Jimmie Johnson was originally slated to test an NTT IndyCar Series car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this month. Unfortunately, he came down with COVID-19 which saw his 663 consecutive start streak in NASCAR come to an end during the Brickyard 400 race weekend on the famed oval.
It was a frustrating time for the seven-time NASCAR champion. But now that he’s in the clear, the highly anticipated test is back on.
Johnson, will test a Chip Ganassi Racing prepared car next Tuesday in a private test around the 2.439-mile road course.
Johnson, has always wanted to try out the Indianapolis 500. The California native grew up with Indy Car idols. But, when his career started growing with a NASCAR future, those Indy dreams was pushed aside.
I’d say after 83 wins and seven Cup Series championships, he chose the right path. But, with his NASCAR career wrapping up at seasons end, that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily retiring from racing all together.
Those Indy dreams? Well they never died. They’re still there. Hence the test opportunity. When he does get behind the wheel of an Indy Car next week, it will be what Johnson describes very much as a try out.
“Yep absolutely,” Johnson said earlier this month on if he views this test as a try out. “It’s a test. It’s a tryout. It’s a two way tryout for the team to look at me and for me to look at the team.”
This is also a test that will make or break for him if this is just a one-off test or potentially more to it too.
“If I’m four seconds off the pace, then that’s probably a quick sign that I don’t need to be in these cars,” Johnson continued. “It’s really on how I feel in the car. What my pace is like. Of course it’s unrealistic that I’ll be in a race winning pace in the first test session. If I’m within a certain amount of time and I have a good feel of the car, then for me, I feel like that’s an important first step that I need that I can be competitive.
“I don’t want to go race in any series and not be competitive. It’s really in those lines. Lap times always play a role in things.”
Johnson, had a scheduled test this past April at the Barber Motorsports Park with Arrow McLaren SP. He swapped his NASCAR seat with them overseas a few years ago in Bahrain to run an F1 car with Fernando Alonso and Alonso drive Johnson’s NASCAR.
That relationship kept growing. So, with Johnson’s desire to get into an Indy Car, they had a plan to make it happen. Then, the coronavirus hit and that test was canceled.
CGR was available to make it come back now for next week and it was going to happen on a road course. Johnson, said that if the test went well, then he’d be willing to run literally every road course on the IndyCar schedule in 2021 in fact.
“There’s 12 on the schedule right now and I’d be open to run all 12 if the right opportunity came along,” Johnson said of the road courses in IndyCar.
Is his opportunities limited to McLaren and Ganassi? Actually, Johnson said it’s not. He’s had several Indy Car teams reach out. He was even a guest of Andretti during a practice day here last year.
With a talent like Johnson available, I think he’d have his pick on what team he could race for.
So, what about the Indy 500? That’s his biggest dream. Johnson, admitted last year that he had a chance to race in the event over a decade ago but Chevrolet said no since IndyCar was under only Honda power at that point.
Then, factor in once Chevy was back in IndyCar in 2012, his wife was a firm no on racing an open wheel car on an oval. She was okay with it until they started having kids. Now, it’s not even a discussion.
But, with the safety that’s come this year in terms of an Aeroscreen, that option may be back on the table too.
“I’m going to keep a close eye on things, Johnson admitted. “Their safety on ovals has dramatically increased this year with the windscreen that they have. I’ll keep a close eye on things there to see how the safety level looks.
“I’ve always wanted to race the ‘500. I’d have to do a lot of selling to my wife to get that hall pass to do it. But, my true desire right now is to run the road courses.”