IndyCar Jimmie Johnson test
Chris Owens/IndyCar

Jimmie Johnson says he wants to do IndyCar ‘more than ever’ after test

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Finally fulfilling his childhood dream of driving an Indy car, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is sold on figuring out how to race next year in the IndyCar Series after a test session Tuesday.

“It only lit the fire more. I want to do this more than ever before,” Johnson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It was something new, something different. NASCAR has been so good to me. and I am so proud of the success I’ve had. But to try something new, man, this was really cool.”

Johnson initially thought his racing career would take him into IndyCar, the series he followed as a child, but the path instead veered into NASCAR. He’s put together one of the most successful careers in series history, but the 44-year-old will retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of this season.

He won’t stop competing, though, and Johnson has already put in motion a plan he hopes will get him into some IndyCar events next year. An initial test with McLaren was canceled when sports shut down in the early part of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; Johnson’s positive coronavirus test earlier this month pushed a July 8 test with Chip Ganassi Racing to Tuesday.

Even as he headed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the start of the day, he fretted that something would spoil his long-awaited opportunity.

“Third time was a charm, but I was worried something would jinx it,” he said.

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson test
Jimmie Johnson leaned on five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon for advice during a test session Tuesday with Chip Ganassi Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

Nothing spoiled his day, which Johnson likened to a “first day of school.” He drove the same car Felix Rosenqvist raced on the Indy road course earlier this month and had five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon on hand as his driver coach.

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson test
Jimmie Johnson drove the No. 10 Dallara-Honda during a test session Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Chip Ganassi Racing (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

Despite tough track conditions (with low grip because of high temperatures), Dixon said Johnson got a good idea of driving in IndyCar.

“He was very impressive. There was no trying to do too much,” Dixon told AP. “He was texting me last night, asking me all sorts of questions, if there were tricks for getting out of the pits, how to handle a turn, those kind of things. He was just super amped up and just excited to finally get there.”

It was a busy session for Johnson, who was trying to learn the car while also testing new cockpit cooling advances for the series. The Ganassi team had five sets of tires for the session and with the track temperature nearing 140 degrees, the degradation came quickly.

Johnson also spun twice during the day – once in the first turn of the road course when he had too much rear brake and a second time in the fourth turn when he just lost the car. He took pride in keeping it out of the grass both times, but he flat-spotted an already limited allotment of tires.

“By the end of the day they were mix-matching tires, giving me mixed sets, just to let me have more laps,” Johnson said.

Johnson had previously said this test would determine if pursuing IndyCar was worth his time – he had joked he’d know quickly if he was any good at it – and after nearly eight hours with the Ganassi team, he was undeterred.

“When I got in the car, I needed two sessions to let my eyes adjust. Things were coming up on me pretty quick,” Johnson said. “Right before lunch, we started finding a groove. In the beginning of the day I was finding big chunks, but the track was going away while my ability was increasing.”

Dixon was impressed with Johnson’s ability to process information and apply feedback, particularly since he’s one of the most accomplished NASCAR drivers in history. Dixon said it was difficult to assess Johnson’s pace because the track was green and the temperatures were so hot but estimated Johnson was running similar to how series regulars were earlier this month in “the mid-to-late stint of the race we had. But you’ve got no benchmark. It’s a big unknown.

“For a guy who has done what he’s done, he was still pretty excited,” Dixon said. “The passion that he has for racing and trying something different, he was typical Jimmie, just the way he applies himself. He’s never pushy. He’s constantly asking questions, how to be better, how do I do this.

“He was really methodical, he was really good at being able to copy stuff and he was really adaptive, which isn’t always easy, especially at our age.”

Johnson still hopes to test with Arrow McLaren SP later this year (McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said recently the team remains interested in Johnson despite the test with Ganassi), and he is determined to get into road or street course races in 2021.

