FOX NASCAR Insider
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson relished the prospect to get again in a NASCAR Cup Sequence automotive, even when it most likely will not assist him a lot when he tries to qualify for the Daytona 500 in three weeks.
Johnson did just a few laps Tuesday in a Cup automotive at Phoenix Raceway, the positioning the place he final drove in NASCAR in 2020. The seven-time Cup champion has spent the previous two years competing in IndyCar, and the inventory automotive, A a lot heavier automotive with much less horsepower and no braking in any respect: It clearly felt completely different.
“The velocity appeared completely different, no query about that,” Johnson stated. “After which simply the mass of the car – such a special really feel within the inventory automotive with all of the mass attempting to decelerate and attempting to alter path, attempting to make use of the throttle.
“With IndyCar, it is so sharp and agile. Nevertheless it’s been arduous for me to choose up and really feel, so it is very nice to be again in a automotive that gave me some warnings, gave me some indicators that it was slipping and sliding.” .
Johnson, 47, introduced in November that he would return to NASCAR as a part-time driver and co-owner of what’s now Legacy Motor Membership. Testing of him was allowed underneath a provision during which NASCAR permits elite drivers to check a Subsequent Gen automotive (the NASCAR Cup automotive that debuted final 12 months) at a observe the place the driving force won’t be racing.
It is designed to permit a driver to get used to the automotive, and Johnson was actually in a position to make use of the check to be taught in regards to the car. Johnson had spent a while within the Chevrolet racing simulator to organize.
“I am grateful that I had simulation time as a result of I believe I might have busted my butt if I might have proven up right here and tried to drag off a memento,” stated Johnson, who famous how completely different the tires are for the Subsequent Gen automotive. I discovered it very helpful and I had a superb day.”
However Phoenix’s 1-mile observe has nothing to do with the high-banked 2.5-mile Daytona Worldwide Speedway, the place Johnson should qualify to enter the Daytona 500. There are solely 4 spots obtainable for non-rental vehicles, and Johnson will probably be one among at the least 5 drivers (and probably as many as eight) chasing these 4 spots.
“I would not say something has modified for me from the five hundred,” Johnson stated of the check. “However now to drive the automotive and get a really feel for the way it performs by some minor modifications that have been allowed to us by the check process… it was good for me to simply get again in one among these vehicles and undergo the steps.” “
Simply understanding a number of the components of how the automotive handles is one thing Johnson hopes may also help you. He stated he discovered one thing about when to step up and down the throttle and the shift mechanism from the Subsequent Gen automotive.
“Hopefully it may be utilized far and huge,” Johnson stated. “I do not assume what I discovered right here at present will carry over to Daytona… That is an animal of its personal. However at present was a superb observe. And a superb day for me within the automotive.”
Johnson hasn’t set the remainder of his 2023 schedule past Daytona, however he stated Tuesday that it appears unlikely to compete within the Indianapolis 500. He wish to compete in Hendrick Motorsports’ “Storage 56” program, which brings a Subsequent Gen automotive to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It isn’t unhealthy, however I will know fairly quickly,” Johnson stated of racing the Indy 500. “It is shut. [to not happening]. There are some shifting items with the Storage 56 alternative, sponsorship, timing and the place all of that’s.
“I nonetheless do not have readability, however I hope will probably be very quickly.”
Working with Johnson in Phoenix was Todd Gordon, former crew chief for Cup champion Joey Logano. Johnson introduced Monday that Gordon can be his crew chief for his Cup begins.
“Todd is a real skilled,” Johnson stated. “Clearly the stats on him communicate for themselves. I am looking for somebody who will actually assist me slot in, work with me and likewise assist the group; Todd is an ideal match for that.”
Gordon left Workforce Penske after the 2021 season and labored primarily as a radio analyst on reveals and broadcasts.
“Runners by no means quit, at the least they do not,” Gordon stated, “Somebody stated, ‘You are scratching that itch.'” It is nice in that sense.
“And the opposite half is that the opposite elements of my profession at this level preserve me related. It retains me knowledgeable in regards to the storage and the vehicles and I believe it is going to assist me on that aspect.”
Johnson’s co-owner Richard Petty, who can be a seven-time Cup champion, stated Johnson can be like a rookie within the Subsequent Gen automotive as a result of it is so completely different.
So did Johnson really feel like a rookie on Tuesday?
“I hope not,” Johnson stated. “In some respects, I did.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent a long time masking motorsports, together with the final 30 Daytona 500, with stints on ESPN, Sporting Information, the NASCAR Scene Journal and The (Daytona Seashore) Information-Journal. Observe him on Twitter @bobpockrassand enroll within the FOX Sports activities NASCAR Publication with Bob Pockrass.
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