USA: Billy Johnson Indianapolis race notes

The 17 year old American Battles the Europeans to Two Top 5 Finishes at INDY. Indianapolis, IN (June 18-20, 2004). Billy Johnson, Formula BMW Scholarship winner and driver for Team PTG picked up two more Top Five finishes in Rounds 5 & 6 of ...

The 17 year old American Battles the Europeans to Two Top 5 Finishes at INDY.

Indianapolis, IN (June 18-20, 2004). Billy Johnson, Formula BMW Scholarship winner and driver for Team PTG picked up two more Top Five finishes in Rounds 5 & 6 of Formula BMW USA (F.BMW-USA) championship held at the Historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The races were run in support of the Formula One US Grand Prix. Coupled with his strong 4th place finish Montreal, immediately before the F1 Cars took at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, and a 5th in round 2 at Lime Rock, Billy now has four top five finishes in 6 races and currently stands 5th in the overall championship.

Friday's qualifying produced consistent lap times good enough to start on the outside of row three for each race. "I was a bit disappointed that some last lap heroics by my competition knocked me off row two" commented Billy, "but we will just have to go get them in the race".

On Saturday, Billy got off to a great start and moved into P5 by the end of turn one. For the next several laps things got crazy as ferocious battles broke out among the top ten cars. Hard contact from behind knocked Billy back to P8 from which he recovered to finish in P5, just getting passed Federico Montoya, Juan Pablo's younger brother, who had started off Pole, on the last lap.

Sunday's race was an even more intense repeat of Saturday's event. Again Billy got off to one of his trademark fast starts, moving into P5 at turn one. For the next 13 laps the battle for P5 was fantastic. The battle between Billy and Dominik Jackson was featured on the Big Screen Video feed for almost one third of the race. The two kept battling and trading the position lap after lap. The fight was reminiscent of the round 4 race the week before where Billy and Current point's leader Andreas Wirth treated the Canadian F1 spectators to a dramatic 4 lap battle for P3. The battle between Billy and Dominik allowed Brian Frisselle and Kyle Herder move into the contest. The racing was tight with lots of wheel to wheel action. Billy was forced off track and fell to P9 but jumped right on the groups tail and steadily moved forward picking off a car a lap until the finish. Billy Finished in P5 with Frisselle P6, Montoya in P7 and Jackson P9.

After the race Billy had this to say. "I am very happy with our results today. Team PTG gave me a fantastic car. Our engineers and mechanics are incredible. At Lime Rock I started the season over a second off the pace. Each race the team is improving the car and helping me improve my race craft. Today we were only 1/10th of a second a lap off the podium and barley 3/10th off the leader. I can't wait for Cleveland I think we have an excellent chance to breakthrough to the podium.

Today's event was the most intense racing I have ever been involved in. The European racers (Wirth, Jackson, and Montoya) are very aggressive. They seem to have no problem rubbing wheels at speed and going 3 wide into some very tight turns. It is a great learning experience racing with drives of much more experience. Andreas (Wirth) is our current FBMW-USA point's leader and he has raced these cars for two previous seasons in the German FMBW series. Dominik (Jackson) is currently 4th in the German FBMW series and Montoya is racing in Germany this year as well. The German FBMW series is considered the premier Formula BMW series. This years FBMW-USA champion will be awarded $50,000 to move up and compete in the German FBMW series next year. "In looking at the race results this year, it appears the top five North American Drivers can compete on equal footing with the best of Europe" said Billy.

Billy's Thoughts on Indy:

"A couple of hours after the end of the race, I took a stroll back out onto pit lane to soak up the experience. The track was empty and partially in shadow. The wind was blowing and the air had developed a distinct chill. As I stood on the fabled ribbon of bricks, paper cups and ticket stubs tumbled by. I looked up at the scoring tower, and there was my number, "71", still displayed in my P5 finishing position. Standing there, I marveled at the sequence of events that has taken me to this point. .I first came to INDY to watch the 500 ten years ago with my dad. I was only 7 but remember every moment of that day. We sat in turn one and I watched the positions change on the same tower that now displayed my accomplishment. It is almost impossible to believe that only 4 years ago, almost to the day, I was sitting at the back of the grid at the El Cajon speedway with an "X" on my helmet getting ready for my first ever go-kart race. And now, at only 17 years of age, I have two top five finishes at the most famous motor circuit in the world, the last just minutes after the man with more Formula One victories than anyone in history won again.

I would like to thank BMW-AG and F.BMW-USA for their dedication to developing young drivers and putting together such and incredible, opportunity filled race series. I also want to thank "Team PTG" for the incredible effort they exert day in and day out helping me and my team mates improve. I would also like to thank all those who have supported me over the years. I can't wait to see where I will be in another 4 years, Chasseing Michael's records I am sure!

My final thought: INDY is an Awesome palace to visit on race day, with the crowds, the cheering, the atmosphere--. but I think it is even more inspiring to stand there alone in the lengthening shadows. You can almost hear the ghosts of past champions whispering to you, encouraging you to follow your dream. As I turned and walked away, I could hear them whispering, calling me back to the speedway, next time to WIN!

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About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Bill Johnson , Kyle Herder , Billy Johnson , Brian Frisselle , Andreas Wirth