Jimmie Johnson said Tuesday he is aiming to make his NTT IndyCar Series oval test debut in late August at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earlier this month, Johnson told NBC Sports that he wanted to test at either Homestead or Texas Motor Speedway.
The test is needed in the next two months so he can run in a fall tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and complete the Rookie Orientation Program that is required to race in next year’s 500.
“We’re looking at a Homestead test in August,” Johnson said during a Zoom news conference Tuesday. “Last I heard, things were heading in that direction for late August.”
Johnson also said Tuesday that he texted Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean about his oval test debut at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Grosjean also originally had committed to running exclusively on road and street courses during his rookie season in IndyCar.
In seven starts on street and road courses, Johnson has a best finish of 19th. His only top 20 came in the opening round at Barber Motorsports Park, and he has yet to finish on the lead lap.
But the lure of the Indy 500 may prove to be too strong to ignore for 2022. This year, Johnson served as an analyst for NBC Sports’ coverage of the iconic race.
“Ultimately, I’m trying to understand the safety level of the Indy car on the ovals,” Johnson said. “That’s the part that’s worrying me as a father of two and a deal I made with my wife a long time ago about the Indy 500. I’ve kind of watched the ovals and really never thought that I could be out there.
“But then participating this year as a television commentator and being around the sport all season long like I have, seeing a few big crashes at the Brickyard and speaking to the drivers after, I’m becoming much more comfortable with the ovals and with the crash dynamics that take place with softer walls, the halo, the aeroscreen, the tub of the car.
“Yes, I need to go make laps and need to understand what that experience is like, but ultimately I’m just trying to understand the safety level of the car, and as I get more comfortable with that, my participation level on ovals will increase.”
With the prevalence of ovals in the NASCAR Cup series, Johnson may well find that discipline to be more comfortable than racing open wheel cars on road courses.
In the videoconference, Johnson indicated that it was a violent crash in qualification by Ganassi teammate Alex Palou at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that may well have changed his opinion of the safety of these cars on ovals.
“He was fine; he walked away,” Johnson said. “That was a big checkmark for me.”