Johnson, Pagenaud Test for Motul Petit Le Mans; a Prized Trophy; Social Pick-Me-Up
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s never too early to take a test.
A month before the Motul Petit Le Mans, Action Express Racing teammates Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud and Pipo Derani completed a two-day test Thursday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Johnson and Pagenaud are returning to the No. 48 Ally Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale on Nov. 13. Derani, co-driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, is in the midst of the overall championship battle.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 14, 2021
While the test wasn’t Johnson’s first visit to Michelin Raceway, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion – who transitioned to IndyCars this year – admitted it was a “new experience.”
“I’d been there 10 years ago or longer in a Cup car and probably 25 seconds a lap slower, so this experience was really like a new one for me,” Johnson said. “Although I knew where the track was located and where pit road was, the way you drive the track and attack the track was much different. To my surprise, (it’s) just a very intense, high-commitment, very small margin for error racetrack. But, it’s one that I really enjoyed and got into a good rhythm on. I really enjoyed my last two days testing and am very excited to come back and close out my season at Petit Le Mans.”
The No. 48 Cadillac is competing in just the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events this season, so the Motul Petit Le Mans will be the fourth race of the year for Johnson and Pagenaud, the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar Series champion.
In January, Johnson and Pagenaud teamed with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller to finish second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In March, they teamed with Kobayashi and would have finished on the podium, but were instead relegated to a last place finish (seventh) in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class due to Pagenaud exceeding the maximum drive time in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
In June, the trio finished fifth in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.
The Esses, a section of Turns 3, 4 and 5 of Michelin Raceway’s 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit, is Pagenaud’s favorite segment.
“It’s so fast and flowing,” Pagenaud said. “You have to be very precise. You have to aim for the apex before you even see it. … You have to be really precise with your turning point, landing where you think you’re going to land, and all of that with traffic. It’s a track where traffic is extremely difficult.”
Cool trophy, dude: It’s rare to receive a prize that depicts a 127-year-old cartoon character. Having the Michelin Man depicted on trophies won during the Michelin GT Challenge At VIR was only part of what made the trophies last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway so cool.
“It’s definitely one of the coolest trophies we get all year long,” said Tommy Milner, who teamed with Nick Tandy to win in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
Old met new in the creation of the trophies, which matched the Michelin Man who first appeared in 1894, with 3D printing. The trophies, which depict the stacked-tire mascot waving a checkered flag, were hand painted in gold, silver and bronze.
“I’ve been jealous for quite a while now,” Milner said. “The last trophy I got here was just a little ring. Now I’ve got a nice VIR trophy with the Michelin Man there. That will definitely sit pretty high up on my trophy cabinet.”
A third IMSA win at his home-track AND a Michelin Man trophy to go with it.
— Michelin Racing USA (@MichelinRaceUSA) October 9, 2021
For a recap of Milner and Tandy’s exciting win, click here.
Twitter turnaround: With a little help from a fan and social media, Ryan Eversley found redemption.
After an off into a tire barrier Sunday ended in a seventh-place finish for Eversley and teammate Brian Henderson, who co-drove the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic FK7 TCR in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at VIR, Eversley took the blame on Twitter:
Ran out of talent trying to fight for the lead in the Oak Tree. Completely my fault, I’m an idiot. Absolutely gutted.. https://t.co/5gUeZ5Fo6S
— Ryan Eversley (@RyanEversley) October 10, 2021
On Monday, a fan helped change the mood:
With notes like this, I can overcome anything. Thanks Lisa and thanks to everyone for the kind words. Today’s a new day, and tomorrow is the past. Love you guys! https://t.co/wgWyfWVpOr
— Ryan Eversley (@RyanEversley) October 11, 2021
A prolific Tweeter, Eversley also properly answered the candy corn question:
Solid Nay. https://t.co/BUnmtmyyvi
— Ryan Eversley (@RyanEversley) October 13, 2021