Jimmie Johnson opens the door to racing at the Indianapolis 500

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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.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.