Johnson Open To Running 12 IndyCar Series Races

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Jimmie Johnson is looking ahead to his first Indy car test next week with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images Photo)
Jimmie Johnson is looking ahead to his first Indy car test next week with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson said he is open to running all 12 NTT IndyCar Series street and road course races in 2021, “If the right opportunity develops.”

Johnson made that comment Friday at his home before he prepares for his final NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

“My true desire right now is to run all the road courses,” Johnson said Friday. “There are 12 on the schedule right now. I would be open to run all 12 if the right opportunity came along.

“One of my hopes is to race at Long Beach. I dreamed of that as a kid. For me, there is a lot of sentimental value at that race. But I’m open to all, COTA, Road America, Indy road course. I would be highly interested in all of those.”

Next Wednesday Johnson will test one of the Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Johnson views the test as a tryout.

“Yes, absolutely,” Johnson said. “It’s a test to tryout and it’s a two-way tryout for the team to look at me and for me to look at the team. If I’m four seconds off the pace, that’s a quick sign I probably don’t need to be in one of those cars.

“It’s unrealistic to think I’ll be in a race-winning pace in the first test session. If I’m within a certain amount of time and have a good feel for the car, that’s an important first step for me. I don’t want to be in any series and not be competitive.”

Interestingly, Johnson drives for Hendrick Motorsports, a Chevrolet team in NASCAR. Chevrolet also competes in the NTT IndyCar Series, but instead of testing with a Chevrolet team, he will be in a Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“Everybody has been super-understanding that I just want to get on track and experience an Indy car and see if it’s something I want to do in the future,” Johnson said Friday. “I feel like it is, but I have a great relationship with Chevrolet, and they were understanding that laps for me and any experience I can have in an Indy car is the most important thing.

“As we all know, I had a test scheduled April 6 with McLaren in a Chevrolet and was very, very hopeful to find a date with them and test in a Chevy-McLaren. Honestly, any testing I can get right now I want to take and get every lap I possibly can.”

Johnson, who does not plan to compete in oval races in the NTT IndyCar Series should he land a ride, is very interested in learning a new form of racing once his full-time NASCAR Cup Series career concludes at the end of this year.

“I have a lot of options,” Johnson said. “I’m very fortunate to have many friends in the garage area. I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of teams other than just CGR and McLaren.

“It’s still in the very early days. It’s been more about getting to the track and teams to look at me and form their opinion of my abilities in one of their race cars and certainly I have that same opportunity to see what I feel about each team and what an IndyCar feels like.

“It’s in the very early stages of all this and it’s hard to read too far into things at this point but most importantly I’m just thankful teams are listening and willing and able to take me to the track just so I can learn.”

Johnson attended IndyCar’s preseason test at Circuit of the Americas in February, which led to the aforementioned plan to test for McLaren in April. That test was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you know I was at COTA earlier this year (during a test) and I have a lot of friends in the garage area,” he said. “As the opportunity to test in April many reached out and many have reached out now and said if I need anything to lean on them. It gets tricky when you get outside a certain team. So, from where I sit right now, I’ve just been leaning on Scott Dixon to get ready for this test.”

Asked what it would be like to get one final win at Indianapolis, Johnson said, “Storybook to say the least. I certainly hope it happens. We have a great starting spot, starting fourth, and my team is doing an amazing job and we’re ready.”