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Why is Jimmie Johnson testing an Indycar in Texas?

Jake Nichol August 30, 2021
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson is due to test at Texas Motor Speedway for his Chip Ganassi IndyCar team. But why is the NASCAR legend doing it, and what could be the result?

Johnson to test on an oval for the first time

That might seem a little strange, seeing as Johnson raced in NASCAR 686 times.

Along the way, he picked up 83 wins and a record-equaling seven Cup titles.

He opted to retire from stock car racing at the end of 2020, and switch codes to IndyCar.

The Californian opted for a road and street course-only programme with Chip Ganassi Racing.

He decided that he racing Indycars on ovals as a rookie was too risky.

However, he did not fully close the door on potentially racing on ovals – including in the Indianapolis 500.

He needed to be fully convinced by the safety aspects of Indycar racing on ovals – something that the aeroscreen cockpit protection device has helped to do.

Johnson will test for CGR at Texas on Monday, 30th August.

For the 2021 season, the #48 machine has been delegated to Tony Kanaan, while Johnson has tackled the road/street races.

Kaanan has a best finish of 10th in the Indy 500.

Johnson has a pair of 19th place finishes, on debut at Barber in the season-opener and the most recent road course race at Indianapolis.

How did Jimmie Johnson fare at Texas in NASCAR?

During his long NASCAR career, Johnson raced at the Texas oval 35 times for Hendrick Motorsports.

At the wheel of the #48 Chevy, he took seven wins – including sweeping both races at the track in 2015.

What about fellow IndyCar rookies on ovals?

The other two rookies (excluding one-off appearances) in the 2021 IndyCar season are Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean.

McLaughlin, a three-time Australian Supercars champion switched to IndyCar with Team Penske.

The New Zealander is running a full-time programme this year, taking on all 16 races.

With all the oval races now completed in 2021, McLaughlin’s best result was second at the first Texas race.

That was his oval debut finishing second behind Scott Dixon of Ganassi.

Grosjean had similar feelings to Johnson, in that he did not want to run ovals without some prior experience.

The ex-Formula One driver recently completed a test at Gateway, before racing in the final oval race of 2021 – held at the same venue.

Grosjean looked racy at Gateway, passing multiple cars, before finishing in 14th place.

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.