Jimmie Johnson says ‘fun meter is pegged’ despite bringing up rear in IndyCar practice

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson practice
Chip Ganassi Racing

Being the slowest of 24 drivers was no drag on Jimmie Johnson during his debut in an NTT IndyCar Series practice Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.

In a brief interview provided by Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson said the morning session was “amazing” after completing 22 laps in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda (tied with Graham Rahal for most in the session.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion had a couple of early moments briefly running off course, but the practice was “uneventful” otherwise for Johnson as he was “just kind of building my own way into things.

“What a rush, though,” said Johnson, who went faster in the second practice but still was last on the speed chart. “These cars are so physical, so demanding. It’s not two or three laps in, and the tongue’s hanging out, panting, just wrestling this monster around the racetrack.

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“So the fun meter is pegged, to say the least. Very excited to have this opportunity in the Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar.”

Johnson still was having fun after qualifying 21st for Sunday’s race, joking on Twitter that he accomplished his goal of avoiding last.

“This smile is not going to go away,” he said Saturday night in a video clip provided by IndyCar. “What an amazing day. Didn’t qualify last, so that’s a really good thing and a small victory for me in this journey. Today was full of firsts, red tires, qualifying session, race weekend. Just the different layers that exist.

“And I survived the day. Had a lot of fun. And really excited about my first race tomorrow. We’re back on track in the morning with the warmup session, again something new and something I’ve not been through before. Dial in our race setup and then we go racing tomorrow and have a lot of fun in that Carvana Honda.”

Alex Palou, Johnson’s new teammate at Ganassi, led the first session at 1 minute, 6.4721 seconds around the permanent road course, followed by Colton Herta (1:06.4897), Josef Newgarden (1:06.4957), Scott Dixon (1:06.5524) and Pato O’Ward (1:06.6281).

In the afternoon session, Alexander Rossi set the fastest time of the day (1:06.0797) while the Ganassi cars remained quick with Marcus Ericsson, Dixon and Palou claiming the top three spots. Former Ganassi driver Felix Rosenqvist was fifth, rebounding from an incident in the first session.

In an extremely tight session (with a second separating the top 17), Rossi managed to be 0.1393 seconds ahead of Ericsson.

PRACTICE AT BARBER: First session Second session l Combined results

“We have to do the job later on, so it’s good,” Rossi told NBC Sports’ Kelli Stavast. It was difficult there. Every new tire run, whether black or reds, got interrupted. But ultimately from when we rolled off I was happy with the 27 Napa Andretti Honda.

“It’s all good right now. We just have to see how the track evolves. It’s hotter now than it was this morning. It’s going to start cooling off again come qualifying and not react too much how it was right there. Overall we’re in a decent position for (qualifying).”

Alexander Rossi smiles while practicing Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

It was an eventful afternoon session, which saw three red flags for Dalton Kellett, Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden, who had a half-spin late in the session after having his steering wheel pop off earlier while on track.

The worst crash was for Herta, who was OK after sliding off course and through the sand into the Turn 2 barrier.

“I just went too fast,” Herta told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “The tires weren’t up to temp and a little bit of a silly move by me to try to push that hard at that point in the run on the first lap. So yeah, it bit me, and that sucks because we won’t get to try the red tires now, but five teammates to go over with and check their data on the red tires.”

Newgarden avoided damage to his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet but ranking 14th in the afternoon session was frustrating for the two-time IndyCar champion who has a series-high three victories at Barber (the site of his first win in 2014).

“It was just messy,” Newgarden told Snider. “It didn’t start well. We had some steering wheel issues with the collar and it popped off in the backstretch because it was loose, and I was trying to put it back on, and the reverse happened. Thankfully everyone avoided me. Not a fun situation.

“Then we got into the session. We weren’t great to start with, and I felt we got better in the second run on black tires. Then we took another swing and weren’t very good on reds, but I think the capability of the car is really strong. We’re just not getting it together. Messy session. One of those days you put that behind you and try to figure out the right combo, and we’ll come back fresh in qualifying and hopefully execute a little better.”

Alex Palou made his IndyCar practice debut Saturday with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 10 Dallara-Honda (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

Things went much better for Palou, who will make his first start with Ganassi after a rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing.

“It’s amazing to be back racing, amazing to be in Barber,” Palou told Stavast in between sessions. “I love this place. Still only free practice 1, but it’s the best way to start.

“(Sunday’s race) is going to be really tricky. This is probably the toughest track, and 92 laps are going to be brutal. I’ve been training a lot.”

Johnson’s best lap in the first session was 1:07.9509, putting him behind Max Chilton (1:07.7654).

In the afternoon session, Johnson ran 39 laps and improved his time to 1:07.8821, which still ranked last among the 24 drivers (Rahal was next at 107.4681).

Jimmie Johnson waits in his No. 48 Carvana Dallara-Honda on pit late during practice at Barber Motorsports Park (Chip Ganassi Racing).

The only red flag was in the morning session was for Rosenqvist, who had a minor collision with the wall on pit entry.

“I was coming into the pits and wasn’t actually going that fast I was just trying to put my pit speed limiter on while I was turning into the little kink leading into pit lane,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “The steering wheel kind of just flipped out of my hands. Really awkward. Stupid mistake.

“It’s what it is. It wasn’t really a matter of trying to push for anything. The heaviness of the steering in these cars. Sometimes you can’t hold one hand on the wheel without losing it. Once I lost it, I couldn’t get it back.”

Rosenqvist, who has moved to Arrow McLaren SP this season from Ganassi, told Burns that repairs would be “relatively simple,” and the car would be ready for a 2:40 p.m ET practice. Qualifying is at 5:55 p.m. ET.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Detroit


The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.

Supercross Results Detroit
Justin Barcia was part of an exciting, four-rider battle in the middle of Detroit’s A-Main. – Feld Motor Sports

For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.

Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Overall Results; Click here for 250 Overall Results

One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.

Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.

It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.

Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.

Plessinger’s fall took the wind from his sails. He attempted to right his bike after a hard crash, but as it smoked and pinged, he dropped to 13th in the final rundown.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.

Supercross Results Detroit
Strong starts have been one of the keys to Hunter Lawrence’s success in 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.

Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.

Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.

Rounding out the top five is Chris Blose, who was pressed into service at the start of the season because of a rash of injuries at Pro Circuit Kawasaki. This is Blose’s first top-five of the season, although he’s steadily improved over the past five rounds.

Click here for 250 Overall results | 250 East Rider Points | 250 Combined Rider Points

Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.

The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.

2023 Results

Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Tomac, H Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Tomac, J Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, J Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 8: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Cooper Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s