“I feel I will be much more competitive on ovals”

The NASCAR great had a predictably tough 2021 rookie IndyCar season, gaining traction on road and street courses in his Carvana-backed Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, but this year is expanding his schedule to include all rounds on the calendar. to take.

That includes his forte, oval racing, of course, and Johnson has already completed a test at Texas Motor Speedway and two of the three stages in the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He said: “I feel like the half day I had to go through the rookie orientation went by way too fast and the shorter weather wasn’t ideal, but I was just really excited for the opportunity and excited to take it. season to start… Not long into the year when we get to test in Texas and of course race in Texas and we have the Indy testing sessions coming up.

“I just want to get more oval experience to try to feel and understand the car. I feel like I’ll be much more competitive on the ovals, and the faster I can learn the cars and thrills and adjustments, the better my chances of a podium or better yet…

“Last year I just tried to hook up my trailer in the back of the pack and keep up with everyone, and I finally did at the end. I really think the ovals should increase my competitiveness and put me in a good mix with everyone. ”

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Joe Skibinskic

Describing the thrill of oval racing in IndyCar compared to NASCAR, he said: “The speed is a lot higher than what I was used to in a Cup car, but once I had my eyes in the right place I was surprised how familiar it felt.

“As the Texas test session progressed, we started making adjustments to the car, and again, I was surprised how those… Well, I knew what those adjustments felt like in a stock car and I wasn’t sure they would feel the same. in an IndyCar, and they did.”

Johnson said that on his Indy 500 debut, he will be well prepared for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s unusual habit of making a fast car slow (or vice versa) and a well-running car bad (or vice versa) with only a small amount of change in temperature or wind direction. He says he encountered the same thing while driving a NASCAR Cup car around the 2.5-mile oval.

“We came to test for the Brickyard 400 and left with good or bad advice and then returned for the race and often times the opposite happened. The track is so finicky – sunlight, wind direction… It really changes the performance of the car so much. I assume it’s because of the very flat corners you have and the smallest percentage change in grip changes the balance of the car.

“Looking at the Indy 500 now, I think qualifying is probably the scariest part. The car is on alert. That’s when the driver needs to tune in to the car the most and put everything on the line.

“At the same time, the team and I equate this a bit with Daytona for NASCAR. You see an organization going for the Daytona 500 and their cars are all in the front or all in the back, so not only a driver plays such a big role, but also the performance of the team or even the performance of the manufacturer weighs in.

“To see someone like Will Power fight for the last spot on last year’s grid – that’s intimidating to watch, especially as a rookie coming in.

“Hopefully we can be as fast as last year when we had all four cars in the top 10. That could make life a lot easier. But man, when it goes the other way, the smallest temperature change puts or change of wind direction is on your tail, and it can be a rough day.”

In addition to Texas and Indy, the other three ovals on the IndyCar 2022 schedule include Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway and the double-header at Iowa Speedway — a track Johnson has never raced on any type of car.

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