Jimmie Johnson finally makes IndyCar testing debut with Ganassi

Chris Owens/IndyCar
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Jimmie Johnson made his long-awaited IndyCar test debut Tuesday on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Chip Ganassi Racing.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who has been angling for an IndyCar ride since attending the NTT Series’ preseason test at Austin, Texas, posted social media photos Tuesday from the Brickyard with the No. 10 Dallara-Honda normally driven by Felix Rosenqvist

Johnson initially was slated to test a Dallara-Chevrolet with Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports three months ago at Barber Motorsports Park, but the April 6 session was scrubbed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic after he had been fitted for a seat at the team’s Indianapolis shop.

He had been scheduled to drive July 8 with Ganassi at IMS before he tested positive for COVID-19. He since was cleared for a return to NASCAR by two negative tests after missing one Cup race.

Johnson also has been updating the IG Story on his Instagram account (@jimmiejohnson) with video from the test.

Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull, who has overseen Johnson’s test, posted a photo of Johnson consulting with five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in a Ganassi hauler. Hull also tweeted that Johnson said after his first laps around the road course that it had been his dream to be an IndyCar driver, and the test lit his fire.

Dixon, who won the first three races of the 2020 season and leads the points standings for Ganassi this season, attended the test as a sounding board for Johnson.

Johnson, who is retiring from full-time racing in NASCAR after the 2020 season, has said he would be open to racing on road and street courses in IndyCar next season with a preference for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. He also opened the door to possibly racing the Indianapolis 500 after evaluating the recent performance of the aeroscreen in IndyCar.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said recently that Arrow McLaren SP also remains interested in Johnson despite the test with Ganassi.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).