INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson will take a great look at his first start to finish Indianapolis 500 next weekend. He’ll do so on the NBC Sports’ broadcast. But, with Johnson being an Indy Car driver now, would a future Indy 500 be in the cards?
Johnson though, is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The California native made 18 starts here in a NASCAR. He was able to pucker up and kiss the bricks four times in those 18 annual visits. Would he be willing to jump into a car on an oval though in 2022?
In the past, an open wheel race on an oval was always a hard ‘no’ for Johnson. But, his family has since come around on that with the ball now in Johnson’s court.
“I’m good with where I am right now,” Johnson said on how badly he would want to be in a car here on May 30. “Until I can test a car, which is the most realistic next step for me on an oval, you know I had a chance when this was all getting started to be here on May 30 but I elected not to. I still have a process that I’m going through. I’m very eager to try an oval. I’m very eager to be here for the ‘500 and I know that’s only going to fuel the fire more.”
Chip Ganassi said that he hasn’t had any discussions about Johnson testing on an oval over the last couple of weeks but it would totally be up to him when he wants to.
“He knows the opportunity is there,” Ganassi told me of Johnson and an oval test. “I’m not trying to put T.K. out of a job or anything. We’ll have to come up with another car or something. He knows it’s there if he wants.”
If Johnson does test a car and want to run next year’s race, would Ganassi be willing to expand to a fifth car?
“I think you’d certainly take a look at it, yeah,” he said.
Johnson said last week that he’s not in the game yet as an Indy Car driver, so at least right now there’s less pressure on him than he’s had in years past, really kind of ever here,” he told me last Friday afternoon from his garage inside of Gasoline Alley. “Because I always kind of came here with the thought of winning. That kind of pressure is the highest of pressures. Right now, it’s my rookie year. There’s very little testing. People kind of understand that’s the environment that I’m in, the situation that I’m in. The change of pace. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure now but as the year goes on it really ramps up.”
But, to be in an open wheel car in Indianapolis no matter what layout they’re running in special to Johnson. See, he grew up wanting to race here in the Indy 500. He idolized Rick Mears. He felt like his future would be best suited here. Instead, his path went to NASCAR and it’s not like it was a bad thing. He won 83 times and took home seven championships. That path was best for him.
Now, he can carve his own path to wind down his career in making his childhood dreams come true.
“This is their native environment. This is what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s cool,” Johnson said of being an Indy Car driver at Indianapolis during the Month of May. “I can’t wait to be here for the oval practice and qualifying and see the race and soak all of that in. An Indy Car on this track is pretty darn special.”