Sato Leads Again

Takuma Sato kept the fastest lap of the day in leading Thursday’s practice as he did Tuesday. His best lap, 227.519 mph, was a bit slower than Tuesday’s best of 228.939 mph. Scott Dixon again was second after leading until the final half hour.

Sato at Tuesday’s post practice conference

The Dale Coyne team also had its second driver, David Malukas, with today’s third best time. Malukas was seventh on Tuesday.

In the final hour Romain Grosjean had three close calls with the outside wall. He did not make contact, but with tomorrow’s higher speeds Grosjean needs to be careful about drifting out on that far on corner exit.

A. J. Foyt Racing jumped into the top 12 with J. R. Hildebrand fourth and Dalton Kellett 11th.

The top 12, by teams:

Ganassi- 3

Coyne- 2

Foyt- 2

AMSP- 2

Carpenter- 2

Meyer-Shank-1

Although no Penske driver cracked the top 12, Will Power was the fastest on the no tow list. I expect Penske drivers to be in the hunt for the top 12 on Saturday.

Results:

After practice Ed Carpenter said no one knows who will be really good for qualifying

“…a lot of people haven’t shown their hand just yet. I don’t think Ganassi has really shown anything — there’s someone else,
McLaren I don’t think did any Q sims either today. So
there’s some big hitters that still are concealing what they
can do.” he said.

Ed Carpenter, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Kirkwood after today’s practice

Kyle Kirkwood said of the additional power that cars will have tomorrow and Saturday,

“For me it’s a little bit intimidating going
from qually sim and pulling out the downforce out and
feeling how light the car is there. It’s kind of like you don’t
really want to turn the wheel because you’re just unsure
what the car is going to do, and adding another 10 or 15
miles per hour to it is going to be less than comfortable, I
would have to say.
From the people that I’ve talked to they all say it’s not that
big of a step. It actually feels better because you get the
runs out of the corners and it’s not like you lose tons of grip
due to the speed. I guess I’ll let you know after I go
through Turn 1 the first time with more power.”


Jimmie Johnson added, “Yeah, all of that, and then the only
thing to add is the last time I was in qualifying trim here
was in a Cup car, and we let off used little brake to get into
Turn 1.
So to feel the boost and the straightaway speed and look
down at that 90-degree turn and think that I’ll hold it flat, it’s
going to be an interesting conversation with my right foot.”

Jimmie Johnson: Having Fun, Learning, and Family

Jimie Johnson stopped by the media center for a few minutes this morning. He discussed his growing comfort with Indycar and his family support system.

Johnson first talked about feeling less nervous before his first Indycar oval race compared to his first NASCAR race.

“I’d say they’re (nerves) a lot better. I think experience helps. It’s not my first time really being on the grid with these competitors and the bright spotlight of IndyCar racing. So what I’m thinking of is my first Daytona 500 And that was my rookie season and cup and I was really nervous and that part of it started on pole. “

The second year Chip Ganassi Racing driver shared his team’s approach to qualifying for his first oval race.

” I felt like we made sure that the car was plenty comfortable and slowly worked our way closer to our teammates’ setups. And as I was showing the desire to move at a quicker pace, I was reminded multiple times that we’re really building towards Indy and we don’t want to lose your confidence. We don’t want to tear up a car. Let’s be smart. And the real goal is to have our most competitive showing at the Indy 500. So you know the race certainly and I wanted to push and move a little quicker through our setup plan. But I certainly understand where we’re coming from.”

He described his qualifying run as way too comfortable.

“Some of my speed yesterday was due to the fact that we kept the cockpit comfortable for me and I wasn’t moving things around like my teammates and others go that fast. So you know, looking back on it, I wish I would have gone on my controls just didn’t understand. If there would be any fall off in the car and if the balance would migrate one direction or the other. And from my opening lap in qualifying the car was very comfortable. And I quickly should have done on the way jacker in the bars to to help the car but it was an easy flat it felt good and drove the best that it had. And and I I regret that I didn’t make adjustments straightaway to the car. Look into the data. My scrub speed through the center of the turns is where I lost my time.”

