit of trying to do whatever I can to help move things forward.”
Johnson wasn’t alone among drivers who flirted with disaster Friday. Romain Grosjean, Rinus VeeKay and James Hinchcliffe also had minor incidents during the session as IndyCar drivers re-acclimated to Detroit after a two-year absence (last year’s races were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Qualifying will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday ahead of Race 1 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.