2022 Writers’ Roundtable, Vol. 38: Jimmie’s Magic Second?

September 29, 2022

Notice: This week the Roundtable welcomes its latest member, Joey Barnes, who has joined INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as editorial & digital content material lead. Followers with a eager eye and reminiscence will recall Joey’s wonderful contributions to INDYCAR.com as a contract author from 2016-19.

In the present day’s query: What was the second you bear in mind most about Jimmie Johnson’s two seasons within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES?

Curt Cavin: I’m going again to final October when Jimmie and Romain Grosjean took their rookie exams at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Up till that time, Jimmie had solely pushed Indy automobiles on street programs and road circuits, and he hadn’t excelled at both – by no means qualifying within the high 20 or ending a race within the high 15. However that day at IMS, he was again in his consolation zone, and he was very a lot having fun with it as a result of he may relate the expertise and provides his crew correct suggestions. It’s vital to notice that Jimmie very hardly ever, if ever, confirmed his frustration at not reaching the extent he reached in NASCAR, however on that October day he appeared and felt just like the all-time nice that he’s, and he couldn’t have been happier about it. He additionally appreciated the chance to drive an Indy automobile on the hallowed grounds, which I appreciated.

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Joey Barnes: There are fairly just a few to select from, together with that stout qualifying efficiency in Could to interrupt into the highest 12 for the 106th Working of the Indianapolis 500 offered by Gainbridge. Nonetheless, I’ve to go along with his late cost within the XPEL 375 earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway the place he climbed as excessive as fifth earlier than settling for sixth for his first top-10 outcome within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which additionally served as his official oval debut. The definitive impression left on me was once I was standing on pit street and watching Johnson and Scott Dixon, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate that he sparred with on the 1.5-mile oval, share a second throughout post-race actions. There was an expression of aid – a payoff, if you’ll – on Johnson’s face after breaking by way of with one thing optimistic to point out within the difficult, and at instances humbling, transition from NASCAR. Moreover, it’s wild to suppose we witnessed a seven-time NASCAR Cup Sequence champion go wheel-to-wheel with a six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion in Dixon. That’s definitely a historic spotlight reel second, and one thing that we might very properly by no means get to see once more.

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Paul Kelly: This may sound odd, however the second that at all times will stick to me about Jimmie Johnson’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES profession in 2021 and 2022 got here when he wasn’t even in his driving go well with or strapped into the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It got here in Could 2021, when Johnson didn’t compete within the Indianapolis 500 offered by Gainbridge and as an alternative labored as an analyst on the NBC tv crew for “The Best Spectacle in Racing.” Johnson instantly was enthralled with the Month of Could – he “acquired Indy” proper from the opening laps of observe. And you might inform throughout his spots on the telecasts it was consuming him alive to not be in a automobile and racing together with 32 different drivers at 230 mph on the world’s most well-known racetrack. I knew proper then and there he had made the psychological transition from NASCAR and was a Grasp lock to run the total NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule in 2022, together with his Indy 500 debut.