LONG BEACH, Calif — Jimmie Johnson’s status for the rest of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend is now in doubt. He suffered a practice crash early on in the lone practice session on Friday when his No. 48 Honda got into the tire barriers in Turn 5. Johnson, didn’t move his hands off the wheel when he made hard contact.
That could hinder his efforts now.
Johnson, gave a video message on Friday night saying his status is still up in the air as he will seek an evaluation to see if he can practice and qualify on Saturday and race on Sunday.
It’s a gut punch for the racing veteran. See, Johnson had always dreamed of a day to be racing on the streets of Long Beach. The California native grew up coming coming to this race and stood along the fence line watching his boyhood idol Rick Mears do what Johnson only dreamt of what he would one day do.
Instead of going towards and open wheel route, Johnson’s racing endeavors put him in a stock car. It was the right choice. 83 wins and 7 championships later, Johnson will go down as one of the best NASCAR drivers there ever was.
However, that dream would go by the way side. No Indianapolis in an Indy Car. Neither Long Beach. Until…
Johnson knew in 2020 that his NASCAR days were numbered. He grew tired of traveling 38 weeks out of the year. He was young enough still to not fully hang his helmet up but racing on a full-time basis in NASCAR wasn’t something he wanted to do anymore.
In July of that year, he hopped into an INDYCAR to see if this could be a potential path for his next journey. It ended up being exactly what he was missing in his final NASCAR days. He’d race part-time in 2021 which meant 12 starts in the NTT INDYCAR Series. One of which was that same Long Beach track that he longed for.
It was a dream come true. While it was all new to him, he still finished a respectable 17th in the season finale. Now, he was back. He’s coming off of his first top 10 in INDYCAR a couple of weeks ago in Texas and wanted to carry that new found momentum over to what he considers his hometrack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look ideal on if he can continue on this weekend.
Johnson’s status is dependent on an evaluation this evening. If he can’t go, the top choice has to be Sebastien Bourdais who’s an IMSA driver for CGR and is racing on this same track on Saturday. Bourdais, has made 15 Long Beach starts including three straight wins from 2005, 2006 and 2007. He finished 8th last year for AJ Foyt Racing. He was also runner-up in 2017 for Dale Coyne Racing.
If Johnson does miss time, luckily there’s still three weeks off between now and the next race at the Barber Motorsports Park (May 1). However, there’s also an open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a couple of weeks though that will be nice for him to take part in.
Then, after Barber, there’s another two weeks before the next race on the Indy road course.