Johnson attends wet first COTA test day

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Tuesday's inclementweather at Circuit of The Americas didn’t allow for proper NTT INDYCAR SERIES testing, but Team Penske’s Will Power got to experience driving in the water spray of another car using the sport’s latest safety innovation, the cockpit-protecting Aeroscreen.

Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) said the Aeroscreen performed as designed, in particular no fogging or visibility issues during a rainy day with temperatures in the low 40s. His run was limited with just two laps under full-course caution conditions behind Scott McLaughlin, the two-time defending winner of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship testing Team Penske's No. 2 Chevrolet this week on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

“It was (helpful),” Power said. "The windscreen is great; it just clears. Obviously, we didn't have a long run."

Power was one of 11 NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers to turn a lap as just 17 controlled laps were completed, including three by McLaughlin. He will make his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut Saturday, May 9 in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course.

The final day of the two-day test will be held Wednesday with a revised schedule due to the limited number of laps completed. The cars will be on track from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time (local) with a 30-minute lunch break at noon. The session, which will be closed to the public, can be viewed on INDYCAR.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App.

Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow Chevrolet) only turned a portion of a lap, enough only to get heat in the brakes. He was pleased with the Aeroscreen at his Nov. 5 test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway.

“There are going to be some things we’re going to have to work through, but as a first try it was pretty remarkable,” O’Ward said.

With the limited on-track action, much of Tuesday’s attention was given to seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who visited as a guest of McLaren. Johnson attended the morning driver’s meeting and met with several of his friends in the paddock.

Johnson admitted a possible interest in racing an Indy car in 2021 after his NASCAR contract expires. He said the addition of the Aeroscreen “certainly elevates safety on all forms of courses INDYCAR competes on.”

“I’m definitely learning,” Johnson said. “This is a totally different world than what I’ve been used to, but it’s a world I dreamed of racing in when I was a kid growing up in San Diego. My heroes were the guys that raced in the Indy 500. I’d go to the Long Beach Grand Prix and watch, hang out and wanted to be in a car going by.

“For me, this is a learning experience and (INDYCAR) has always been a bucket list category for me to come see these cars, be around these cars. (Next year) is open for me and who knows what opportunity might come along in INDYCAR, sports cars or back to my off-road roots. I’m just taking it all in and see what comes of it.”

Power, who often sees Johnson while karting in Charlotte, N.C., is excited about the prospect of racing against stock car racing’s active legend.

“I think that would be pretty cool to have him,” he said.

The 17-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES season begins Sunday, March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the city streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Three races later, the sport returns to Circuit of The Americas for the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge on Sunday, April 26.

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