Jimmie Johnson passes IndyCar oval rookie test at Texas

IndyCar rookie but NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson has completed his oval orientation program at Texas Motor Speedway.

While the initial plan had been for the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion to first sample an IndyCar at the oval in Homestead, he and the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda team elected to run the test on a track at which the NTT IndyCar Series still competes.

It’s anticipated that Johnson, who is a road/street course-only drive in this, his initial season of IndyCar racing, will move on to compete at all tracks on the 2022 IndyCar schedule.

Johnson, who won at Texas Motor Speedway seven times in his NASCAR Cup career, started his seven-hour IndyCar test at 6am local (Central) time in 75degF, while the test ran until just after 1pm “with a heat index of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit”, according to the track’s press release.

Said Johnson: “To know that I could come here and test and experience it as a driver was important to me. Let’s go to the tough one. It’s one thing by myself.

“I feel like I can control my environment, and I’m very thankful that I’m able to go out here and do it. The way IndyCar has advanced their safety and certainly what the tracks have done to increase the safety, my concerns are much less and that’s why we’re here today.

“Now that my concerns are at a certain point, now it’s time to get in the car and see what my point of view is from there.

“The car drives way different. It’s much more responsive so I’ve found the majority of the day just trying to acclimate to this new environment, one that’s much faster and certainly a bit more sensitive to the inputs that the driver gives to the car.

“But it’s been really nice to be on a familiar track. I know where I am, I know what to do, I know the line around this place, and even down to simple things like knowing where the hotel was last night or knowing how to drive into the tunnel and get into the infield. There’s been some small wins that are nice to have.”

Johnson’s progress was overseen by three champion teammates, with six-time and reigning NTT IndyCar champion Scott Dixon – who has also scored five wins at TMS – completing the car’s initial shakedown laps. Also present were the team’s driver coach, four-time champion Dario Franchitti, and the driver with whom Johnson shares the #48 Carvana entry, Tony Kanaan.

Mid-session, Franchitti commented: “It’s a challenging thing that Jimmie’s doing but so far he’s done very well. Track conditions were a little nicer this morning at 6am when Scott went out and those early runs Jimmie did, but it’s heated up now, and he’s learning a little bit about how the Indy car slides around a bit when it gets hot.

“It’s all about the subtleties. It would be like a person that plays cricket and plays for the English team or whatever … it’s got a bat, it’s got a ball. Then I’m going to play baseball. It’s got a bat, it’s got a ball. Everything else is different, and I think that’s the difference between a stock car and an Indy car.

“Everything you learn on the way up, and everything you learn when you’re the top in either of those fields doesn’t prepare you in any way to do the other. In fact, it hurts you.”

There will be four ovals on the IndyCar schedule in 2022 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway – although Johnson and the Ganassi team have yet to confirm that he will compete at any/all of them.

Chip's chargers - Dario Franchitti, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan.

Chip's chargers - Dario Franchitti, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan.

Photo by: Texas Motor Speedway

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