He’s softened his stance toward racing on ovals and the Indianapolis 500 because of IndyCar safety advancements but said Tuesday that 2022 is probably the earliest he could consider expanding his schedule.

He also noted that his IndyCar future is contingent on finding sponsorship and hoped a successful first test will spark conversations about funding.

“Hopefully today was the day to create a springboard,” Johnson said. “The more I can be in a garage, the more excitement I can generate, the better chances.”

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson test
Jimmie Johnson wants to run road and street courses in IndyCar next season but hasn’t ruled out the Indy 500 for 2022 (Chis Owens/IndyCar).

Adam Cianciarulo sweeps to second straight Pro Motocross 450 win

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Adam Cianciarulo (450) and Dylan Ferrandis (250) swept both motos of their divisions Saturday in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship event at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minnesota, significantly impacting the points standings.

After scoring his first career victory Sept. 8 at RedBud, Cianciarulo made it two consecutive victories on his Monster Energy Kawasaki. He won the first moto by 1.7 seconds over Blake Baggett and the second moto by 2.7 seconds over Baggett.

โ€œMan, what a dream come true,โ€ Cianciarulo said. โ€œI really wanted to go 1-1 last round at RedBud and had that silly mistake. Today, we got the job done and made it happen. Two consecutive victories in the 450 Class just feels really good. I just want to keep the ball rolling.โ€

With three rounds remaining, Cianciarulo is ranked second in the standings at a 15-point deficit to Zach Osborne, who won three of the first five rounds.

In the 250 standings, Dylan Ferrandis jumped ahead of Jeremy Martin (who won three consecutive events earlier in the season) by three points (257-254).

Dylan Ferrandis swept both motos for his second win of the season in the 250 class (Align Media).

Ferrandis beat third-ranked RJ Hampshire in the first moto and nipping Martin by 0.4 seconds in the second.

โ€œThat was a difficult race in the second moto and the pressure was on,โ€ Ferrandis said. โ€œIt was really good for me to have that battle and come out on top in the second moto. The championship is really close and I think that we were able to put on a good show for everyone today. Jeremy [Martin] and I have a good relationship I think and we congratulated each other and talked about the battle after the race.โ€

NEXT: The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will hold its seventh round Sept. 26 with the Geico Motorcycle WW Ranch National at Jacksonville, Florida.


RESULTS

Thor Spring Creek National (Spring Creek MX Park, Millville, Minnesota)

450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)

  1. Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki (1-1)
  2. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM (2-2)
  3. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha (5-4)
  4. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (8-3)
  5. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (6-5)
  6. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (3-10)
  7. Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Honda (7-6)
  8. Joey Savatgy, , Suzuki (9-7)
  9. Max Anstie, United Kingdom, Suzuki (10-8)
  10. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna (4-16)

450 Class Championship Standings

  1. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna – 235
  2. Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki – 220
  3. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM – 215
  4. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 196
  5. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha – 194
  6. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM – 190
  7. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 173
  8. Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Honda – 141
  9. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Yamaha – 134
  10. Joey Savatgy, Tallahassee, Fla., Suzuki – 122

250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)

  1. Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha (1-1)
  2. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda (5-2)
  3. Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Suzuki (4-4)
  4. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (3-6)
  5. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (9-3)
  6. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (2-11)
  7. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (7-5)
  8. Jo Shimoda, Japan, Honda (12-8)
  9. Mitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Kawasaki (11-9)
  10. Derek Drake, San Luis Obispo, Calif., KTM (8-12)

250 Class Championship Standings

  1. Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha – 257
  2. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda – 254
  3. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 202
  4. Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Suzuki – 194
  5. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Yamaha – 186
  6. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 164
  7. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 162
  8. Cameron McAdoo, Sioux City, Iowa, Kawasaki – 140
  9. Mitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Kawasaki – 123
  10. Brandon Hartranft, Brick, N.J., KTM – 114
Adam Cianciarulo won the holeshot in both motos at Spring Creek (Align Media).