Jimmie Johnson posts fastest four-lap practice average; advances to pole sessions


INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson posted the fastest four-lap average in the final Indy 500 practice Saturday morning about two hours before qualifying was set to begin.

Johnson averaged 233.711 mph over 10 miles around Indianapolis Motor Speedway shortly after the session began at 8:30 a.m. ET.

He later backed up the speed in qualifying with the sixth-fastest average, putting him in the running for the pole position in his Indy 500 debut.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon was second (232.875) on the four-lap average chart ahead of qualifying.

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PRACTICE SPEEDSSaturday l Combined 

“It’s fast,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after practice. “The straightaways and certainly corner entry, every sense in your body is saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this,’ and then once you turn the wheel and the car finds home, it’s not as exciting or at least right now. It was yesterday.”

Johnson rebounded after scraping the Turn 2 wall with his No. 48 Dallara-Honda early in a harrowing Indy 500 practice Friday afternoon. He returned after the car underwent minor repairs.

“We learned a lot last night, and we’ll go back and try to apply a bit more and see what we can do today,” said the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who will be making his Indy 500 debut during his first full NTT IndyCar Series season. “It’s an emotional roller coaster. There are so many variables that are changing that change the decisions we make on the car. Certainly my reps in the car, I opened with a bad rep (Friday), had a better rep at the end of (Friday) and now another good one.

“It’s just a journey as everybody knows. It’s not excluding me at 46 with all the years of racing experience I have.”

Johnson ranked third (233.961) on the single-lap speed chart behind three-time Indy 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter (234.410) and Dixon (234.093), who won the pole last year.

Under the 2022 Indy 500 qualifying format, all 33 drivers were granted an opportunity to make a four-lap qualifying attempt Saturday as positions 13-33 were set.

In a random qualifying draw Friday, Johnson drew the sixth spot, which proved to be advantageous in cooler conditions.

The fastest 12 drivers, led by Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, advanced to Sunday’s session. The fastest six will reach a final session to determine the pole-sitter for the 106th Indy 500.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.