IndyCar

Johnson “still flinching” at Indianapolis approach speeds in IndyCar tests

The NASCAR legend, a four-time winner of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at IMS, is contesting his first full season of IndyCar after a road-and-street course-only programme in 2021.

Johnson scored his best IndyCar result to date on his first oval appearance at Texas Motor Speedway last month, claiming an impressive sixth-place finish, but Indy’s 2.5-mile speedway is a very different type of oval from TMS with only nine degrees in banking through the turns.

Nonetheless, Johnson was the first driver to crack the 225mph barrier during the second day of Indy testing on Thursday, and he finished up eighth fastest of the 31 participants with a best lap of 227.900mph – which put him eighth in the times topped by Josef Newgarden’s 229.519mph effort after morning rain and mist delayed the session.

Asked if it had taken him long to grow accustomed to not needing to lift for Turn 1, now he’s in an IndyCar, Johnson admitted: “I’m still flinching in Turn 1 and Turn 3.

“It’s just a long-ass straightaway to talk to yourself and convince yourself to hold it wide open through 1 and 3!

“Ironically, T2 and T4 behave very much the same, regardless of the NASCAR vehicle or the IndyCar vehicle.”

He later added: “I feel like flat out sixth gear on the rev limiter turning into T1 or T3 was really what I needed to do, get a good sense of that type of speed, that type of G force, trust the car. No driver lifts, really flat in those really fast situations.”

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda

Photo by: IndyCar

Johnson said that the 138 laps he completed on Thursday were mainly focused on learning how to complete passes.

He said: “I think that’s what we’re all deep down inside focused on… to figure out how to get off of Turns 2 and 4 and make better passes.

“Turns 2 and 4 are still the key to passing regardless of series. So I’m surprised how similar and how challenging T2 and T4 can be to set up a pass.

“I don’t think I made a pass today, like a true heads-up pass. I have some work to do to figure that out.

“When guys made mistakes in front of me, I was able to get them. I have some more to do to figure out passing.”

In total, 15 cars beat 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon’s marker from Wednesday’s foreshortened test.

Newgarden’s closest challenger was two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR), who was less than 0.1mph slower than the Penske driver.

Ganassi’s extra entry, driven by 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, was third ahead of Dixon, Scott McLaughlin and 2020 polesitter Marco Andretti.

Defending Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who crashed at Turn 2 on Wednesday, did not return to action today as predicted.

The only yellows during Thursday’s running were for track inspections, although at least twice Indy rookie Romain Grosjean drifted high in dirty air through Turn 1 and flirted with the wall.

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