Jimmie Johnson racing with heavy heart after brother-in-law’s death

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Prior to beginning the Duck Commander 500 weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson thanked the NASCAR community and its fans for their support following the death of his brother-in-law earlier this week.

27-year-old skydiver and instructor Jordan Janway, who was the brother of Johnson’s wife, Chandra, lost his life after colliding in mid-air with another diver in a training session. His parachute failed to open in the incident.

“I appreciate the opportunity to say thank you to everybody for your thoughts and prayers,” Johnson said to reporters at TMS. “This week has been a very difficult week for the Janway family. It’s been so tough for me to sit back and watch the people I love so much deal with so much pain.

“But, things are progressing and everybody is as good as you could hope. Last night, the family spent a lot of time telling stories about Jordan and smiling a little bit; smiling more than tears, and the healing process has definitely started.”

Johnson noted that he hadn’t had time to think about putting some sort of memorial to Janway on his car or his helmet. He hailed the young man as “a free spirit.”

“Base-jumping and parachuting and wearing the squirrel suits like you see the guys flying along the cliff sides – that’s what he did,” Johnson recalled. “He’s in a lot of those videos shooting that footage. So, it was a tragic death for sure.

“But he was doing something he loved. He was very passionate about it. And he never met a stranger. He was a very warm and caring young man and he’s definitely going to be missed.”

But while he and his family mourn their loss, Johnson is also getting on with the business of racing. So far, he’s yet to visit Victory Lane in 2014 but is the most recent winner at Texas after putting on a dominant run there last fall en route to winning his sixth Cup championship.

A blown tire with seven laps to go cost him the win two weeks ago at Fontana (which went to Kyle Busch), and last weekend at Martinsville, he lost a hard duel with Kurt Busch.

But as Johnson has remained competitive, his confidence has not yet ebbed.

“If there’s a race or two to go and I don’t have a victory, it’s definitely going to change my opinion then, but I’ve built so much over the last 13 years with a certain mindset that myself and the team – we’re just not in the position to change that mindset yet,” he said.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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