Jimmie Johnson open to running Indy 500 in 2022 as he showcases lighter side in new ads

Jimmie Johnson Indy 500 2022
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson, with wisps of gray in his beard, is a 45-year-old rookie in the IndyCar Series ready to reintroduce himself (and possibly as an Indy 500 driver in 2022).

He’s a windbag, a craft-o-maniac, a guy who goes, is really into eggs and keeps things fresh.

Those are just some of the labels that Carvana has tagged on Johnson during a series of seven spots highlighting the online car dealer’s first partnership with a professional athlete. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion begins his official transition to IndyCar this weekend with Sunday’s season opener at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama with three ads debuting during the NBC broadcast (which will begin at 3 p.m. ET Sunday).

This won’t be the vanilla version of Johnson fans became accustomed to during 19 Cup Series seasons driving for buttoned-up Hendrick Motorsports. Those who know Johnson away from his day job always have decried his image, insisting he’s actually a hard-partying daredevil who never shies away from a bad idea.

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Carvana, which is new to motorsports with its Johnson sponsorship and has a light sports marketing portfolio, decided to use Johnson’s true personality in making its ad campaign for the IndyCar season. It hired The Malloy Brohters for the spots, and Johnson already knew both Brendan Malloy and Emmett Malloy through other connections.

He was comfortable when the Malloys came to him about using a laxative to demonstrate how quickly Carvana can complete a car sale, or eating seven hard-boiled eggs for the seven-day test it out policy. Johnson even bedazzled a pair of jeans to demonstrate personalized financing options.

So who is this loose and easy-going Johnson (who has been more active than ever on social media)? Same guy he always was.

“You know, this is just what I’ve figured in my own head and I’ve got nothing to back it up, but I’ve given people a reason to hate me for so many years, right?” Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I was Jeff Gordon’s hand-picked guy and there was a crowd I was never going to win over. Then in my final year, people were like `OK, it’s his last year, he’s been here a long time, we’re not going to cheer him but we’re give him some credit.’ Now that I am not there, I wonder if there’s a fan base that has finally decided, `Alright, he’s cool. He’s served his time. I respect him for doing something different.’ I don’t know, but there’s some kind of shift going on and people are finally starting to lighten up about me.”

The road ahead won’t be easy for Johnson as he unlearns two decades of driving a heavy stock car and adapts to a nimble, open-wheel machine against drivers half his age. Johnson is slated to drive just the 12 road and street course events on the IndyCar schedule for Chip Ganassi Racing with Tony Kanaan picking up the five oval races in the No. 48.

His barometers have so far only been in testing with his first true action this weekend at Barber.

“I’ve got a lot of territory to cover yet and a lot of things I haven’t done yet. I haven’t had any practice yet, and I have to be honest with myself, I haven’t been through a race weekend yet,” Johnson said. “I haven’t qualified a car. I haven’t seen a track truly evolve. I’ve never been on a red tire, I’ve never been in traffic. I’ve not passed a car. I’ve not done a start or a restart. I’ve not done an in or an out yet lap. I just have so much stuff to learn.”

And yet he’s excited. The challenge has invigorated him. Johnson won 83 Cup races and a record-tying seven titles but went winless his final three seasons. Pushing himself in a new formula has been galvanizing.

He’s found fresh energy in the IndyCar paddock. The NASCAR routine sees many drivers rush to the airport after the race. In IndyCar, they often stick around for parties or wine-fueled dinners.

Johnson has said for years that the Indianapolis 500 is off the table – in part because his wife doesn’t approve of the dangers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but that stance seems to be softening. He recently said he was impressed with the aeroscreen, the cockpit safety device introduced last season by IndyCar.

He’s a no for the race next month but told AP that 2022 is no longer off the table.

“I need to test on an oval, that’s the first step, and I’ve let the team know that’s certainly the first step I need to do to work through this process,” Johnson said. “I think a year in this sport certainly is going to help myself in understanding the risks. Chani really looks to me to where my gut is on these things and the journey where I’ve taken her on how safe Indy cars are… we’re both tracking in the same direction and she’s like, `Go try one on an oval, go see what you think.’ ”

Until then, he will go to Alabama this weekend and then look to his very first street course, in St. Petersburg, Florida, in following his childhood dreams. IndyCar is what Johnson wanted to race growing up watching hero Rick Mears but his path instead took him to NASCAR.

Now he gets his chance after a full career and no reason not to start anew.

“I’m nervous and excited. Some days more nervous than excited, but I dig this,” Johnson said. “I love the accountability of fear and excitement and fear and all that goes with it, and putting in the time and learning all about the process everywhere I can right now.”

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports