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Jimmie Johnson interested in IndyCar after 2020

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When his current NASCAR contract is complete at the end of the 2020 season, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson could be interested in racing select IndyCar events.

“Without a doubt (I’m interested in IndyCar),” Johnson said after his ride swap with Fernando Alonso in Bahrain. “2020 is my last year under contract with Hendrick (Motorsports), and I’ve been approached many times about the Indy 500.”

When Johnson was ready to leave off-road truck racing and take the next step up the racing ladder, Chevrolet was taking a hiatus from open wheel racing. That left Johnson with a decision to be made – and while it is one that he has never regretted, a stint in IndyCar could be a return to Johnson’s boyhood dreams.

“I grew up in Southern California in the ’80s and ’90s and NASCAR wasn’t around,” Johnson said. “It was just a southern sport and I didn’t know much about it at all. All of my dreams were to race IndyCar. … Rick Mears came through the same form of auto racing that I did. Robby Gordon. Roger Mears, so that was the plan.

“I’ve always loved driving different cars. I’ve watched a lot of open wheel racing as a kid growing up and I’ve always had a great interest in Formula 1.”

The Indy 500 might not be Johnson’s first choice, however. Robert Wickens’ horrendous crash in August has even experienced open wheel drivers like Tony Stewart reconsidering the consequences of high-speed ovals. But Johnson has already shown success on road courses in sports cars and could find that type of racing imminently more attractive.

“I’m not overly excited about those fast ovals, but I think with my status and relationships I could put together some road course races in IndyCar.

“I’d look at anything. I’ve done sports car racing in the past. I’ve finished second in the Rolex 24 a couple of times in the Prototype division. Would love to get back to doing that. Anything is open. I’m far from done. I want to keep driving and hopefully I can find some good opportunities.”

The Johnson / Alonso driver swap is the third time Formula 1 and NASCAR drivers have exchanged rides. In 2003, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon drove one another’s cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2011, Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart did so at Watkins Glen International.

When the sport was much younger, competitive drivers worried less about the style of auto racing and concentrated on going fast in any type of car. Harkening back to the heroes of the 1970s like AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones and Dan Gurney, Johnson would like to see a return to that Renaissance movement.

“I feel like drivers at a young age have to decide if they want to race sedans or open wheel cars.

“I don’t know if it’s right for that judgement to take place and I look back at my heroes .. and when you look at Parnelli Jones, Mario (Andretti), Dan Gurney, Emmo (Fittipaldi), they raced anything. And I don’t know where that got lost. In the ’80s or ’90s, it was, ‘You’re just open-wheel and you’re just sedan.’

“I don’t know why that’s there. I feel like an open-minded driver – and one that’s ready to work – could cross and go either direction. We’ve seen quite a few open-wheel guys try NASCAR and they’ve been competitive. I don’t think there’s been as many victories as some would have thought, but they’ve been competitive.

“No one has gone the other way. So I would love to see somebody go the other way.”

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Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.