Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 8: A big bump but still having a blast in Nashville

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson Nashville
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NASHVILLE — Summarizing another eventful weekend in the NTT IndyCar Series, this time on the chaotic streets of the Music City Grand Prix, Jimmie Johnson had a point to make about his rookie season.

“I think so many people are used to me leading races, racing for wins and championships, and they may not give this series, or this switch, as much credit as it deserves just how difficult it is,” the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “But I’m having a blast, learning a ton. Every week I’m getting better and better. But unfortunately, I can’t run all the laps here today.”

That was because of the last of three incidents involving Johnson’s No. 48 Dallara-Honda, which suffered a damaged transmission during a multicar accident in Turn 11 on a Lap 19 restart.

Jimmie Johnson’s car is towed into the paddock after a warmup session crash Sunday morning (George Walker IV / Tennessean/USA TODAY Sports Images).

Johnson was relegated to a 26th-place finish after his team was disqualified for unapproved work under the red flag by IndyCar officials.

The Chip Ganassi Racing paddock and pit lane had been a blizzard of activity for several hours leading up to that penalty. After a wreck with two minutes left in a 20-minute warmup session, the team scrambled to prepare a backup car and got Johnson buckled in just before the green flag.

“Exciting day,” Johnson said. “Sadly, the car bottomed really bad approaching Turn 4 (after exiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge) in the warmup session and lifted the rear tires off the ground. I had a spectacular spin and crash. The team just worked their guts out to get the car — a new car, mind you — ready for me to race today.

Jimmie Johnson’s team scrambled to prepare a backup car before Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix (George Walker IV / Tennessean/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“We seemed to find our groove and get going and worked my way up a few spots. Caution came out, we left pit lane in the middle of the pack. Got back up to speed. And the guys in front of me had an issue going into Turn 11. I really felt like I had the accident missed and had some contact from behind. That contact damaged the shifting linkage for the transmission and ultimately put us out of the race.”

It put a damper on a weekend that had started well as Johnson posted solid lap times in practices Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. But he failed to register a qualifying speed after spinning on his out lap, which he attributed to an improper braking technique on cold tires.

“That’s a lesson learned,” he said. “What a bummer. I had a great (Saturday) in practice and really had been enjoying the Nashville GP course. And just on my out lap trying to get the tires up to temp, I was too aggressive into Turn 10. Locked the inside front tire. Found the inside wall and didn’t get to participate in qualifying.

So another rookie lesson learned. I was out on scuffed tires and filed away an important lesson learned with that experience.”

Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta talks Sunday with Mario Andretti and Jimmie Johnson before the Music City Grand Prix (George Walker IV / Tennessean/USA TODAY Sports Images).

NEXT: Johnson will be making a return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Aug. 14. The 12th round of the 2021 season will be at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) as part of a weekend tripleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup series.

Johnson also will be testing in late August at Homestead-Miami Speedway as he prepares for a possible Indy 500 attempt next year.


JOHNSON’S ROOKIE SEASON

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

RACE 6: One critical mistake at Road America

RACE 7: An enjoyable ride at “awesome” Mid-Ohio

‘HE’S GOING TO GET THERE’: An inside look at Jimmie Johnson’s rookie season at the halfway mark

In eight starts, Johnson has completed 535 of 630 laps with an average start of 23.4 and an average finish of 22.5.