Like a lot of people on Sunday, I was paying close attention to the IndyCar with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson in the field. I was really rooting for him to rep NASCAR and to show off the fact that it does in fact have the best drivers in America, but my expectations were lofty.
Jimmie finished the day in 19th after successfully avoiding a big wreck that was very impressive but then immediately spinning out all on his own. It wasn’t great but it’s a start and there is always hope that he will get better as the season goes on.
Unfortunately, I’m here to temper expectations for any Johnson fans hoping to see Jimmie finally back in victory lane. Johnson announced that his deal this year was only going to be to run a part-time schedule on road courses. This means he plans on not even running the historic Indy 500 this season. I believe his decision not to run ovals comes from a desire to challenge himself in the most difficult form of racing for him which is road courses.
` With Johnson dominating almost the entirety of the Cup schedule for the last twenty years, it’s easy to forget that his record on road courses is actually average at best.
His only career win on a road course in NASCAR came at Sonoma where he was solid with an average finish of 12.39. Once he jumps across the state to Watkins Glen though, his numbers take a dive with only an average finish of 17.7. Watkins Glen is actually his worst statistical track not counting superspeedways.
It becomes much more clear why he wanted to take on the task of racing road courses. If he was willing to race the ovals, I think there’s a good chance he’d run well, even win. In recent memory when we’ve seen Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger run the Indy 500 they faired very well. The fact that oval racing is a stock car trade and stock cars are far more difficult to drive give NASCAR drivers an advantage on those types of tracks.
We need to keep in mind that Jimmie is years removed from his prime and tackling a racing skillset he already wasn’t super skilled at. Had he attempted this when he was younger I have no doubt that his natural talent would’ve helped the transition be a lot quicker, but not anymore.
I think Jimmie hit it right on the head when he talked about just simply being content with finishing right now. I think a win this year is all but out of the question, maybe even a podium finish is a stretch. The opportunities for growth and to see him have good runs are more likely; a couple top ten finishes is probably more likely.
If we’re lucky, I hope to see him run the Indy 500 in 2022 and possibly the whole schedule if he’s up to it.
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