Jimmie Johnson enjoyed another solid weekend in the NTT IndyCar Series at Portland — 20th with his second consecutive lead-lap finish for the first time — but his biggest impact might have been outside the No. 48 Dallara-Honda.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou credited Johnson with some title mentoring after his victory at Portland International Raceway to recapture the points lead.
“Jimmie has been a really big help for me I have to say,” Palou suddenly volunteered during his winner’s news conference Sunday about his relationship with the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion (who also stopped by during the podium celebration). “After the Indy road course (race last month where Palou suffered an engine failure), I sat with him, and he was telling me that he was on his NASCAR career he had moments like that and that he still won. He told me some tricks. He did the same after Gateway, and hopefully we can get a championship home.”
What kind of tricks?
“I’m not going to tell you,” Palou said with a grin.
While dispensing tips to the championship leader (the No. 10 driver leads by 25 points with two races remaining), Johnson also might need some advice to keep progressing in the last two starts of his rookie season at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.
Though he has closed the gap to the fastest cars and is comfortable with battling for position (as he did Sunday with Sebastien Bourdais), improvements have become more nuanced after 10 starts on road and street courses.
“Unfortunately, I may be stacking nickels, and I wish I was stacking quarters or more,” he said after posting back-to-back top 20 finishes for the first time. “But I closed up the gap so far, now it’s just down to those fine details, and it’s just going to take more reps to really get myself closer to the front of the pack.”
NEXT: Johnson will be racing at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway, where he had one of his first test sessions last year shortly after his last NASCAR race. The 15th round of the 2021 IndyCar season will be at 3 p.m. ET (NBC) on Sept. 19.
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
RACE 8: A big bump but still having a blast in Nashville
RACE 9: Back home again and feeling racy in Indy
‘HE’S GOING TO GET THERE’: An inside look at Jimmie Johnson’s rookie season at the halfway mark
In 10 starts, Johnson has completed 730 of 825 laps with an average start of 23.1 and an average finish of 21.9.