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

Jimmie Johnson injury IndyCar
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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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.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: Session II l Session I and II combined

“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.

Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah, good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.”