Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 12: A solid Long Beach homecoming to end year

IndyCar Jimmie Johnson Long Beach
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

LONG BEACH, California — Tying a career-best for the second consecutive race, Jimmie Johnson closed out his rookie season Sunday in the NTT IndyCar Series with his biggest in-race improvement yet.

After starting 27th of 28 cars in the Acura Long Beach of Grand Prix, the Southern California native finished 17th and on the lead lap for the third time in four races (after finishing a lap down in his first eight IndyCar starts).

An entourage of 80 friends, family and sponsor VIPs were on hand to watch the No. 48 Dallara-Honda in the 2021 season finale.

“So many lessons learned, so many amazing experiences had through the course of this year,” Johnson, 45, said about making the transition after 19 seasons and seven championships in the NASCAR Cup Series. “Certainly, my growth through the season was something I’m very proud of and felt very competitive and racy. Had a nice couple of races to close out the season and actually raced our way to 22nd in points (Sunday), so I’m very proud with my last few passes that I made in the race here at Long Beach and then to see the team have the success it has with all three teammates winning races. And of course, the championship going to Alex (Palou).

“Very proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing. Very proud to be in the IndyCar Series and very excited for 2022.”

Next season is expected to include an Indy 500 debut for Johnson, who will be taking his first IndyCar laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in an Oct. 8 tire test.

His car will be shed of the neon stripe that he carried as a rookie, which he playfully removed at Long Beach (as part of a series of social videos that also included fellow rookies Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin).

2021 Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach
Jimmie Johnson drove from 27th to 17th in the Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach (Greg Doherty/Getty Images).

Johnson said before the race that “truth be told, I thought where I am now (in performance) is where I would have started the season and just wasn’t the case. I feel good about my growth. I know in my heart there’s nothing else I could have done. The team has supported me. I’ve been working my tail off. It’s just taken a while to get it to click like I need it to, and it’s finally coming.”

The seven-time NASCAR champion said “a really good goal” is becoming a consistent top-10 finisher during his second year in IndyCar.

“In order to do that I’ve got to qualify better,” he said. “My race pace has been pretty strong for a few races now. It’s just starting so far behind. The way the cars get strung out, and how hard it is to pass. If you took my race speed and put me in 10th or 15th, I’d maintain. So I’ve got to figure how to qualify better and start there and stay there.”

NEXT: Johnson will be testing Oct. 8 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, likely completing the Rookie Orientation Program in anticipation of making his Indy 500 debut next May.


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

RACE 10: Solid weekend and winning assist in Portland

RACE 11: Career-best finish and a big moment at Laguna Seca

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

In 12 starts, Johnson completed 909 of 1,005 laps with an average start of 23.6 and an average finish of 21.1 (two DNFs).

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,

SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.