Jimmie Johnson’s rookie NTT IndyCar Series season might be over, but he isn’t done with racing altogether in 2021. With the last of IMSA’s endurance events on the calendar for November 13 at Georgia’s Road Atlanta circuit for the 10-hour Petit Le Mans finale, Johnson and the No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPI-V.R crew spent two days prepping for the last WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round of the year.
While many IMSA teams are conducting similar tests at Road Atlanta, it was the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion’s take on hurling the Cadillac prototype around its rolling hills and flowing corners for the first time that produced a remarkable comparison to the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy Cup car he once tested at the track.
“It’s great to be back with Action Express, to spend more time with Pipo [Derani], with Simon [Pagenaud], and the entire team and learning more about the Cadillac DPi car and how to make it go,” Johnson said.
“Certainly a new experience for me at that track. I’ve been there 10 years ago or maybe even longer, and in a Cup car, and it’s probably 25 seconds…a lot slower. So this experience was really like a new one for me, although I knew where the track was located and where pit road was.”
Johnson, Pagenaud, and Kamui Kobayashi have done the first three IMSA enduros at Daytona, Sebring, and Watkins Glen, with a best finish of second at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 48 Cadillac. The sister No. 31 AXR Cadillac driven by Derani and Felipe Nasr holds second in the DPi championship entering Petit Le Mans, which makes reading Johnson in the second car — along with his teammates — to give the team a strong pair of cars to fend off their rivals well worth the visit for testing.
“The way you drive the track and attack the track was much different,” Johnson said of the Cup vs DPi differences. “And to my surprise, just a very intense, high commitment, very small margin for error racetrack. One that I really enjoyed, got into a good rhythm on and I really enjoyed my last two days testing and very excited to come back, to close out the season at Petit Le Mans.”