Photo: Action Sports Photography, Inc.

Jimmie Johnson Making Encouraging Strides at Road America

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

In the eyes of some folks, Jimmie Johnson’s rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series hasn’t been ideal. Others see it otherwise due to the difficult beast these cars are compared to NASCAR. More so when the Chip Ganassi Racing driver continues improving race-by-race.

We saw it with his lap times during the second dual race at Belle Isle last Sunday. It appears the trend is continuing at Road America. Johnson was no longer well towards the bottom of the time charts going into a race, but around the middle.

In the final 30-minute practice session, Johnson ended up 14th fastest with a time of 1:49.358. Compared to Colton Herta, who ended up fastest at 1:47.631, Johnson was 1.727 seconds slower. At one point however, Johnson was as high as sixth quickest with under seven minutes to go.

Johnson knows progress is being made. Just needs to make improvements on execution as he’ll roll off 23rd for tomorrow’s REV Group Grand Prix.

“I’ve had some respectful pace this weekend. I’ve just had a hard time putting together clean laps,” said Johnson during the Peacock stream.

“In qualifying I have enough laps on my tires to get the temps in and get it going. Some lessons learn. I think we left at least six to eight tenths of a second on the table in qualifying.

“Even on this lap that put me P14, I still had an exciting (turns) 13 and 14. I was in the grass and put that lap time up,” Johnson continued. “It’s wild because I’m at the edge of my comfort and just challenging the car everywhere. Often it rewards me, but sometimes I actually do step over the limit the car has and make the mistake.”

Another humbling learning lesson Johnson realized during last weekend’s doubleheader was the necessity of having fast hands and feet.

During his two-decade NASCAR career, slow hands and feet was the name of the game. Johnson admitted it’s rewarded him. After Belle Isle, Johnson knew he must react quicker.

“Detroit was a glaring example to me just how fast your hands need to be to stay on top of the car. And how little grip there is, especially when things started,” Johnson explained. “To have two races there really build on that experience. Find a better package for me to give me a larger window for grip.

“We’ve applied that coming here and things are going the right way. I just hope it gives that edge where I’m still searching for the true edge of the car. But I’m up against my edge and I’m making too mistakes right now to really capitalize. The learning curve steep, I’m having a blast and things are improving.”

The pilot of the No. 48 Carvana Honda will have 55 laps to fully acclimate himself to the 4.014-mile road course. Hoping at race end, he’ll surpass his best result of 19th from Barber.

Live coverage begins at Noon ET on NBCSN. Josef Newgarden will lead the 25-car field to the green flag.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.