Jimmie Johnson Eyes IndyCar Series

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Jimmie Johnson hangs out in the pits with Indy car driver Robert Wickens during an NTT Indycar Series testing at Circuit of The Americas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson hangs out in the pits with Indy car driver Robert Wickens during an NTT Indycar Series testing at Circuit of The Americas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas — Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is interested in racing a limited schedule in the NTT IndyCar Series next season.

Prior to returning to Daytona Int’l Speedway for this weekend’s Daytona 500, Johnson made the trek to Circuit of The Americas to visit IndyCar’s spring training session.

Johnson, who will retire from full-time NASCAR racing at the end of this season, was the guest of McLaren chief executive Zak Brown.

“At the end of last year when I knew I was done with 38 races a year, I got so excited,” Johnson said during an interview with NBCSports.com and SPEED SPORT. “I have a lot of things I want to try including Indy car and sports car racing in 2021 and now I can consider those as my Bucket List.

“Zak and I formed a friendship based on the car swap we did at Bahrain two Novembers ago and we stayed in touch,” Johnson continued. “I kept in touch through his involvement in NASCAR and his marketing company. When he said he was coming over and invited me, I decided to come out.

“I’m here to look around and have some fun. I have some great friends here in the Austin area. I have great friends here in this garage area, including Arrow McLaren. I did the Formula One swap with Fernando Alonso a few years ago. I just wanted to check it out.”

Johnson said IndyCar’s new aeroscreen, which has been mandated for this season, has increased his interest in racing an Indy car.

“The aeroscreen for me is huge,” Johnson said. “From a safety standpoint, I’m used to having a roof over my head and a windshield in front of me. That safety step really opens up my interest in IndyCar. I grew up going to the Long Beach Grand Prix and was an IndyCar fan and thought that was going to be what I did.

“But my career path went in a different direction. Getting in an Indy car, experiencing one and maybe racing one is all on my Bucket List.’”

Johnson said he would consider an opportunity to race in the NTT IndyCar Series next season.

“If the right opportunity comes up, I would certainly consider it.

“It’s a box I want to check and where my head is. IndyCar is an option and sports cars are an option,” he said. “I have finished second in the Rolex 24 twice and I would like to try that again. I would like to stand on the top box. Le Mans is on my wish-list. Off road, I would like to run the Mint 400 again or the Parker 400, some of those courses I really enjoyed. I’m really open to the point of checking boxes. That is what 2021 will be all about in and out of the car. There is a lot I want to two and balance my life with my family. I want to do a full-distance Iron Man. There are some Mountain Bike races I’m interested in.

“It’s about checking some boxes in 2021.”

IndyCar racing may be one of those.

Johnson’s one-day visit was the highlight of a day that say just 35 minutes of track activity, all under the yellow flag because of persistent rain and cold temperatures. There were only 17 total laps run on the first day.

Johnson’s presence, however, made news.

“I think that would be pretty cool to have him,” said Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward, who spent much time talking to Johnson on pit lane.

“Very cool,” said Team Penske driver Will Power. “I see him out at the go-kart track running around Charlotte a lot. He’s getting practice.

“But, yeah, that would be very good for the series.”