Jimmie Johnson’s switch from NASCAR to IndyCar has presented the Chip Ganassi Racing driver with precious few opportunities to feel like he was racing with the same kind of authority that delivered seven Cup championships.
The doubleheader at Iowa gave Johnson a chance to find his happy place on Saturday as he raced forward and drove the No. 48 Honda to 11th in the 250-lap contest. With a night to sleep on all he learned, Sunday’s race became a 300-lap highlight reel of Johnson’s renown bravery and car control as he threw his open-wheeler around the little 0.875-mile oval.
“I’m understanding how these cars reward aggression, the confidence it takes to having yourself and the car that’s going to stick,” he said. “The faster you go, the more downforce these cars create. It takes a lot of energy to turn these tires on and make them perform like they need to.
“The ovals feel more natural to me and I’m able to find my confidence, push the car, have the downforce and the tire work for me. But the street and road courses, I’m making gains. Unfortunately they’re not as obvious as what you can see here on the ovals. But I continue to make gains.
“Just enjoying driving these little rocketships around. It’s a lot of fun. Every time I climb out, I just shake my head how hard you can drive these cars, the speed you can carry, the aggression you can drive with. They’re really fun cars to drive.”
Starting 13th, Johnson spent the race assessing and pouncing on some of IndyCar’s finest oval racers. His last pass of the day was for fifth place on teammate Marcus Ericsson, the newest Indianapolis 500 winner…
“On an oval you have that repetition, you get into a cadence of watching the driver in front of you, understanding if they’re inconsistent or if their car is inconsistent, what circumstances that puts them in, how you might be able to take advantage of it,” he said.
“You build a cadence and rhythm of who you’re stalking. I found that to be very common here. Not so much at Indy. Texas, it didn’t feel that way. You’re going so fast, timing your run was more important than kind of stalking someone and working different lines. So here, this is the closest experience that I would say crosses over to NASCAR that I’ve had.”