Jimmie Johnson returned to the sight of seven of his 83 career NASCAR Cup Series victories on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway as he makes his debut on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and it has been a pleasant experience so far.
Johnson made his two-lap qualifying attempt at the start of the session with an average speed of 219.865 mph, less than 2 mph from the average speed of Felix Rosenqvist who took pole of 221.110 mph. He’ll start a career-best 18th, edging out two Texas winners in Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal.
In practice on Saturday morning, he was 22nd fastest and had the most laps of the session at 69. In final practice, Johnson was close to scoring his top 10, finishing 13th on the timesheet . Johnson was third fastest among riders who did not receive aero tow.
Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, said during track sessions he was confident he was becoming more and more comfortable with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES car.
“I’m about 20% more comfortable than when I started learning,” he said. “There are so many scenarios, especially in the race settings, about green flag pit stops, how the tire pressure feels and how you feel at the end of the race (which he still has to learn) .
“I’ve never done this before. It’s just experience, so I don’t have a good reading of my expectations yet, but I want to be competitive. I know it deep in my heart. I want to be in the top 10.”
While Johnson has won seven NASCAR Cup Series victories at the 1.5-mile Texas oval, his last appearance in 2017, he said there were only a few basic rules of oval racing that he could apply this weekend – like the bumps on the circuit, the location of the grip and the wind. direction.
While Johnson wants to compete this weekend and produce a strong result, he said he is using this weekend’s race, the first oval race of the season, to prepare for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29. .
“For me, there’s a ton to learn,” Johnson said. “This qualifying process is something I’ve never done before,” he said. “The preparation lap, how do you work on your settings over a lap? There are a lot of layers I got to experiment with today that should make things easier (in May).
Ilott and Juncos Racing impress in first oval weekend together
NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Callum Ilott is turning a lot of heads as he makes his oval debut for Juncos Hollinger Racing, and he’s relishing the new discipline of racing.
Ilott opened the day in fourth gear in early practice with a top speed of 222.257 mph, posting times alongside drivers like NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Scott McLaughlin.
It came after his two-week Speedway rookie test in Texas, where he was second fastest.
“I really think we found a bit in the car to help me and keep me confident and safe,” Ilott said. “As far as racing in traffic, I don’t think I’m in a bad position. I think we missed qualifying a bit, but the first time around, you know, there’s obviously a little bit I miss. So I don’t think it’s bad.
Ilott had a disappointing qualifying effort, where he lines up 20th in Sunday’s race.
Ilott joins the NTT INDYCAR SERIES from Europe, where he was runner-up in the 2020 Formula 2 championship and was a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo’s Formula 1 team last season. It’s his first oval race and he adapts very well to the different disciplines.
“I think I found my feet a bit with the fine tuning of the car and myself,” Ilott said. “I have a decent history of, you know, developing a car and having a good feel for a car. So I think that’s a strong point for me, but obviously I have to learn.
Ilott’s strong Saturday in the #77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet sets up another memorable oval performance for Juncos, whose team has a knack for ovals and edged out two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso of the Indy 500 field in 2019.
- Johnny Rutherford says the kids are fine. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner is on site with Arrow McLaren SP this weekend, but he says AMSP’s two drivers, Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward, are at the top of their game and have no don’t need his help. O’Ward is a defending winner, while Rosenqvist picked up the NTT P1 Award for Sunday’s race. “Lone Star JR” added that he continues to be surprised at how advanced and technical the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has become these days, compared to when he raced.
- Rookie David Malukas, who starts 19th in the #18 Honda HMD and posted the eighth-fastest average speed over 15 laps in final practice, said he has an oval master like Takuma Sato, who starts third in the # 51, as a teammate has “helped me so much” this weekend as he learns to race fast.
- The same can be said for Kyle Kirkwood, who lines up 23rd in the #14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and was 15th fastest in final practice, saying teammate JR Hildebrand’s mentorship on the ovals helped been “massive”.
- Speeds are up at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Simon Pagenaud paced the first practice with a top speed of 223.087 mph, which was the fastest first practice lap in Texas since 2018. Josef Newgarden passed him at 223.108 in the final practice.
- NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Christian Lundgaard is making his oval debut this weekend, and he was overjoyed when he made his first run on an oval track in first practice: “I passed someone ‘a. Wow!” he said over the radio.
- Myles Rowe, the newest USF2000 race winner from last month’s season-opening weekend Race 2 in St. Petersburg, is at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, but not for the race. It’s the first weekend of her new videography internship at CoForce, a digital media marketing and video production agency.
- Seven drivers completed 294 laps in a special practice session on Saturday afternoon to try and put on more rubber for a second groove in the corners.