Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 6: The learning curve continues at Road America


Jimmie Johnson knew his rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series would be an ongoing education, and Road America was another edifying experience for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Johnson finished 22nd of 25 drivers Sunday in his No. 48 Dallara-Honda. He also spun in Turn 7 to cause a yellow on Lap 16 (the fifth caution flag he has been involved in through six starts this season).

Though he placed a spot ahead of where he qualified Saturday, the race seemed more of a slog for Johnson, who had shown flashes of speed in practice after entering the race weekend at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course with experience from having tested.

“For me a very good Father’s Day,” he said. “Unfortunately, one mistake made at the exit of turn 7 really cost me and got me a lap down. Once you’re a lap down on these road courses, there’s really no way to recover from that.

“But a lot of laps logged, a lot learned and sooner or later, I’ll get a good clean race and I think our results will be much better than what we posted the last few finishes. But on to Mid-Ohio. Can’t wait to get back in this Carvana Honda and do it again.”

After tweeting Saturday “had been a good day,” Johnson summed up Road America in a Monday tweet as “learn*ing – the acquistion of knowledge or skills through experience, study or by being taught.”

It might have been better if Johnson had been able to start slightly higher on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course that struck his eye. Johnson said he had trouble getting a handle on the two sets of red tires that he ran for two laps apiece in qualifying.

“I really didn’t get into the rhythm at the peak of the tire,” he said. “Just didn’t get all I could out of the car. A few little mistakes here and there. But live and learn. I think one long session probably would have been best for me, and I could have been another second or so faster.

“We’ll take it. And every lap right now makes such a big difference for me and my confidence and ability in the car. We’ll keep plugging along.”

Jimmie Johnson with his family on the grid at Road America (James Black/IndyCar).

Though Sunday was a less than stellar result, Johnson did get to celebrate in victory lane as Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou scored his second victory of the season and retook the points lead with seven races left in the season.

Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

NEXT: Johnson will be making his debut July 4 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The 10th round of the 2021 season will be at noon ET (NBC).

Johnson’s schedule also was shortened by a race this week with news that IndyCar won’t replace the Toronto race (which was scrubbed for the second consecutive season because of the COVID-19 pandemic). That leaves 12 street and road courses for Johnson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team.


The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is racing 12 road and street course events this year. Here’s how he has fared in previous races:

RACE 1: How Jimmie fared in the season opener

RACE 2: Rough day at the office in St. Petersburg

RACES 4-5: A challenging weekend at the Detroit Grand Prix

In six starts, Johnson has completed 438 of 470 laps with an average start of 22.8 and an average finish of 22nd.
AUTO: JUN 18 INDYCAR - Road America
Jimmie Johnson finished 22nd at Road America (Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.