Paddock Buzz: Johnson Getting Reintroduced to WWTR – INDYCAR
Excuse Jimmie Johnson if he has forgotten a few races in his decorated motorsports career. He has recorded more than 800 starts in a stock car and now 26 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
So as the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion rolled into World Wide Technology Raceway for this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline, he couldn’t remember how many times he had raced here. He thought the answer was once, but he was told that was incorrect.
“I was in an argument with my social media team,” Johnson said. “(They said), ‘We have these stats that show you have been here three times.’”
All three were in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, with records showing finishes of 15th in 1998 with Tad Geschickter’s team and finishes of 13th and 14th in 2000 and 2001, respectively, with Herzog Motorsports.
“I do remember my first race here in, I think, ’98 or ’99 in the (No.) 59 Busch car, (but) I do not remember being here the other two times, in the Herzog (No.) 92 car, which is kind of weird,” Johnson said. “I remember the 59 car because myself, Ryan Newman and Adam Petty were all fighting for that seat. Adam Petty was sitting in the stands watching me.”
Johnson also tested a Cup Series car just before the track was repaved, and he has been in a simulator trying the 1.25-mile oval in NTT INDYCAR SERIES configuration.
Friday, Johnson qualified 21st of 26 for Saturday’s 260-lap race. Live coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Johnson has posted his best NTT INDYCAR SERIES results on oval tracks – he was sixth at Texas Motor Speedway and 11th and fifth in the two races at Iowa Speedway – but this track might not suit him as well as those.
“When I look at my oval performances (in this series), if there are multiple lanes I seem to run well,” he said. “Indy is a single-file track, (and) I wasn’t able to pass and use my experience like I had hoped to.
“Last year’s race (at WWTR) looked like there were about 10 or 15 laps where there were a couple of lanes, then it quickly went to single file. Until I get out there (for Saturday’s race), it’s hard to say.”
As part of post-qualifying practice, nine drivers invested 30 minutes driving in the track’s high lane to add track rubber to help develop the second groove. A similar session was offered at Texas Motor Speedway to reasonable reviews, and there were 284 passes for position.
Johnson also noted he tested at Iowa Speedway in advance of the doubleheader; this event afforded him no such luxury.
“Here I think I’m up to 50 laps,” he said after qualifying. “Just need more laps to find my groove around here.”
New Contract, New Day for Castroneves
As the NTT INDYCAR SERIES resumes action with this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline, it would be wise to remember which driver knows World Wide Technology Raceway as well as anyone. His name is Helio Castroneves.
From an on-track perspective, the 47-year-old Brazilian hasn’t been heard from much this season at Meyer Shank Racing, with his No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda deeper in the standings than he’d like – he’s 18th after 14 of the 17 races. But this is a track where Castroneves has …….