Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 2: Two cautions at St. Pete GP but still ‘had a blast’


Sunday’s street course debut for Jimmie Johnson might have been his toughest day in the NTT IndyCar Series. But the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series reminded that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg also marked only his 10th day behind the wheel of the No. 48 Dallara-Honda (because of IndyCar’s restrictive testing policy, Johnson has turned to sports cars and junior formula cars for extra laps).

Given that history, the perspective shifts about finishing five laps down in 22nd while grappling with the sketchy and unforgiving confines of the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit.

Regardless, it didn’t dim the boundless enthusiasm of Johnson, who tweeted after qualifying 23rd of 24th that his “fun meter was at 11” for his new venture in auto racing.

RULING THE STREETS: Colton Herta leads 97 of 100 laps in victory

STATS PACKAGEFull results, points after St. Pete

“Exciting day for me here in St. Pete,” Johnson said in a short postrace video. “Unfortunately, I made two mistakes on older tires.”

The first came when he went off course into the Turn 13 runoff area on Lap 15.

After gently tapping a tire barrier, Johnson initially seemed well-positioned to return quickly to the track. But he was unable to put the car into reverse, which necessitated a full-course yellow two laps later.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Jimmie Johnson was a part of two caution flags in a 22nd-place finish in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Mark Brown/Getty Images).

“I could feel the car losing some grip and being a little more difficult to drive, but I thought I could stay on top of it, and just got behind into 13 and locked up the fronts,” he said.

The next misstep came on Lap 73 when Johnson spun in Turn 3 and made light left-front contact with the wall. He was able to continue without assistance this time, but the yellow still flew.

“I had a really loose car through the high-speed stuff and it got away from me,” he said. “Both situations, we needed to put a new wing on the front but was able to get it back out and get going. At different points, there certainly were some bright spots, and the pace was there by really putting together the run from cold tires to old tires, something I need to work on.”

There were some major gains over the weekend as Johnson made nearly 170 laps over three days and shaved about 4 seconds off his pace (he still was about 1-1.5 seconds off the race pace) while continuing to understand the nuances of the two tire compounds used for street and road courses.

Perhaps the biggest moment was picking up a second from practice and outqualifying Dalton Kellett for the second consecutive race.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Jimmie Johnson straps into qualify Saturday for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Mark Brown/Getty Images).

“I’m feeling really much more in tune with the car,” he said. “The repetition of one week to the next and the flow. It’s starting to finally sink in and help me out.”

Some of the greatest comfort has come off the track.

Johnson spent the weekend in an urban vacation hot spot with his wife and two daughters, enjoying breakfasts in upscale cafes in downtown St. Petersburg and then walking to work.

Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times that on Friday morning he turned to his wife, Chandra, and said “normally we’d be sitting in Talladega right now, starting outside the motorhome window at the same patch of grass we’ve looked at for 20 years.”

No wonder the smile still remained after his “worst” day yet in IndyCar.

“I had a blast here in my first street race,” Johnson said. “It is more physical and more difficult than these drivers ever make it look, so a huge credit to all of them and how easy they make this look.”

NEXT: After a week off while Tony Kanaan takes over the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for the May 1-2 doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson will return for the May 15 race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

RACE 1: How Jimmie fared in the season opener

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead


With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.

In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list