Jimmie Johnson says St. Pete was ‘most confident and comfortable I’ve felt in car’

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ST PETERSBURG, Florida – Jimmie Johnson impacted the outcome of an NTT IndyCar Series race Sunday – just not quite the way he eventually wants to as a race contender.

As Johnson fought to stay on the lead lap ahead of race winner Scott McLaughlin, Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou sliced the leader’s gap by nearly 2 seconds and turned the final 12 laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg into a nip and tuck battle.

But though that was the most notable moment of the race for Johnson, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the seven-time NASCAR champion who tweeted he was “as competitive as we’ve ever been” in the 2022 season opener.

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“By far the most confident and comfortable I’ve felt in the car and closest on pace,” Johnson said after finishing a lap down in 23rd of a 26-car field. “Super excited about this race and looking forward to my next street course.”

Though he fell short of his preseason goal to place on the lead lap of every race (after three lead-lap finishes in the last four races of his rookie season), Johnson was satisfied to stay clean over 100 laps on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile track where he finished five laps down and caused two cautions last year.

The opening race weekend of his first full-time IndyCar season got off to a rough start with four spins (none incurring serious damage) over three practice sessions and a mediocre qualifying effort in which Johnson blamed himself for lacking speed.

But things improved Sunday as Johnson raced as high as 12th before having to stay on the softer red tire compound longer than desired when the race dictated strategy changes for his No. 48 Dallara-Honda team.

“For myself, I know the result doesn’t show it, but I think that’s a reflection of the poor qualifying effort I had,” said Johnson, who started last for the first time in 13 starts. “Race pace was in the mid to high teens. I ran there in one part of the race, and unfortunately, the strategy just didn’t work out in our favor.”

Johnson told longtime IndyCar journalist Bruce Martin that he backed up to McLaughlin and Palou because he was in a fuel conservation mode.

“It was good,” Johnson told Martin. “When they asked me to save fuel, they caught me. When they asked me to step it up, I did and held them off. We all caught (rookie) Tatiana Calderon at the same time. I didn’t want to be in the way and affect the race, so I moved and let them go.

“After that, I got behind them.”

But he didn’t stop battling after going a lap down. Third-place finisher Will Power radioed to his team that “it looks like Jimmie’s trying to get a bit of coverage here,” and the Penske driver continued joking afterward about “a good battle between him and I; hope the TV is getting that sponsor for him.

“Jimmie was P3,” Power deadpanned. “Oh hang on, no, he was racing me. Oh, he was a lap down. Sorry, the way he was racing I thought it was for the podium.”

He likely would hear few apologies from Johnson, who told NBC Sports in a preseason interview last month that “the elbows are slowly getting up, and they can be out if I’m running in the top 10 on a more consistent basis.

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“But I also want to be realistic and respectful to others out there. I feel like the ovals might be an area where I’ll be more comfortable and hopefully closer to the pace and running further up the field.”

Johnson will get his first test on an oval in IndyCar with the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway, where he was pleased with a test last summer.

“My goal is to start the season with consistent finishes in the top 15 and then look at the top 10,” he said. “I think road and street courses, top 10s would be a big accomplishment. We get on the ovals, that changes. I clearly haven’t spent a lot of time on the oval yet, but I would think my expectations would be top 10 to start and do better from there.”

Saturday’s Supercross Round 5 in Houston: How to watch, start times, streaming info

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The championship race has tightened up as the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series heads to NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, for Round 5 of the 2023 season.

With his 450 victory in the Anaheim Triple Crown, Chase Sexton has moved within four points of two-time and defending series champion Eli Tomac.

Jason Anderson is coming off a second place in Anaheim after crashing out of the first two rounds while racing in the top five. Ken Roczen earned his first podium last week since the 2022 season opener and the first for Suzuki since Chad Reed at Detroit in 2019.

Here are the pertinent details for watching Round 5 of the 2023 Supercross schedule at NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023:


(All times are ET)

BROADCAST/STREAMING SCHEDULE: TV coverage of Round 5 will begin Saturday at 8 p.m. ET streaming on Peacock and will re-air Monday, Feb. 6 at 1 a.m. on CNBC. The Race Day Live show (including qualifying) will begin on Peacock at 2:30 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports will have exclusive live coverage of races, qualifiers and heats for the record 31 events in SuperMotocross. The main events will be presented on Peacock, NBC, USA Network, CNBC, and NBC Sports digital platforms.

Peacock will become the home of the SuperMotocross World Championship series in 2023 with live coverage of all races, qualifying, and heats from January to October. There will be 23 races livestreamed exclusively on Peacock, including a SuperMotocross World Championship Playoff event. The platform also will provide on-demand replays of every race.

ENTRY LISTS: 450 division l 250 division

EVENT SCHEDULE (all times ET):

Here are the start times for Saturday, according to the Monster Energy Supercross schedule from the AMA:

2:05-2:15 p.m.: 250SX Group C Qualifying 1
2:20-2:30 p.m.: 250SX Group B Qualifying 1
2:35-2:45 p.m.: 250SX Group A Qualifying 1
2:50-3 p.m.: 450SX Group A Qualifying 1
3:05-3:15 p.m.: 450SX Group B Qualifying 1
3:20-3:30 p.m.: 450SX Group C Qualifying 1
4:20-4:30 p.m.: 250SX Group C Qualifying 2
4:35-4:45 p.m.: 250SX Group B Qualifying 2
4:50-5 p.m.: 250SX Group A Qualifying 2
5:05-5:15 p.m.: 450SX Group A Qualifying 2
5:20-5:30 p.m.: 450SX Group B Qualifying 2
5:35-5:45 p.m.: 450SX Group C Qualifying 2
8:06 p.m.: 250SX Heat 1
8:20 p.m.: 250SX Heat 2
8:34 p.m.: 450SX Heat 1
8:48 p.m.: 450SX Heat 2
9:22 p.m.: 250SX Last Chance Qualifier
9:33 p.m.: 450SX Last Chance Qualifier
9:53 p.m.: 250SX Main Event
10:27 p.m.: 450SX Main Event

TRACK LAYOUT:

Click here to view the track map

HOW TO WATCH SUPERMOTOCROSS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON IN 2023Full NBC Sports, Peacock schedule

FINAL 2022 STANDINGS: 450 points standings | 250 East points standings250 West points standings


2023 SEASON RECAPS

ROUND 1: Eli Tomac opens title defense with victory

ROUND 2: Oakland postponed by storms

ROUND 3: Tomac holds off Cooper Webb again

ROUND 4: Chase Sexton wins Anaheim Triple Crown


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