Placing priority on Indy 500, Jimmie Johnson weighed skipping Long Beach with injury

Jimmie Johnson Indy injury
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LONG BEACH, California – Though he will attempt to race through injury in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Jimmie Johnson said the Indy 500 remains the priority.

Mindful of an April 20-21 test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said he contacted “many specialists on the West Coast and East Coast” after fracturing his right hand in a practice accident Friday on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course.

Johnson wanted assurance that he could avoid further damage to his hand during the 85-lap race Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

“I’m more focused on Indy, as much as I want to be here, if I had to give this one up to make sure that I’m ready for (the May 1 race at) Barber (Motorsports Park), the test in two weeks, or the 500, I was willing to forego this,” said Johnson, who considers Long Beach his hometown race having attended numerous times as a frequent fan while growing up in El Cajon, California. “But this morning things started to improve as I worked in the cockpit, worked on the splint. And I’ve ended up in a really good spot with it.”

The No. 48 Dallara-Honda will start 25th of 26 cars with Johnson wearing a carbon fiber splint to support his broken bone.

Despite another shunt with a tire barrier during Saturday morning practice, Johnson said he had no pain while driving, which he credited to the efficacy of the splint designed by Dr. Terry Trammell.

“It’s holding up and doing well,” he told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “I made some mistakes certainly trying to get better in a certain part of the braking zone of the corner. I’m just trying to reel it back in and drive laps that I knew I was capable of there in qualifying and build on that for the race.”

With dozens of family and friends on hand in a trackside suite he rented, Johnson is hoping to match the success of his Long Beach debut last September when he started 27th and finished 17th in the 2021 season finale.

“I’m on damage control with my hand,” he said in a postqualifying video. “I’ll just work my way forward if I can. I’m sure attrition will come into play. Hopefully, my hand will hold up and get me through the race, log laps and gain some points. We’re sitting tied for 10th in the championship, so I want to earn as many points as I can to stay as high in the points as possible.”

Surely, things have to be better on track after an eventful 24 hours at Long Beach for Johnson, who tweeted a video Saturday night encapsulating the saga with a behind-the-scenes look at how his carbon fiber splint was made.

In qualifying Saturday, Johnson lost his two fastest laps after being penalized for obstruction after “a little confusion merging onto the racetrack” resulted in his No. 48 blocking Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“I think it’s a tough spot down there in (Turn) 1,” Rahal, who just missed advancing from the first round of qualifying, told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Jimmie came out, and I was surprised. I thought he was going to stay right and let us through. But at the end of the day, as you can see with (teammate) Jack (Harvey), our cars are not easy to drive. It’s very, very hard to get the lap time out of it. Just got to keep working on it.

“Close call there. That is not the place you like to have it. But Jimmie is going through enough this weekend.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III