Johnson says pit stops in Indycar are different from NASCar

“I’m not used to crew members being out over the wall prior to arriving and that’s pretty intimidating to come in as fast as you need to with crew members in position to change tires. But AT speed it doesn’t look like there’s enough room to fit, you know, into the box. And not only do you have your crew to worry about, but oftentimes other teams and they’re allowed to set tires and leak them out prior to you know their car arriving. So visually quite you know just so much different than what I’ve ever been used to. And then the from an oval standpoint, I have some really good reference points stayed on the racetrack and three turns three and four were brake and how to get on a bit lane. It here we enter pit lane in turn three so racing around on the apron which is dirty doesn’t have much rubber certainly not the banking that’s been a new element learned as well. “

Overall, Johnson said he is having fun in Indycar.

“I am having fun and that’s what this is about this part of my life, my career. But at the same time, I’m a competitor and coming to an oval for the first time my own personal expectations rise. You’re too on road street courses my own personal expectations rise. Look back at St. Pete And in qualifying. I’m still very frustrated with how my performance the performance I gave in qualifying race went much better in like get here and qualifying 18th is my best qualifying effort. But in my gut I wanted to qualify top 10. That was just like an internal personal goal that I set. “

Johnson would not be in Indycar without the support of his family.

“We’re just really trying to think hard through it all. And at the end of the day, my family looked to me and said you know if you’re comfortable, we’re comfortable. And I also feel that the Aeroscreen is just a massive game changer for single seater racing.

We’re very close knit family and we try to support each other with all that goes on. I mean, our girls very active with their after school programs, and of course their education. My wife has an art gallery. I have racing. I mean, our schedule is so packed and I feel like we’re all supporting each other. And I can literally tell you where we’ll be every every day, every week and every weekend for all of 2022 Just the way our schedules, you know are so stacked and laid out. So, next weekend I’ll be supporting my daughter’s at a horse show. Shani has a big art event that she’s going to travel to and I’m going to be a horse dad at a horse show North Carolina. So hopefully I handle that right so your first experience for me? Solo I should say. So ultimately, you know, there’s just so much support for all of us for one another. “

Jimmie Johnson Goes Full Time

The announcement this morning that Jimmie Johnson would enter the Indianapolis 500 was not a surprise, but the fact that he will run the four other oval race was. The seven time NASCAR champion announced that he will run the entire NTT Indycar Series season in 2022. The Chip Ganassi Racing entry will bear Carvana as his primary sponsor for 16 of the 17 races. The American Legion will be on the number 48 car for one of the two Iowa races. Carvana was Johnson’s amin sponsor in 2021.

The announcement came on NBC’s Today Show. Johnson followed with this Tweet:

In 2021 Johnson only ran the road and street courses in the series. He showed steady improvement throughout the year. His best qualifying spot was 22nd, where he started in three races. Johnson had a best finish of 17th in each of the final two races at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.

Johnson tested the oval at Texas and ran a rookie orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. He did well at IMS. Johnson needs two more laps to complete the rookie test.

The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, scheduled for May 29, now has six rookies who will attempt to qualify. The other rookies expected to enter are Kyle Kirkwood, Callum Ilott, David Malukas, Devlin DeFrancesco, and Christian Lundgaard. There may be one or two more rookies on the entry list.

Rain Cuts ROP Short; Grosjean and Johnson Have Long Wait to Finish

The on again, off again rain finally cut short Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway around 4 pm this afternoon, leaving Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson short of completing their rookie tests. The drivers, who just completed their first season in Indycar, will have to wait until the open test in April to finish the final laps of phase three of the 40 lap test. The afternoon stoppage was the second one of the day, and there was not enough time to get the track dry for more running.

These photos by Joe Skibinski of Indycar sum up the day. Race cars and dark clouds

Grosjean needs two more laps at 215 mph or better, while Johnson needs about five laps.

