NASCAR retirement ‘off to a good start’ for Jimmie Johnson with more driving in store

Jimmie Johnson Laguna Seca
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After closing his career in the No. 48 Chevrolet with a fifth-place finish Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, Jimmie Johnson spent the next two days doing some driving on two iconic layouts of California’s Central Coast.

Johnson played golf Monday at the legendary Pebble Beach course and then spent Tuesday testing his No. 48 Dallara-Honda at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway.

The Monterey, California, track will play host to one of 13 road and street course races that the seven-time NASCAR champion will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.

“Epic experience,” Johnson said about Pebble Beach in a video he posted to social media. “Retirement is off to a good start with a day of golf and now a day of IndyCar driving.”

In his Instagram story, Johnson posted video of navigating Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew section and of his final lap Tuesday.

The session also included new teammate Alex Palou, who has yet to race track after its 2020 race was canceled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Laguna Seca will close the 2021 IndyCar season.

Johnson also drove in his first full-scale IndyCar test Nov. 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. He said he likely won’t be back in the car until January when he will drive in the series’ annual preseason session at Sebring International Raceway and in a few other tests before his IndyCar debut March 7 on the streets of St. Petersburg (Johnson announced his sponsorship with Carvana there last month).

“I learned a lot (at the Barber test), and I know the areas that I need to work to be more competitive in those cars,” Johnson said after his final start as a full-time Cup driver. “I’m integrated into the team. Certainly more throughout the offseason will take place.

“But I’m plugged in over there and trying to learn what I can and just trying to make the switch from a car with very little downforce to a car with a lot of downforce.  I have a big challenge ahead of myself.”

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.