Fernando Alonso

Jimmie Johnson: ‘Opportunity has passed for me’ to race in Indy 500

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When it comes to fulfilling a lifelong dream of running the Indianapolis 500, Jimmie Johnson – who was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday for the first time to watch an IndyCar practice – admits that ship has sailed for him.

I know that this oval is probably not going to happen for me ever,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “That opportunity has passed for me.”

But, Johnson isn’t totally ruling out a potential one-off in an Indy car – just not at Indianapolis.

I grew up watching Indy cars and some day down the road I’d love the chance to race in a road course event or something like that,” he said.

Johnson already knows what it’s like to be an Indianapolis winner: he has four victories there in the Brickyard 400.

Last November, the NASCAR Cup veteran fulfilled a dream of a different sort, trading rides with two-time Formula One champ Fernando Alonso at the International Circuit in Bahrain. No similar opportunity has been presented to him to trade cars with an IndyCar driver.

But Johnson certainly liked what he saw during Thursday’s practice.

It’s highly impressive, there’s no way around that,” Johnson said. “It’s been a neat experience and certainly to see these cars go by at 220-plus (mph).

I’m just really enjoying today. I’ve always watched on TV and said, ‘Man, I should go (to Indy).’ And I just made it happen today and I’m here.”

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Jimmie Johnson hopes for ‘more crossover’ between auto racing stars

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For one day last November, Jimmie Johnson was the envy of the NASCAR community.

A week after the end of the Cup season, the seven-time Cup champion swapped rides with Formula One star Fernando Alonso and piloted a F1 car around the Bahrain International Circuit.

It was the third such swap between NASCAR and F1 drivers following the Jeff Gordon-Juan Pablo Montoya switch in 2003 at Indianapolis and the Tony Stewart-Lewis Hamilton swap in 2011 at Watkins Glen.

On Tuesday, Johnson expressed a desire to see “more crossover” between auto racing’s elite in competitive circumstances and to see stars moonlighting to support smaller series.

“I just think that in motorsports in general, we need guys to cross over from a local level,” Johnson said during Hendrick Motorsports’ media day after being asked about NASCAR’s influence in the Chili Bowl Nationals. “Although the Chili Bowl is huge, but they’re Midgets and more people typically get their starts (at that level).

“Our stars come back down and run and put on such a great show. That helps them and I think it helps us. It also helps that community and there are a lot of young drivers that are trying to find their way up.”

The Chili Bowl, held last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was won by Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell for the third straight year. He had to battle Cup driver Kyle Larson in the final feature, with the outcome being decided with a last-lap pass.

Johnson then turned to the major racing series and the lack of crossover between them in recent years.

“Hopefully we can get more crossover going, even between IndyCar and NASCAR or NASCAR and Formula 1 or whatever it might be,” Johnson said. “I feel like we had a lot of heroes that we looked up to and those guys would race anything and everything.

“And in the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve focused more on championships than we have marquee events. And I completely understand why, but it’s really nice to see people trying to move around and race other things. Hopefully we’ll have somebody trying the double again at Indy and Charlotte. There is a lot of good that comes from those opportunities.”

Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt “The Double” of competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2014.

The prospect of Larson, who competes for Chip Ganassi Racing, making the attempt has been brought up on a somewhat regular basis in recent years with Larson saying in July 2017 that violent IndyCar wrecks at IMS have kept him from committing to it.

Kyle Busch said in July 2017 he had committed to make an attempt at The Double before it was shut down by Joe Gibbs.

In 2016, Brad Keselowski teased everyone when he took a few laps around Road America in a Team Penske IndyCar during a test.

There were crossovers between IndyCar and NASCAR in 2018 with Danica Patrick competing in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 and a Xfinity Series start by Conor Daly at Road America.

Other than that, the list of drivers who have expressed an interest in making the jump from open-wheel to stock cars without fulfilling it gets longer every year.

That goes both ways. In November, Johnson expressed a desire in giving IndyCar a try on road courses.

But Johnson said he doesn’t have any forays into other series planned right now.

“I have some great new friends at McLaren and they have lots of things getting involved with racing-wise,” Johnson said. “So, down the road there could be some opportunities there for me potentially. I’d love to go endurance racing with Fernando (Alonso).

“We joked about that some. Nothing has developed from that yet, but hopefully down the road we can send some more teasers out and have some more fun.”

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Jimmie Johnson intrigued with racing IndyCar, sports cars in the future

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After his “mind-blowing” experience driving a Formula One car, Jimmie Johnson said he would be interested in competing in IndyCar and sports car races when he’s done driving NASCAR.

Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2020 season and he could try other forms of racing then.

“I’ve been approached many times for the Indy 500,” Johnson said Monday after driving a Formula One car as part of a ride swap with Fernando Alonso. “I’m not overly excited about those fast ovals, but I think with my status and relationships, I could put together some road course races in IndyCar.

“I’d look at anything. I’ve done sports car racing in the past. I’ve finished second in the Rolex 24. Would love to get back to doing that. Anything is open. I’m far from done. I want to keep driving and hopefully I can find some good opportunities.”

The 43-year-old Johnson knows age will slow him at some point but he says not yet. 

