The NTT IndyCar Series has split the Rookie Orientation Program tests for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson (shown above) and Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean into a day of its own at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Under the original plan, Johnson and Grosjean would have been part of Firestone’s tire test at IMS on October 8 where Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward are expected to work with the series’ tire partner to develop its future superspeedway rubber.
But with the serious nature of the tire testing expected to limit the availability and coverage of the seven-time NASCAR champion’s Speedway debut in an IndyCar and the Frenchman’s first outing with Andretti, the series has moved the ROP running to October 6 where no on-track conflicts will take place.
“Twelve months ago, it wasn’t really on the radar for Jimmie because he made a point that he was doing only road and street tracks,” CGR managing director Mike Hull said of Johnson’s long-anticipated IndyCar debut at the Brickyard. “And since then, he’s really revved up to give it a try. Now, we’ve got a stage three rocket on our hands here because he wants to feel what it’s like driving at IMS in the Carvana Honda.”
A recent oval test for Johnson on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval stoked the flames of interest for sailing through Turn 1 at more than 230mph and turning his fastest laps of his life at a track where he won four Brickyard 400 NASCAR Cup events.
“He understands the gravity of it, and he certainly appreciate what it means to lap Indianapolis in an IndyCar,” Hull said. “He applies appreciation to things like that. It’s going to be fun.”
For Grosjean, Andretti COO Rob Edwards said the team will get to know its new driver in a rather unique setting.
“We always say next season starts the day after the last, so it’s a good opportunity to get started working together sooner than later,” he said. “But it’s a bit different than the normal getting acquainted with each other process at Sebring; doing it for the first time on the Indy oval will be unique, to say the least, but we’ll be sensible with it.
“And he has a grasp of oval racing after doing Gateway. While we might not have an armada of driver coaches there, he’ll still have a lot of experienced people around to help.”
RACER understands no live streaming is planned for the ROP test and we await an update as to whether fans will be able to watch Johnson and Grosjean in action from the viewing mounds inside Turn 2 behind the IMS Museum.