Jimmie Johnson will be part of NBC Sports’ studio coverage for the 105th Indy 500

Jimmie Johnson NBC Indy 500
Mark Brown/Getty Images
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INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson will make his first Indy 500 start this year after all — just with an NBC TV crew, not on the racetrack.

NBC Sports said Tuesday it will use Johnson for studio coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on both race day and qualifying weekend. The race is May 30 on NBC.

The seven-time NASCAR champion is now an IndyCar rookie running only the road and street courses, a decision that has sidelined Johnson for the four ovals on the schedule including the Indianapolis 500. He’s never before attended an Indy 500.

“To say I am excited for May in Indianapolis is an understatement,” Johnson said. “I absolutely cannot wait to take it all in.”

Johnson made his IndyCar debut last month in Alabama and has completed two races on the schedule. He races the road course at Indianapolis on May 15 and then will transition into a television analyst for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Johnson will work from the “Peacock Pit Box” alongside NBC Sports analyst Steve Letarte, who also will be making his Indy 500 debut. Letarte primarily works on NBC’s NASCAR coverage and earlier this season returned to his old job as Cup crew chief for one race with Spire Motorsports.

Coverage of the May 30 race will again by anchored in the studio by NBC Sports host Mike Tirico, who will be joined by Danica Patrick for a third consecutive year. Patrick is the first woman to lead laps at Indianapolis and the first woman to earn a top-five finish.

“I look forward to the experience more every year. In fact, it’s similar to the way it felt driving, as time passes, the gravity of the event becomes greater,” she said.

The race will be called for the third consecutive year by NBC Sports’ lead IndyCar team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy in the booth, with pit reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be part of the pre-race coverage and motorsports reporter Rutledge Wood will provide on-site reports around the speedway. NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth will make his Indy 500 debut as host of pre-race coverage on NBCSN.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)