Jimmie Johnson exploring oval testing options to prepare for Indy 500 in 2022

Jimmie Johnson Indy 500
Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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With the cancellation of the IndyCar round at Toronto, there will be no race added for Jimmie Johnson – but work continues toward a possible Indy 500 debut next year.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion told NBC Sports that he wants to test at either Texas Motor Speedway or Homestead-Miami Speedway during the next two months so he can run in an anticipated fall tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and complete the Rookie Orientation Program that is required to race in the Indy 500.

“We’re trying to set up a test for me to run a big oval so that I could then go to the Brickyard for the fall tire test that typically happens and go through my Rookie Orientation,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “And we’re trying to find either Texas or Homestead. I need to run one of those two first before I can go to the ROP at the Brickyard in the fall.”

Toronto was canceled in May, and IndyCar announced last week that the event won’t be replaced after considering the addition of a second race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (where the series will race Sunday at noon ET on NBC).

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Johnson was slated to run the 13 street and road courses this season in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda with primary sponsorship from Carvana. With the Toronto Grand Prix being scrubbed last week for the second consecutive year (because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions), he now is halfway through a 12-race slate. Of IndyCar’s remaining seven races, Johnson will miss only the Aug. 21 race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (which is a 1-mile oval).

“My Carvana agreement really did just cover the races in the U.S.,” said Johnson, who has a two-year deal at Chip Ganassi Racing with Carvana backing. “Toronto was going to be picked up by NTT. So I don’t have that pressure, and the team can certainly handle the NTT side and fulfill that obligation in another way. So right now, it just looks like 12 this year.”

Johnson initially had reservations about racing IndyCar on ovals. But since working as an analyst for NBC Sports at the Indy 500 and growing comfortable with the safety enhancement of the aeroscreen (which was introduced last year), his enthusiasm has spiked for racing the Indy 500 and on ovals in the future.

“The better that I do, the more Jimmie is going to want to get in the car,” Tony Kanaan, who was hired to drive the No. 48 on ovals the next two years, said with a laugh last month at Indy.