Johnson had a bit of an advantage as he remains with his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Grosjean not only had the stress of his first time driving on the IMS oval, but also the concerns of his first day with a new team. It was his first day as a driver for Andretti Autosport.

Romain Grosjean photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Asked about the stress, Grosjean said,

“I think really the most stressful part was to know what my first lap speed was going to be. You grow up or move from there. I had no idea what to expect to get to 205. Then it went pretty smoothly, enjoyed
it. When you have to go above 215, that’s where the fun starts. ”

Grosjean felt at ease with the support he received

“I got some good explanation, some good tip from the guys, from the engineers also, James Hinchcliffe came in the morning, which I appreciated a lot. Michael was there, as well. When you’ve got those guys, they know what they’re talking about, so that was great to
be with them and to know what to do.”

Jimmie Johnson photo by Chris Owens Indycar

Johnson fuflilled a childhood dream by running the oval in an Indycar.

“… just a special day to drive an INDYCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have truly, truly enjoyed it. It was a childhood dream come true. The experience is more than expected and something that I really, really enjoyed.”

He said today has heightened his interest in driving in the 500.

“(My interest) Definitely, definitely increased. I think
the look I had at Texas increased it and brought me here.
A little short on laps for what I wanted to experience today.
As comfortable as I felt my interest is at the highest it’s
been, certainly my comfort is at the highest it’s been. All
that said, there’s still a lot of work between now and really
pulling through with this opportunity.”

In an interview just after the day ended, Johnson’s face lit up when he was asked if today made him want to run the 500. While he admitted there is “still a lot of work to do” for him to be able to run in May, he seems determined to make it happen.

It was an exciting day to see two veteran drivers turn their first Indycar laps on an oval. For Grosjean, it was just the second time he had seen open wheel cars on the oval. Johnson, who has won at IMS four times in NASCAR on the oval, I enjoyed watching him run in a different type of car.

The rookie class for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 could be very deep in talent and numbers. In addition to Grosjean and Johnson, there could be up to four drivers from this year’s Indy Lights Series, plus maybe a current NASCAR driver.

Update from IMS- Rain Delays Rookie Tests

A damp morning pushed back the start of on track activity by 10 minutes this morning. Jimmie Johnson left thepits first Romain Grosjean followed. Both drivers did an installation lap and returned to the pits. Johnson left to begin Phase 1 of his roomie test. Grosjean started out, but the yellow light came on for moisture at the south end of the track.

Johnson had completed five laps with a top speed of 208 mph.

Track drying efforts halted after a soaking rain hit the track.

Track drying has just resumed. More rain may arrive around 3:30.

Here are some photos from this morning.

Johnson, Grosjean Take Next Step in Indycar Careers

Photo: Romain Grosjean set for his new team.

Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean hope to complete Rookie Oientation tests at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in preparation for their Indianapolis 500 debuts next May.

Jimmie Johnson. Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Johnson did not run any ovals in 2021, while Grosjean ran one, At World Wide Technology Raceway. Grosjean did a great job on his initial oval run.

Today’s activity begins at 10:30 am. ROP was originally scheduled to begin at noon, but was moved up because of a chance of rain this afternoon. The Turn 2 viewing mounds are open. There is no streaming of the tests.

Each car gets three sets of tires for the three phase test.

Phase 1- 10 laps 205-210 mph

Phase 2- 15 laps at 210-215 mph

Phase 3- 15 laps at at 215 + mph.

It will be hard to get used to seeing the 28 car with someone other than Ryan Hunter-Reay in it.

Grosjean, Johnson Take IMS Rookie Tests Wednesday

From Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway & NTT INDYCAR SERIES
Grosjean, Johnson To Take Indy 500 Rookie Test Wednesday at IMS


Grosjean and Johnson, both series rookies in the 2021 season, will attempt to complete the test that involves a series of laps at three controlled speed phases on the 2.5-mile oval. The Rookie Orientation Program is a prerequisite for participation in the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29, 2022.
Former Formula One standout Grosjean plans to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport, while seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson is exploring possible participation in the race in the No. 48 Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Note

I understand that fans may view the tests from the turn 2 viewing mounds.

