Jimmie Johnson opens the door to racing at the Indianapolis 500


Jimmie Johnson will be testing a Dallara-Honda on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course July 8, but the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion also is reconsidering the oval for an Indianapolis 500 attempt.

During a Zoom call with reporters Friday morning, Johnson said he’ll be monitoring safety enhancements this season in the NTT IndyCar Series, which has introduced a new aeroscreen that offers greater cockpit protection.

“Their safety on ovals is dramatically increased this year with the windscreen that they have, so I’ll keep a close eye on things there and just see how the safety level looks,” said Johnson, who attended preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas in February. “I’ve always wanted to race the (Indy) 500. I’d have to do a lot of selling to my wife to get that hall pass to do it.

“My true desire right now is just to run the road courses. There are 12 on the schedule right now. I would be open to run all 12 if the right opportunity came along.”

Johnson previously has said he would focus only on road and street courses in IndyCar and avoid ovals.

After an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet test scheduled for April 6 at Barber Motorsports Park was scrubbed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, he will be testing for Chip Ganassi Racing next week at IMS.

Manufacturer conflicts typically have precluded drivers from crossing over to race for other automakers. Despite his longtime racing ties to General Motors, Johnson said he was allowed to run a Honda because “everybody’s been super understanding that I just want to get on track and experience an Indy car and see if it’s something that I want to do in the future. I feel like it is.

“But my great relationship with Chevrolet, they were understanding that laps for me in any experience that I can have in an Indy car is really the most important thing. Honestly any test date I can get, I want to take right now, just to get every lap that I possibly can, so thankful that things came together so quickly with CGR. And certainly there is the manufacturer conflict, but Chevrolet was very understanding.”

Johnson, who will be retiring from his full-time job in NASCAR after 2020, said he had “a lot of options” for racing IndyCar in 2021 and had talked to more teams than McLaren and Ganassi.

“There hasn’t been any serious conversations,” Johnson said. “It’s really just been about going to the track for the team to look at me and to inform their opinion of my abilities in one of their race cars, and certainly I have that same opportunity to see what I think of each team and what an Indy car even feels like.

“So very early stages of all of this. It’s hard to read too far into things at this point. But most importantly, I’m just thankful that teams are listening, willing, able and taking me to the track just so I can learn.”

Johnson said his goal for the Ganassi test was being within a reasonable time of the race pace. Though he has Fourth of July family plans, he planned “to keep an eye on” Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix (noon ET, NBC).

He also has been leaning on five-time champion Scott Dixon (who drives for Ganassi) and was in an IndyCar simulator Thursday and “starting to connect the dots and understand the track. Understand braking marks, shift points, speed. All the things you really need to know.

“To be at such an iconic track (to test) does make it very special. I’ve just been super excited to get in these cars and experience them. … I’m very thankful for the friends I have in the open wheel world. I’m not sure where it’s going to end up, where it’s going to take me, but thankful for those relationships and these opportunities that I have right now.”

The El Cajon, California, native said he hopes to race the Long Beach Grand Prix, the closest race to his hometown and also where he had meetings nearly 30 years ago with Chevrolet racing executives that charted his racing career into NASCAR.