Jimmie Johnson undergoes hand surgery; expects to keep racing during full recovery

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Jimmie Johnson underwent surgery Monday night for the fractured right hand he suffered in a practice crash last week for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

In a social media update Tuesday morning, Johnson said he expects he will be ready for an Indy 500 test April 20-21 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the April 29-May 1 weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Johnson’s surgery was performed by Dr. Glenn Gaston, the Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship Director at OrthoCarolina. Johnson is expected to make a complete recovery and should be unaffected for his planned May 29 debut in the Indy 500.

In further social videos posted Wednesday morning, Johnson showed that he had a screw inserted in his right pinky finger and had begun exercises to improve the hand’s mobility.

Johnson suffered the injury during a practice crash at Long Beach last Friday when his right hand got caught in his steering wheel after an impact with the Turn 5 tire barrier. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crashed his No. 48 Dallara-Honda again Saturday in practice and toward the end of a 20th-place finish Sunday on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course that is his hometown event in the NTT IndyCar Series.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who is 14th in the points standings through three races, said he initially considered skipping Long Beach to put a priority on getting healed for racing in the 106th Indianapolis 500. That decision was weighed despite a large contingent of family and friends on hand last weekend to watch Johnson, who considers Long Beach his hometown race having attended numerous times as a frequent fan while growing up in El Cajon, California.

The May 1 race at Barber Motorsports Park figures to be another stiff test because the road course near Birmingham, Alabama, is considered one of the most physical tracks on the IndyCar circuit, and the May 14 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course also will be a challenge.

“If we’re talking just the Speedway, he could race there tomorrow with his hand the way it is,” IndyCar on NBC analyst James Hinchcliffe said Monday night on the NASCAR America MotorMouths show on Peacock. “The nature of that track, how smooth it is, the type of physicality is quite a bit different, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

“The problem is we have Barber and the Indy GP before that. Two very fast, high-speed road courses. They’re not as aggressive on the steering wheel as you see on a street circuit, the bumps on a Long Beach or St. Pete or Detroit can be a big challenge when you’re dealing with an injury like that, but I think he’s going to be OK.

“We saw Charlie Kimball a few years ago break his hand, he got surgery and was back in a race a week later. The fact Jimmie competed at Long Beach showed he’s strong enough. It’s not bothering him too much in the car, and I think he’ll be good by the time we get to Barber and certainly by the Speedway. He’s going to be OK.”

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.

As he has throughout his first full season in IndyCar, Johnson has been proactive about providing a behind-the-scenes look at his injury, including this video of the first 24 hours after the Long Beach crash that included how a carbon fiber splint was fashioned.

Johnson had sought assurances that he could avoid further damage to his hand Sunday over 85 laps at Long Beach.

“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,” Johnson. “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.”