Jimmie Johnson OK after second Long Beach crash; still plans to race with fractured hand

Jimmie Johnson injury IndyCar
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LONG BEACH, California – Jimmie Johnson still plans to drive in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach despite an injury to his right hand and another practice wreck Saturday.

Driving with a small splint to mobilize the ring and pinky fingers on his fractured right hand, Johnson slid into a tire barrier with 12 minutes remaining in the morning session.

Johnson said he felt no pain in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda cockpit and still plans to qualify and race in his hometown race. A care center X-ray showed his bones were more aligned, which Johnson credited to a splint built by Dr. Terry Trammell.

“I had no pain really on track,” said Johnson, who had set a personal-best time the lap before his incident. “Felt great. Just trying to go too fast into the turn 1 and ran into the tires. I’m more disappointed in myself making a mistake and tearing up the car again, but from an injury standpoint, I feel pretty good.

“Just I hate making mistakes, and I made two of them. I feel really good about (Sunday’s race). Still qualifying today and get through all that, but all indications right now are favorable. I feel great in the car. I don’t have a full grip going, but Terry Trammell is amazing. He knew exactly what to build, how to build it, where to position it. Great communication with him working on the splint.”

Blair Julian, the No. 48 engineer, told Speed Sport News that Johnson “was actually feeling pretty good and pretty comfortable trying to get a feel for a long run on the (softer compound tires). He got pushing there and ended up in a bad spot. It seems like the hand is doing OK.

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“We’ll go back, put it back together and try again. You know these guys. He’s a competitor and will be pushing as hard as he can. His hand will hurt on Monday, but he will endure on Sunday. He’s a tough guy.”

Johnson arrived at 6 a.m. Saturday to ensure the splint worked well. He forgot about the injury while turning laps.

“You notice it more sitting still,” he said. “On the track, iit just faded away on my end.”

Johnson sustained the injury during an IndyCar practice accident Friday afternoon.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s right hand was hit by the steering wheel as it snapped around after his No. 48 Dallara-Honda made head-on contact with a tire barrier in Turn 5 during a Friday afternoon session for his hometown IndyCar race.

“I let go” of the wheel, Johnson said. “I didn’t get them far enough out of the way. So I let go, and then with the impact, I guess my hands moved into the pathway of the wheel spinning and the bottom of the wheel.

In a Twitter video Saturday morning, Johnson confirmed the fracture.

“It’s really just take it how it comes from here,” Johnson said. “Again, working with the team to make sure my cockpit is as comfortable as it can be. I feel very good about things now and am willing to try practice, but I really won’t know until I’m out there in the practice session and feel the demands of the race car to know if I can go further and into the race.”

After missing the post-practice autograph session that is mandatory for IndyCar drivers, Johnson appeared wearing a splint (with his ring and pinky fingers immobilized) in a video posted to Twitter.

“Hey everybody, as you can see, I’m a little banged up here and have a splint on,” Johnson said. “First and foremost apologies to the fans at the autograph session I wasn’t able to attend. Clearly, I’ve got something else going on here.

“I’m on my way to be further evaluated just to get a good honest look and understand what my options are. I really don’t have any clarity at this point. And I look forward to updating you all very soon.”

If Johnson needed an injury substitute, an obvious candidate would be three-time Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais, who won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole position (breaking the track record by nearly 2 seconds) on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course in Ganassi’s No. 01 Cadillac.

“I heard about it just jumping out of the car because Jimmie posted a video,” said Bourdais, who moved into racing full time in IMSA this season after nearly 20 years in IndyCar. “I think he’s got to run some tests and see how he feels. If the team wants me to drive the car, obviously I’m contracted to the team.

“I’ll do whatever they want me to do, but they haven’t asked, and I don’t even think we’re there yet. I just really hope that he’s fine and can race this weekend because he’s obviously showing better pace, and you just don’t want to get setbacks and also hurt yourself. I’m sure he’s tough enough, and he’ll be fine.”

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach holds special meaning for Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion often who attended the race often as a kid and had key meetings that helped launch his racing career.

Johnson had an entourage of 80 on hand to watch him finish 17th in last year’s race, and he said Friday before practice that he had another full suite for Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

After running a partial schedule on road and street courses last year, Johnson is two races into his first full-time season in the IndyCar season and finished a career-best sixth in the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

That impressive performance in his IndyCar oval debut raised the anticipation for Johnson’s expected Indy 500 debut next month.

After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

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“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”