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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“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.”
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) May 21, 2022
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.”
I’m so thankful to be on this journey and have been making an effort to soak in every single moment. https://t.co/O2MVatPDxZ
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 21, 2022
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.