Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 1: ‘Very happy to have finished’ in debut at Barber


Being the gracious sort, it didn’t take long – roughly 30 seconds into his first answer — for Jimmie Johnson to pivot into discussing the other IndyCar driver who made his debut Sunday with Chip Ganassi Racing at Barber Motorsports Park.

“A huge congratulations to Alex,” Johnson said, steering an interview with NBC Sports’ Dave Burns toward race winner Alex Palou, his 24-year-old teammate at Ganassi. “Kid is on it. And clearly showed he can get it done today. First off, he’s just an amazing guy. And to be his age with so much talent and so much wisdom in speaking with him is something that’s very impressive to me.

“We did have a good laugh the other day where he informed me that I’m older than his father, so I’ve been picking on him a bit since then.”

PALOU BREAKS THROUGH: First IndyCar victory for Spaniard

STATS PACKAGEFull results and points standings after the season opener

Johnson probably doesn’t need any more reminders of his age as a 45-year-old rookie trying to acclimate to the highly competitive NTT IndyCar Series. But the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion seemed to find his race weekend debut for Ganassi as a much more exhilarating than exasperating experience despite some mistakes and a lack of pace (that had been completely expected).

“Very happy to have finished,” he said.

Jimmie Johnson in his No. 48 Dallara-Honda (Chris Owens/IndyCar)

After qualifying 21st (in a moral victory) out of 24 drivers, Johnson was 19th Sunday.

But unlike some other big names (such as two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta), Johnson at least completed the vast majority of the race (87 of 90 laps) and reacted well from “two pretty scary moments” in the opening 10 laps.

The first was the Lap 1 crash started by Newgarden that left a debris field covering Turn 5. Johnson managed to avoid damaging his No. 48 Dallara-Honda while slamming the brakes. “There was chaos,” he said. “I bounced off a few cars, but nothing really happened to mine evidently, so was very fortunate there.”

Johnson was less lucky on Lap 9 while climbing the hill into Turn 13. Rinus VeeKay had whooshed past, and Johnson lost control in the wake. He was able to keep his car rolling under yellow but lost a lap, putting him on the defensive and in deference to lead-lap cars for the rest of the race.

But it was still “a ton of learning experiences” for Johnson, who got confused on making anti-roll bar adjustments in the cockpit and had to be coached via radio from the timing stand through the knobs and switches to reverse the changes.

“I got it tuned in, and my pace picked right back up,” he said. “I just can’t say too many times just how different this is, and how specialized this craft is, and how good these drivers are in this series.”

Six-time champion teammate Scott Dixon, who finished third, maintained that Johnson should be given until 2022 to be evaluated.

Jimmie Johnson said he accomplished one goal this weekend by avoiding being last in qualifying (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

“Again, I couldn’t think of anything more difficult than what he’s trying to accomplish,” Dixon said. “It takes time to progress, and once you get some laps, and even this year with limited schedules that we have on track time and tires, it just becomes very hard. You want to push, but then you also don’t want to crash the car. So it’s a very fine balance.

“Without the spin I think (Johnson) would have been a lot better off. He beat five cars. That’s awesome.”

Said team owner Chip Ganassi of Johnson: “What a great leader he is. What a great guy. Really makes me mad to know what I was up against in NASCAR all those years. Now I understand why he won seven championships. The guy is the hardest worker I know. And he never stops. He’s having a great time. He’s got a hill to climb, but he’s going to do it.”

Next week, Johnson will be in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – his first time on a tight street course with hardly any margin for error. But he was buoyed by surviving two hours at Barber, which is considered the most punishing and physically demanding track on the circuit because of its fresh pavement.

“I could have gone a few more laps,” he said. “I wasn’t totally taxed, and the training’s been working well, so I’ll heal up and get ready for St. Pete.”

Johnson said two of his biggest areas of improvement are positioning for the initial start (which was tricky as cars fanned out around him) and on restarts.

“But I learned a lot,” he said. “It exceeded expectations and was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to go again next week.”

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

FLAVOR FLAV POWERS UP: Iconic rapper hangs out with Team Penske

Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.