Rookies Agree They Have a Lot to Learn

Photo of Romaiin Grosjean by Chris Owens, Indycar

Indycar’s 2021 rookie class is unusual. Three drivers, successful in other major disciplines, older than the typical first year driver, have decided to take the plunge into Indycar. Scott McLaughlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Romain Grosjean spoke to the media yesterday during Indycar’s content day. Unlike past years where some of the rookies have moved up from Indy Lights with some knowledge of the cars and driving style required, the three newcomers come from NASCAR, Australian Supercars, and Formula 1. Two have multiple championships in their previous series.

All three are happy with their progress during pre-season testing, but all admit they have a long way to go to be competitive in the Indycar series.

Scott McLaughlin. Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

McLaughlin summed up the steep learning curve.

, “There’s a lot of things I’ve got to get used to. For instance, even just driving a turbo car. I’ve never really done that before in Australia. For me, I’m learning boost levels, aero maps, trusting aero, aerodynamics through corners and stuff.”

Jimmie Johnson by Chris Owens, Indycar

Johnson talked about driving an Indycar.

“…the intensity of driving that car. It’s a monster. That’s the best way I can put it. There’s so much power,so much downforce, so much grip. It’s wild to drive.”

He also said that gettintg the final 10 to 15 percent woukld the hardest to reach.

“But that last little bit, that’s what the elite guys are so good at and chase their whole career. I don’t know if I’ll get to100 percent with the amount of years that I have to give this a try, but there’s still so many things I haven’t even experienced yet. I’ve never been on a red tire. I’ve just recently had a chance to drive a street circuit tire and understand how much more grip it has versus a traditional road course tire.When you look at the street course tracks, I won’t even be able to drive on one until the practice, the opening practice session that we have prior to qualifying.”

Grosjean noted the different driving style needed for an Indycar compared to a formula 1 machine:

“I think it’s the driving style. It’sfairly different between Formula 1 and INDYCAR. Does itcome from the tires, the car, from the aero, the mechanicalgrip? I don’t really know. I just found that it was different todrive and to go fast.That’s something I really adapted between Barber andLaguna. I think I’m going to the simulator tomorrow beforeflying home. I think we’ve got some good tests that wewant to do with Dale Coyne and Honda, get as muchknowledge as we can before we start the season.”

Grosjean has a good understanding of where he is as far as driving this season. In spite of his 20 year racing career, he said,

“But I need to remind myself I’m a rookie. Even though I got 20 years experience in racing, I’m a rookie. From the rolling start to the refueling to the racetracks, there’s many,many things to learn.We will take step by step. We’ll see how things are going. But the whole team has been great helping me to find my marks. Honda has been really helpful as well in getting me up to speed, telling me all the procedures. The team has been really good.”

In spite of their success, or perhaps because of it, in other series, the 2021 Rookie class has a realistic perspective on what they can achieve this season. I’m impressed that this trio has made the decision to try a new type of racing.

Carvana Unveils Livery for Jimmie Johnson’s Car

Photo from @Carvana

Today is turning out to be a big day for cars numbered 48. Earlier Tony Kanaan announced his full time ride in the Brazilian Stock car series. Now, Kanaan’s other 48, the Chip Ganassi racing Indycar, revealed its new livery for the 2021 season. This is actually the livery for Jimmie Johnson, who will drive the car on the road and street courses.

It’s a nice livery, although it looks like a derivative of AMSP’s cars. In some light the trim looks orange. I think it is really a yellow. It might take a race to get used to the distinction between Johnson. O’Ward, and Rosenqvist. The blue deflector in front of the rear wheel should help fans to distinguish this car from the AMSP cars.

The car debuts at the NTT Indycar Series opener March 18 at Barber Motorsports Park.