Jimmie Johnson rebounds from spin to lead at Iowa Speedway, impress IndyCar rivals

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NEWTON, Iowa – Jimmie Johnson impressed his NTT IndyCar Series competitors with his exploration of Iowa Speedway’s grip level in an 11th-place finish – though the quest went a little too far Saturday.

Trying to apply lessons to “chase the paint” that he had learned as a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Johnson overstepped the boundaries by putting his No. 48 Dallara-Honda on the apron and into a spin in Turn 4 on Lap 16.

“In a Cup car, you can always hang your left front tire on the paint,” Johnson told NBC Sports, referring to the white line around the bottom of the track. “You might remember Richmond, it works. It doesn’t work in an IndyCar. I just figured that out that opening run.

“I think instinctively, I tried to run the painted line like a Cup car, and as soon as I touched it, I was like you idiot. Thankfully, I kept it out of the wall, was able to bump-start it once I got going on the frontstretch and pointed in the right direction. That was just a lot of fun.”

Johnson rebounded quickly after pitting for fresh tires that put him out of sequence with the lead pack. Clicking off laps that were a few seconds faster than the field on the 0.894-mile oval, Johnson cycled into the lead on Lap 61 and stayed in first for 19 laps.

He appeared headed toward the second top 10 finish of his IndyCar career before fading from eighth to 11th in the final 15 laps because he had “burned the right rear tire off the car.

“The first half of the race, I had some lines working nobody else was really working on, and the spotters are awfully good here, and cued up every driver I was catching how to defend and block,” Johnson said. “And before I knew it, the lines that I had working were kind of run off, and then I tried to find some new stuff, and that last run, we just went so far.”

“But still a very strong performance, super happy for everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Though it didn’t match his career-best sixth March 20 at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson (who also had a solid May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before a late wreck in the Indy 500) again showed his prowess on ovals that he admittedly lacks on road and street courses.

“I think he’s doing a phenomenal job in the ovals,” Pato O’Ward said. “In Texas, I got to follow him for a bit. I thought it was really, really cool to see him explore in areas where no one else was exploring. He was making the car work in areas where no one else was. I think that’s why he was so strong.

“I think that NASCAR experience paid off in how those guys are just continuing to explore and see where the grip is. For us, I guess sometimes if you go off of what you know, it can be a big price to pay. It was really cool to see that he was kind of thinking outside the box vs. everybody else. I think he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Said Scott Dixon, Johnson’s Ganassi teammate: “Jimmie kind of had his own line. He had like Lane 3 or 4. He did an amazing job today, and he was really fun to watch because he was constantly trying stuff. Maybe I need to do a little more of that.”

Some of Johnson’s best battles Saturday were with Rinus VeeKay, racing inches apart from the Ed Carpenter Racing driver.

“It was fun battling Jimmie Johnson, he definitely knows what he is doing on an oval,” VeeKay told racing journalist Bruce Martin. “He was super comfortable on the high line, and I wasn’t at all. It shows his skill as a driver. Coming from a stock car to (open-wheel racing) on a street and road course is difficult.

“But this is his jam. This is what he is good at and what he has done all of his life. He was fast. I enjoyed racing with him.”

With 300 more laps on tap for Sunday’s race at Iowa (3 p.m. ET, NBC), Johnson will have another shot to improve at a track where he never raced in NASCAR. He still excelled Saturday “by just being able to be myself. It was really a lot of fun.

“Watched so many great races at this track,” Johnson said. “To be here in person, drive on it in an Indy car  is such a rush. The first two-thirds of the race I really felt like we had a car competitive enough to win. Then there at the end it kind of slipped away from us. I think the longer run at the end also kind of exposed a weakness in our car, and I faded a bit more.

“We’ll sleep on it tonight, work with our teammates and engineers, make some good changes and come back stronger. These cars really reward confidence. A Cup car, I think they reward patience and finesse. There’s a different skill set that goes with it. You’re going so damn fast in these things, the more downforce it creates, the confidence really rewards you.

“I hope tomorrow I have an even sharper performance.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)