Rain cuts short Indy 500 rookie test for Jimmie Johnson, Romain Grosjean

Johnson Grosjean Indy 500 test rain
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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The Indy 500 rookie test for Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean was cut short by rain after multiple delays Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The session started shortly after 10:30 a.m. ET (which had been moved up from an originally scheduled noon start because of the threat of inclement weather). According to the NTT IndyCar Series, Johnson was about halfway through Phase I of the Rookie Orientation Program, and Grosjean had yet to begin his ROP when rain caused the first stoppage after less than 30 minutes.

The test was restarted shortly after 3 p.m. ET, but the day was cut short just before 5 p.m. by another shower. Both drivers were able to complete the first two phases of the ROP. Grosjean is two laps short of finishing the third and final phase, and Johnson needs 10 more laps for completion.

The ROP, which is mandatory for any Indianapolis 500 rookie, requires drivers to achieve three levels of speed incrementally around the 2.5-mile track. Phase I is 10 laps at 205-210 mph, Phase II is 15 laps at 210-215 mph, and Phase III is 15 laps at more than 215 mph.

In a Twitter video, Johnson said he had made laps between 206 to 208 mph in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda with Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi driving consultant Dario Franchitti, a three-time Indy 500 winner, was on hand at the test to help Johnson.

“It’s certainly much different than what I’ve ever experienced around this track,” said the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who won the Brickyard 400 four times on the IMS oval. “Just trying to get my eyes used to the speed. Certainly a different feel in the car without power steering. Just the sense of the car is a lot different. A lot lighter vehicle. Much more reactive than what I’ve had here in the past.

“Just taking it in, enjoying it, and look forward to getting back on the racetrack once the weather moves through and complete my rookie orientation.”

As of 1 p.m. ET, track drying efforts were under way at IMS.

Jimmie Johnson begins his Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

After running a 12-race schedule of road and street courses as a rookie in 2021, Johnson was making his IndyCar debut on an oval.

Grosjean also focused on road and street courses last season. He made his oval debut at World Wide Technology Raceway in August. The IMS test marked his debut with Andretti Autosport, which he will join for a full season in 2022.

Before making laps Wednesday, Johnson made light of having to reapply the rookie stripe to his car after he removed it following the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach season finale last month.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024
IndyCar
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An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”