Jimmie Johnson: Chase elimination will be “great medicine” for himself, team

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Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson’s recent elimination from the Chase is certainly not what he, crew chief Chad Knaus, and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team had in mind for this season.

Johnson’s 24th-place finish in last weekend’s Contender Round finale at Talladega Superspeedway officially knocked him out of the championship battle.

A crash and 40th-place finish at Kansas, followed by a late-race fade at Charlotte, put him in a virtual must-win situation at ‘Dega.

He almost pulled it off, leading a race-high 84 laps. But he was shuffled out of the pack in the final stages and could not recover.

Ever the optimist, though, Johnson believes that he and the team will use their exit from the Chase as “great medicine” – motivation to come back better than ever and get that record-tying seventh Sprint Cup championship in 2015.

“It wasn’t fun leaving Kansas or Charlotte,” Johnson said today at Martinsville Speedway, where he’s seeking his ninth Cup victory this weekend. “It was relatively dark – not a lot of sunlight floating around – but you have that. I truly believe those moments make you stronger and they make you dig in deeper, and really, it’s great medicine for the 48.

“I don’t want to be in this position, but this is great medicine to sit and watch this championship unfold. It’s gonna motivate me, Chad…All of us on the 48 team. So we’ll be back next year, and ready to roll.”

Talladega did a serious number on Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase hopes, eliminating Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leaving four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon as its last bullet.

You would figure that Gordon will now have all of Hendrick’s resources at his disposal, including help from his three teammates.

However, Johnson says that there may only be so much his team can do in that regard, noting that he and Gordon have been “relatively far apart” on car set-ups throughout the year.

“Outside of them painting a 48 car for us and us running it and trying to give them direct info, that’s about the only way I think we can help,” Johnson said.

Still, Johnson will make sure to keep tabs on Gordon’s whereabouts during races and let him know of changes on his set-up that work for him.

“We’ll do what we can – mainly, be there to answer questions,” he said. “I’ve always won championships by keeping it simple, and I feel like getting too far away from the normal and over-thinking things creates problems for me.

“I’m not sure how Jeff wants to go about things, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just keep to themselves and do what they can. It’s what got them in this position, and that’s what’s gonna win them a championship.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.