Johnson sees encouraging signs in Indy road course qualifying

Lumen Digital Agency

Johnson sees encouraging signs in Indy road course qualifying


Johnson sees encouraging signs in Indy road course qualifying


Jimmie Johnson believes his starting position for Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix belies the progress he’s making in adapting to IndyCar.

While the first glance of a 22nd-place performance may not be eye-catching, the outing was a significant step in proving the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is starting to get a feel for the open-wheelers.

The 45-year-old Californian was part of the second group of qualifying, which included the likes of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou, along with Alexander Rossi and eventual race pole-sitter Pato O’Ward. The front-runners battled for supremacy in a session where only the top six advanced for a shot to fight for pole; however Johnson’s No. 48 CGR Honda briefly broke into the conversation with a stout showing with consecutive laps of 1m12.1251s and 1m11.8626s. Both laps came on a set of Firestone alternate tires, and each time he jumped up to fourth before being relegated. He ended up 0.6114s behind teammate Marcus Ericsson in the final transfer spot.

“Yeah, I know it was a good session for me,” said Johnson, whose best-ever qualifying result is 21st (Barber). “My confidence keeps building, and the more laps I get under my belt the better I go. Just very thankful to have a support system I do with Chip Ganassi Racing, the support from Carvana, Honda, the American Legion (and) Ally. You know, having a lot of fun and certainly learned a lot as I go here. That was a great session. Only (to) be probably six-tenths off my teammates is a huge accomplishment for me, and just a few tenths would really move me up the running order.”

This was Johnson’s second time running on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn circuit — third overall, if you include his initial test last year. In May, he qualified 23rd out of 25 cars, so out-qualifying six drivers this time around, including teammate and six-time champion Scott Dixon, is a small accomplishment in what will be his ninth IndyCar start tomorrow (12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Although the familiarity helps, Johnson isn’t about to declare a charge through the field just yet.

“It’s a fine balance,” Johnson said on knowing when to attack. “My instincts of attacking in a Cup car are the vulnerable points to attack in an IndyCar, so I still have to think my way through when I attack, how I attack. At some point, I’m going to forget about all that stuff and it’s going to be second nature for me. I’m excited for that day to come.”

IndyCar Debrief