Quite a Fit: Deadmau5, Hinch, Honda and cars

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Hinch and Zimmerman check out their specially liveried Fits. Photo: Honda

The pulses rise. The crowd awaits. The cameras are ready.

No, this isn’t Joel Zimmerman – better known as electronic dance music (EDM) artist, superstar and producer Deadmau5 – about to start a show.

It’s Joel about to race his Canadian countryman James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario in a pair of Honda Fits around the Putnam Park road course outside Indianapolis.

But don’t tell him the rush isn’t any different. If anything, it’s amplified.

“I just like that control – you know what I mean?” Zimmerman told MotorSportsTalk in an interview. “It’s great feedback between you, the car and the road.

“It’s one thing to be a passenger, and one thing to not have control, like you are in a roller coaster. But to have that kind of response, where you’re going, turning and staring, it puts you in the zone. And having the more high-performance vehicles intensifies it.”

How he got to this point is a story in itself. Intensity and passion are two words that describe Zimmerman’s increased interest in cars, and in motorsport over the last few years.

First off, his introduction to motorsports came via the Gumball Rally, in a Ferrari 458.

“It was all pretty circumstantial or coincidental,” he says. “(Others) do the Gumball as their yearly recreational thing. That’s how I got introduced to the community; you ask who’s the ‘who’s who of racing?’ What else is there to talk about with supercars? You talk about cars. It opened up the world for me. It’s such a great community. We all talk to each other after the rally. It’s extended family.”

Zimmerman lived in Toronto, where public transit is king and driving can be akin to listening to a bad record depending on the time of day – utterly grinding. But a move to Los Angeles meant Zimmerman finally got his driver’s license and would have to learn the nature of L.A. traffic jams (as this author can attest, living in L.A./Orange County area requires a wealth of patience).

“The first time I drove a Ferrari, a year or so ago, was maybe 3-4 weeks after I just got my drivers license,” he explains. “So I have no idea how to drive this car. They just give you the keys and say, ‘Have fun!’

“So the first 5 minutes was terrifying, in L.A. traffic. You’re not even going over 30 (mph). It’s terrifying. You don’t want to hit a kerb, or a car. Then you get used to it. Once you lift the veil of the type of vehicle you’re driving, you start getting it, and after 2 minutes, you’re good.”

The aforementioned Ferrari is one of a host of ultra exotic high-performance cars Zimmerman’s sampled, whether it’s a McLaren 650S, a Bentley Continental GT Supersports or a BAC Mono, the latter of which is the first open-wheel car he’d driven.

But each car provides a different driving experience, and the variety offers great appeal.

“I’ve definitely seen the whole spectrum, from the Honda Fit to the LaFerrari. It’s so different to see that every car offers something different new, regardless of price or quality.

“Nothing to me is more fun than an e-brake on a Honda Fit. But you don’t get that in a McLaren 650S. That would be a bad idea all around. Or the way a Mono handles on a track, versus a Ferrari 458. You can come full stop, you can whip around it in the mono, because there’s a low center of gravity, it’s perfectly balanced and the thing’s on rails. In a Ferrari you’d try that and be in the grass.”

As for the Fit, it fits into the equation as part of Zimmerman’s run up to the launch of his new album – 5 years of mau5 – and a performance in New York on the Honda Stage.

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A Mau5 on the Bricks. Joel Zimmerman and James Hinchcliffe at IMS. Photo: Honda

This leads us to Hinchcliffe, who besides hailing from the same area in Toronto is a Honda-powered driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series and took Zimmerman on a rainy two-seater ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. It was cool, Zimmerman said, except “if there wouldn’t have been a stupid inch of water… but we still hit a buck 80.”

The two hit it off on social media prior to that and have struck up an obvious, and chill, friendship.

“I like to say I have a talent for reading people,” Zimmerman says. “With Hinch, you just see how he spends time and cares about something he specializes in. So that’s where I hit it off. Doctor, landscaper, whatever it is, you look for the passion and seeing the detail in one thing.”

The two-seater ride came after the two toured the IMS museum. Zimmerman couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Looking through that museum, I walk away realizing how fortunate I am to have 50-plus years of car development experience in my favor,” he says. “Dude, I wouldn’t drive 20 feet at 10 mph in fear of blowing up!

“And yet guys were racing these things, with legit jet engines on the back or the transmission running between their legs.”

Zimmerman took his own shot at racing Hinchcliffe in the Fits – the two half-jokingly riffed pre-race about seeing who would be first to roll it. Fortunately, neither did. This was part two in the run to the Honda Stage.

Part three followed shortly thereafter, for the show itself. See below for the third and final installment:

Would Zimmerman consider racing himself, as others from the world of entertainment such as Paul Newman and Patrick Dempsey have?

“Not in a professional capacity,” he confirms. “Only because I understand, to be up there with the (Lewis) Hamiltons, Hinchtowns and Conor Dalys, you gotta start karting when you’re 7 years old. You have to put all your eggs in that basket so to speak. There’s so many intricate details.

“When I’m going into racing and stuff like that, it’s for personal enjoyment.”

Asked whether he had a favorite form, Zimmerman said he “loves it all,” granted some more than others – ranging from F1, watching Hamilton win the World Championship, to as localized as demolition derbies.

What he does do and continue to do to keep his car presence going is performing a series of “Coffee Runs” – where Zimmerman drives around, sees random people or celebrities on the streets and just lets the camera roll.

“It’s so ad hoc – we don’t produce or schedule these,” he says. “We wire up, literally, whoever’s around; the Mayor (Rob Ford) was the only one we had to schedule.

“But short of that, it’s who’s in the neighborhood, stick a GoPro and do it all in one take. I don’t condense it down to 30 seconds and fast-paced. I hate the quick editing. It’s a discussion.”

And to bring this full circle back to IMS, would Zimmerman ever consider playing the Snake Pit, which has grown in stature in recent years since its revival?

Sadly not for 2015, as the timing conflicts with the Gumball. But it’s obvious that racing and IMS have made an impact on the talented artist, and if one day Deadmau5 does play there it will be a massive get for the Speedway.

As it is, Zimmerman’s been struck with the car and racing bugs, and that’s perhaps the biggest “get” of all.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”