Jimmie Johnson will race Sebring as IMSA schedule expands with Pagenaud, Kobayashi

Jimmie Johnson IMSA Sebring
IMSA
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The Rolex 24 at Daytona won’t be a 2021 sports car one-off for Jimmie Johnson, who will race at Sebring and two more races this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series.

Action Express, which fielded Johnson in the No. 48 Cadillac for the season opener in January, announced Tuesday that the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will compete for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which comprises all the long-distance races in the series. After the Rolex 24, Johnson also will be racing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (on March 20), Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International and Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Johnson will be teamed again in the Ally-sponsored No. 48 with 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and two-time Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi.

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Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships, also tweeted that he would be helping at Sebring after working with the team and other Hendrick Motorsports team members at Daytona. Action Express team manager Gary Nelson confirmed Hendrick will supply pit crew members for the Ally car in the endurance races.

The car, which also included co-driver Mike Rockenfeller, finished runner-up in the Role x24.

“I had such a great experience at the Rolex 24 At Daytona finishing second in the Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R that I want to continue and run the rest of the IMSA long events,” Johnson said in a release. “The whole experience working with the Action Express Racing team, sharing the Ally Cadillac with Simon, Kamui and Mike just made me want to do more racing in the series. The Cadillac DPi-V.R is such a great car to drive. I can’t wait to turn some laps at Sebring, The Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

“Ally was open to the idea, so we are committing to the remaining IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events. It will be a busy year adding these races to my IndyCar commitments, but I am really looking forward to it.”

Johnson has said making laps in the high-downforce sports cars help prepare for his transition to the NTT IndyCar Series. Pagenaud, a sports car champion prior to his 2016 IndyCar title, also is seeking the extra experience.

Jimmie Johnson watches the monitors from the pits during the Rolex 24 (IMSA).

“This is exciting news to be part of the Ally Cadillac Action Express effort in the full IMSA endurance championship.” Pagenaud said. “It’s so great to be able to continue to perform in sportscars, which is where it all began for me and also prepare myself even better for my IndyCar campaign with Team Penske. Finishing second in Daytona left us with a taste for more. I’m looking forward to being on the grid at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta for the big ones with Jimmie and Kamui.”

Said Kobayashi: “I am excited to keep racing with Jimmie, Simon and the Action Express Racing team. There will be some new tracks for me, but I think I will be able to learn the new circuits pretty easily. I will be studying these new circuits on the team videos as well as YouTube. I am looking forward to running the AXR Cadillac at these new tracks. Of course, I will be motivated to do my best to get up to speed very quickly and work on the set-up of the car.”

Team manager Gary Nelson said Johnson’s commitment, drive and passion were evident at Daytona.

“Everyone involved with the Ally Cadillac program at the Rolex 24 had a great experience,” Nelson said in a release. “I don’t think Jimmie slept. Every time I went to the engineering stand, he was sitting there observing, watching over the shoulders of our technical staff. All of the drivers contributed to a strong second-place finish.

“At the Rolex 24 we were honored to get support from Chad Knaus and several of the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew members. We are excited that we will be getting that help again for the remaining Endurance events and appreciate the commitment from Rick (Hendrick). We are looking forward to running the car at the three remaining IMSA endurance races and seeing how we come out in the season ending standings come October.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024
IndyCar
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An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”