New IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson playfully gives ‘the boot’ to NASCAR firesuit fashion

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson boot
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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On the list of myriad adjustments — horsepower! downforce! braking! — facing Jimmie Johnson in the move from NASCAR to IndyCar, who had boot cut as the most controversial?

It was style over speed this weekend, though, after Johnson unveiled his new firesuit for the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver of the No. 48 Dallara-Honda in 13 road and street courses was sporting the straight-leg, form-fitting uniform favored by IndyCar and IMSA sports car drivers instead of the looser boot cut that is popular in NASCAR.

Johnson took quite the good-natured ribbing on social media as Chase Elliott (who said during a testing break this week that he was “Team Boot Cut until I get fired”), Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer were among the seven-time Cup Series champion’s playful detractors who viewed his new single-seater digs as a fashion faux pas.

According to a story by Jordan Bianchi on The Athletic, Busch took the boot cut seriously when he made his 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona debut. Though he adapted in many ways from his No. 18 Toyota Camry to the No. 14 Lexus RC-F GT3, the two-time Cup champion drew a line in the sand on his attire.

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“The other guys looked like they’re wearing something that they’re getting ready for a flood — looked like underwear, long johns,” Busch told Bianchi. “Where mine look like a pair of pants. I’ve got the regular boot cut on my firesuit, NASCAR style. Theirs are all wrong; mine’s right.”

In the roomier cockpits of stock cars, there is more room for a baggier, flowing uniform that actually can swallow up a driver’s shoes.

Such a luxury isn’t afforded in IndyCar for practical reasons. As Graham Rahal tweeted, any extra material can interfere with manipulating the pedals that are essential to generating speed.

All of this made for a lighthearted and pleasant diversion with IndyCar still idling after its original season opener at St.  Petersburg, Florida, was postponed by more than a month. The April 18 race at Barber Motorsports Park on NBC will raise the curtain on the 2021 season, but there will be preseason media and testing this month and next — including a multiday session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That also could bring us the next “debate” spurred by Johnson, who devilishly noted that the NASCAR handling vernacular of “tight” and “loose” also is falling by the wayside in his big move.