Jimmie Johnson in for full 2022 IndyCar Seasonby Jack Gaffney December 16, 2021 0 comments
At 45 years old this year, Jimmie Johnson was not your typical IndyCar rookie. Not even factoring in his seven NASCAR Cup Series Championships, the California native was entering a whole new world. Although his maiden IndyCar voyage with Chip Ganassi Racing, which saw Johnson score zero top 15 results, was far from spectacular. Johnson however did put up his two best results of the year, a pair of 17ths, in the last two races of 2021. Now after a road course only rookie season Johnson’s plans for 2022 are set. On the Today Show on Wednesday, he announced his plans to run the entire 2022 IndyCar tilt.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 15, 2021
Into the Deep End
Johnson will still be running his iconic No. 48, along with his sponsor from a year ago, Carvana, for all but one race. The lone race they won’t be on the car (Iowa) will see the American Legion colors on his Ganassi Honda. Once again, Johnson will be teaming up with the three drivers Ganassi had a year ago. Being the Iceman Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, and reigning IndyCar Champion Alex Palou. According to Marshall Pruett of Racer.com as well, Tony Kanaan could be in for the Indianapolis 500 for the team as well.
For Johnson, the transition to running ovals in open-wheel cars is notable. After the tragic passing of Dan Wheldon in 2011, Johnson said that running IndyCar on oval tracks was not for him one day later.
“I wouldn’t run them on ovals. There’s no need to. Those cars are fantastic for street circuits, for road courses. The ovals at those speeds, you can’t control the vehicle when it’s off the ground and there’s very little crumple zone around the driver, and then obviously it’s an open cockpit and then you add open wheels – you’re just creating situations to get the car off the ground at a high rate of speed.”
In Johnson’s defense, this quote was over a decade ago, and today’s Dallara IR18’s are far safer than the IR05’s used 10 years ago. Not to mention the addition of the Areoscreen in 2020, which has already proved useful. Additionally, Johnson only recently became interested in running IndyCar oval races.
Change of Heart
The moment Johnson knew he at least wanted to run the Indianapolis 500 was when he attended it for the first time this year.
“That moment being part of the broadcast really cemented my desire to be in the 500. It was my first time attending the race, and I had massive FOMO in watching the event take place. Following that there were many steps to work through…The two oval test sessions that I competed in really helped me get to the place where I am today, and I’m ready to go.”
The two tests he is referring to both happened in the span of a couple of months. In August, Johnson ran at Texas Motor Speedway. Then later, he took part in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program two months later. Running at over 200 miles per hour on some of the ovals on the IndyCar circuit are no joke. So for Johnson to feel comfortable enough to commit to a full-time schedule likely says a lot about the safety of these cars, which have come a long way in the last decade. It is hard to gauge how Johnson will fare in year two, but an improvement over 2021 feels like a good expectation.
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