NTT IndyCar

Jimmie Johnson says he wants to race INDYCAR in 2021 after NASCAR

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AUSTIN, Texas – As seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson prepares for his final Daytona 500, he already is thinking about his “bucket list” in 2021.

Atop Johnson’s bucket list after retiring from full-time NASCAR competition this year? The chance to drive an Indy car and potentially compete in a handful of NTT INDYCAR Series races next season.

Johnson, who has said many times over the past two years he is interested in racing road and street courses in INDYCAR, attended the first day of preseason testing for INDYCAR at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). He attended the preseason driver’s meeting and then spent the rest of a rainy Tuesday as guest of Arrow McLaren SP’s Zak Brown, who also oversees McLaren’s F1 team and helped broker two-time champion Fernando Alonso’s two attempts at the Indianapolis 500.

“I’m here to look around and have some fun,” Johnson, 44, told NBC’s Leigh Diffey during a taping for NASCAR America. “I have some great friends here in the Austin area. I have great friends here in this garage area, including my friends at McLaren. I did the Formula One swap with Fernando Alonso a few years ago. I just wanted to check it out.”

At the conclusion of his interview with NASCAR America, Johnson took a few moments to speak to NBC Sports and offer his interest level in giving some INDYCAR road course races a try in 2021.

“At the end of last year when I knew I was done with 38 races a year, I got so excited,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of things I want to try, including INDYCAR and sports car racing in 2021, and now I can consider those as my ‘bucket list.’

After attending the preseason Drivers Meeting, Johnson spoke individually with some of the top drivers from the NTT INDYCAR Series. Many of them are his longtime friends.

“Jimmie has been talking about it for a little while and looking at different options,” five-time NTT INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon told NBC Sports. “He’s been super keen coming to INDYCAR races. That is just him. He’s a racer and wants to try something else. It’s good to see him in the paddock and try to do something. He is a legend of the sport; but also, a really good person. That is what I respect about him the most.

“Jimmie and I talk a lot about random stuff. We always text each other and have phone calls, too. Outside of Kyle Larson, he is the guy I talk to the most over on that side.”

For more on this story and what Johnson said, go to the MotorSports Talk story here

Roger Penske reveals he received kidney transplant in late 2017

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Car owner Roger Penske confirmed to reporters Friday that he had a kidney transplant at the Mayo Clinic shortly after the 2017 IndyCar season finale.

Penske had kept the procedure private until revealing it during a group interview in St. Petersburg, Florida. The NTT IndyCar Season opens there Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Penske, who is 82 years old, received the kidney from his son, Greg.

A 2013 Autoweek story said that doctors diagnosed Penske with bladder cancer in 2005 and removed one of his kidneys.

Penske revealed his procedure as Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, discussed his hip replacement surgery with reporters. That surgery also was done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Associated Press reported that Penske’s transplant came days after Josef Newgarden won the IndyCar title for Team Penske in 2017.

Penske’s teams have won 500 major races, 580 pole positions and 34 championships in 53 years. The team also has won 17 Indianapolis 500s. Team Penske won the Cup title last year with Joey Logano.

Also Friday, Penske spoke to a small group of reporters about changes that need to take place in NASCAR in the coming years.

One of Penske’s suggestions is to run Cup races on back-to-back days in the same location.

“If they make a change, we should run doubleheaders,” Penske said. “Saturday-Sunday. Maybe run 200 miles on Saturday, 300 on Sunday, they both count.”