“Certainly age is a number and at some point it will start to fade on you, but I think most drivers deeper in their career, the workload that goes with it is what they don’t enjoy,” Johnson said. “For whatever reason, I like to work. From training and suffering, the longer the ride, the longer the run, the better I perform. I just really enjoy working. I don’t subscribe to that you get to a certain age and you can’t do it. I think you get to a certain age and it’s hard to stay motivated to put in the time and I don’t feel like I’m there yet.”

Three of the top four drivers in points in IndyCar last year were age 37 or older, led by 38-year-old series champion Scott Dixon. Tony Kanaan, who turns 44 on Dec. 31, will return to A.J. Foyt Racing for his 21st season of open-wheel racing in the U.S.

Johnson’s focus Monday was on driving a 2013 Formula One car around Bahrain International Circuit. Alonso drove one of Johnson’s Cup cars.

“The sensation of speed, clearly the speed is so high,” the seven-time Cup champion said. “The simulator was a really nice experience, great visual aid but to have the wind moving by and your sensation of speed and G-forces, it takes a little while to kind of absorb that and have the newness of that go away and focus on what you’re doing. I felt like every time I went out, my surroundings went slower and it was easier to piece together my braking points.

“Literally my first outing, my helmet was trying to leave my head, and I was staring at the microphone because my helmet was so high. I got my helmet under control and it was really my eyes trying to find their way far enough ahead and far enough around the turns. At the end, I really quit focusing on the braking markers themselves and was able to look at the apex (of the turns) and had an idea of when to hit the brakes and was able to put together some good laps. It was fun.”

Johnson said the experience could help him when NASCAR races on its road course events.

“Just the philosophy of how the use the car under brakes will be really good for me in the road course racing we will do,” he said. “I will start trying to get more out of the car on the straight line and then get off the brakes … and roll the car through the apex.”

Johnson admits “at the end of the day I got a way better swap experience than (Alonso) did. If we could come for a day or two, get our gearing dialed in, do some suspension changes, the proper tire, the (stock car) could have been quite a bit faster. I rode in a car with him at Abu Dhabi on hot laps and then again today and he should be a dirt racer. He loves to be sideways and smoking the tires.”

Johnson said he encouraged Alonso to drive a stock car on a NASCAR track to get the true experience of the car.

“When you can put them on a banked track, they really have the chance to shine,” Johnson said. “Dover, Bristol, even some of the banked mile-and-a-halves, really impressive. We’ll put a little pressure on him to do it. The way he likes to drive things I don’t see why he would say no.”

Johnson was asked if Alonso would do well on NASCAR’s road courses.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson said. “When you look at Juan (Pablo Montoya), when Juan was able to jump in a Cup car, he was fantastic on those tracks. In talking to Dario (Franchitti), in talking to Juan and Danica (Patrick), they don’t drive a car often with oversteer, so I assume that would be something (Alonso) wouldn’t like, but every time I looked he was dead sideways. Maybe he’s the perfect open-wheel driver to go to a stock car.”

Alonso said his focus for the first part of 2019 will be on the select races he will do, including the Indianapolis 500.

Asked if he could imagine what it would be like to drive a stock car at Daytona International Speedway with 39 other cars, Alonso said: “I told Jimmie before, it’s hard to imagine for me now after the feelings I had today with the very low grip and a lot of problems with traction how this car would feel on oval racing because they are no more traction demanding. That I think is a very different way to drive the car.”

Will Alonso jump in a stock car again?

“For now, it’s OK,” he said. “I have now a couple of weeks off but then immediately at the beginning of the year I will be very busy. I don’t want to put any extra tests or thoughts because I really need to charge the battery.”

Social Roundup: NASCAR drivers react to Jimmie Johnson, Fernando Alonso car swap

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The car swap between Jimmie Johnson and Fernando Alonso occurred Monday in Bahrain.

Some NASCAR stars took to Twitter to react to the event and they were envious of Johnson’s opportunity.

The smoke from Johnson and Alonso’s doughnuts to end the day had barely cleared before the fantasizing over more car swaps began, spurred on by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

NASCAR drivers who came from sprint car racing – including sprint car team owners Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson – really want to give their competitors a taste of the dirt racing life.

And Chase Elliott, a former teammate of Kahne’s, had his interest in Kahne’s proposal piqued.

Brad Sweet, who races for Kahne, noted the possibility of such an opportunity occurring is aided by their shared sponsorship.

What car swaps would you want to see? Let us know in the comments.

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Jimmie Johnson, Fernando Alonso end ride swap with tandem doughnuts

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Jimmie Johnson and Fernando Alonso ended their play day with dueling doughnuts Monday at Bahrain International Circuit.

Johnson piloted a 2013 Formula One car, while Alonso drove one of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet Cup cars on the road circuit – just the third time NASCAR and Formula One drivers have swapped rides. Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya traded rides in 2003 at Indianapolis and Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton switched rides in 2011 at Watkins Glen.

The doughnuts ended a journey that began in January when Alonso and Johnson met during NASCAR Media Day in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson said Alonso suggested they switch rides at some point. They worked during the spring to find a venue and date that would match both their schedules. Eventually, they picked a date after the NASCAR and Formula One seasons ended.

“It’s the ultimate car,” Johnson said earlier this month of why he wanted to try a Formula One car. “To feel the downforce of one of those cars has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve always wanted to experience it.”

Here’s a look at the how the day went for Johnson and Alonso in their ride swap: