2021 Sebring Preview

After six weeks of practice and preparation, it’s time to get back to competitive racing for co-drivers Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson.

Johnson, Simpson and the Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) team will be in action on Friday, March 19 at the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120, the second leg of the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Johnson and Simpson will pilot the Universal Coating No. 54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR car throughout the two-hour event, which will be held at the 3.74-mile, 17-corner Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla.

The Alan Jan Jay Automotive Network 120 is scheduled to go green at 2:35 p.m. All IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge races are streamed live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. IMSA Radio also provides live audio coverage of select Michelin Pilot Challenge practice, qualifying sessions and full-length coverage of all races.

“I’m very excited to get back racing here at Sebring,” said Johnson. “Sebring has always been a challenging track with the bumps and high speed but I will feel confident everyone will be working hard and hopefully go for another podium.”

Florida has already been good to the team in the 2021 season.

In the season opener, competing in their first official race as part of the BHA team and behind the wheel of their new Universal Coating No. 54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR car, Johnson and Simpson captured third place at the BMW Endurance Challenge on Friday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Not only was it an excellent start for Johnson and Simpson and the BHA partnership, it was historic. The podium finish was the first-ever for a Hyundai at Daytona.

Johnson and Simpson’s last trip to Sebring, however, did not unfold as planned, thanks in large part to race conditions.

In the summer of 2020, battling through intense early-August Florida summer heat followed by a bout of thunderstorms with accompanying lightning, Johnson and Simpson finished ninth in abbreviated action at the Advent Health 120 in Sebring, short of their goal of a podium finish but in line to collect points.

The weather forecast for Friday could play a role, as the central Florida heat will be on the racers and their teams. Highs are projected to be in the lower 80s with mostly sunny skies. Winds are expected to be from the south-southwest at 15 miles per hour.  There is a small 15 percent chance of rain.

“I am looking forward to getting back to Sebring,” said Simpson. “We had a good test at the track a couple of weeks ago. It’s going to be a different kind of race from Daytona. It’s going to be hotter at Sebring and the track is a whole-lot bumpier than the smooth Daytona surface. That’s going to make a big difference. How we handle and how the car handles the bumps is going to be a large task, nevertheless I am looking forward to getting going. Leaving Sebring with a good result would be great.”

Following an approximate two-month respite, Johnson and Simpson and the BHA team will return to the track and to 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge racing on May 14-16 for the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. The two-hour event will take place on the 2.258-mile, 13-corner Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.