By: Ashley McCubbin
When Jimmie Johnson initially decided to go NTT IndyCar Series racing, ovals were something that were left off the table. Though following his rookie campaign, his second year behind the wheel will see him tackle the ovals.
The decision ultimately came after “feeling comfortable” at an off-season test at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by another at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The ovals are tracks I am used to and the safety of the cars has come so far,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I had two great tests and am looking forward to running the full season.”
Now heading into the season, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion is keeping his goals simple, hopeful of qualifying better following an average starting position of 23.6 for 2021.
“A podium would be nice too,” he added. “I want to be competitive as possible. That will come with experience and seat time.”
His first season behind the wheel saw him post an average finish of 21.1, with a pair of 17ths for his best results to close out the year at Laguna Seca and the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“I made some progress for sure,” he commented. “I cant say I was happy overall but this isn’t easy and it lit the competitive fire in me even more. We made many strides at the end of the season – which the results don’t really show, its just how the races unfolded.”
While admitting he was most surprised about “how insanely hard this sport is, and how fast the cars are,” he says it’s the “complete opposite” of what he experienced in stock cars, having to un-learn everything to succeed.
Now while the opportunity to drive for Chip Ganassi is “a dream come true,” this year is about taking advantage of that, and he knows where he can work to get better.
“There is always room on the table, but I think my confidence was the biggest inhibitor,” he admitted. “The cars drive completely opposite of what I was used to in NASCAR and the faster you push them the more downforce you get and the better they stick, so you have to go faster to get the feeling of confidence. It’s hard to explain but going faster makes the cars handle better.”