Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Despite Fractured Hand, Johnson Expects to Race Sunday at Long Beach

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

A day after Jimmie Johnson’s status for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was thrown into uncertainty, the picture is becoming much clearer for the driver of the No. 48 Honda heading into Sunday.

In the first practice session of the race weekend on Friday, Johnson found himself in trouble after contact with the curbing in Turn 5 sent him sliding into the tire barrier. The incident itself didn’t look too bad, but Johnson kept his hands on the steering wheel through the entirety of the skid and when his car contacted the tires, the wheel whipping around caused some concern that he might have been injured in the process.

Those concerns were found to be true when Johnson took to social media later in the evening sporting a splint on his right wrist noting that he would be seeking further medical evaluation and his status for the remainder of the weekend was still up in the air.

“As you can see, I’m a little banged up and have a splint on,” Johnson said in the video. “First and foremost, apologies to the fans at the autograph session that I wasn’t able to attend. Clearly got something else going on here.

“I’m on my way to be further evaluated, just to get a good honest look and understand what my options are. We really don’t have any clarity at this point, and I look forward to updating you all very soon.”  

Ahead of Saturday’s second practice, Johnson once again surfaced on social media with an update, acknowledging that he had fractured his wrist, but would be climbing back behind the wheel of his car to attempt practice. He revealed a new carbon fiber splint on his injured wrist and noted that the team had worked overnight to make his cockpit as comfortable as possible going forward.

Johnson explained that he had been cleared by IndyCar’s medical team and would be making a determination on the remainder of the weekend after seeing how things felt after practice.

Practice didn’t go quite as smoothly as Johnson would have liked it to have gone, harmlessly looping his car around early in the session and finding himself in the tire barrier once again to close out the session.

Despite those incidents, Johnson posted that practice went OK and he was thankful to still have the ability to grip the wheel and maneuver the car around even with the injured wrist.

Johnson was back in the car for qualifying later in the day, wrestling his Honda around the 1.968-mile street course to time in 25th fastest out of 26 cars. Afterwards, he explained that he was no worse for wear and expected to be behind the wheel when the green flag flies on Sunday’s race.

“The hand is really good inside the car,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “We built this splint that you can’t really see behind there, a carbon fiber splint that’s really supporting the broken bone in my hand very well. It’s holding up and doing well.

“I made some mistakes. Certainly, trying to get better at a certain part of the braking zone in the corner and made a few mistakes in the process. Just trying to reel it back in and drive laps that I know I was capable of there in qualifying and build on that for the race.”

He added that he talked to a number of people about whether he should sit out Sunday’s race to be in a better position looking ahead to the Indianapolis 500, but ultimately decided to continue on as normal in Long Beach.

“My real goal is the 500 and we have a test session April 20th and 21st. So, I talked to many specialists on the West Coast and the East Coast about my hand, any further damage that could be done, options that I might have. More focused on Indy than really (Long Beach).

“As much as I want to be here, if I had to give this one up to make sure I’m ready for Barber, the test in two weeks, or the 500, I was willing to forego this. But this morning things started to improve as I worked on the cockpit, worked on the splint, and I’ve wound up in a really good spot with it.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.