- Seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmy Johnson will be competing in his first Indy 500 race this week.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he’s nervous that Johnson will push too hard and end up in a bad situation.
- Earnhardt noted that no one would tell Johnson how to deal with race and trust that he knows the limits.
Jimmy Johnson will be racing his first race at the Indianapolis 500 this week, and his former NASCAR teammate has concerns about the 46-year-old’s safety.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be a racing commentator for NBC in Indy, spoke about his feelings about Johnson’s move to IndyCar during a conference call on Tuesday. Earnhardt worries Johnson will push the car too hard.
“I’m a little nervous because he seems to give it all,” Earnhardt said. “Every time he’s on the right track, it’s like he’s at the limit.”
Earnhardt admitted that no one would tell the seven-time NASCAR champion how to drive a car or approach the race. However, Earnhardt seemed concerned when he noted that Johnson was already flirting with disaster while training and qualifying for the race.
“I’m terrified that, you know, he’s going to pay too much and anything that could somehow put him at a disadvantage,” Earnhardt said. “It’s been like this, very close to some bad situations a few times this month.”
One such situation occurred during qualifying when Johnson almost lost control of his car at 235 mph and needed a great save to continue his journey.
—IndyCar on NBC (IndyCaronNBC) May 22 2022
Former Formula 1 driver Roman Grosjean later described qualifying for the Indy 500 as “scary”.
Earnhardt added that all he had to do was trust Johnson to know the situation.
“He’s a professional and you trust he knows what he’s doing out there and understands the limits of the car,” said Earnhardt, adding, “I only pulled him off because he has great racing experience and as a result he can be content with and smile at the end.”
Johnson is more comfortable in the Indy oval
When Johnson first switched to open-wheel racing in 2021, he vowed to race only on the road and on the street. He said his wife would never approve of the ridiculous speeds that IndyCars hit in Indianapolis.
However, that situation eased midway through his rookie season, and earlier this year he finished sixth at the Texas Motor Speedway Oval, his best result in IndyCar. Before the Indianapolis 500 race, Johnson said he already feels more comfortable on the ovals.
“I do [feel like an IndyCar driver now]But I put an asterisk on it and just say on the ovals,” Johnson said. “I still have a long way to go and go down the road.”
However, Johnson admitted that he’s still learning, and he’s not quite as comfortable as Indy 500 veterans on a flatter elliptical track than Johnson experienced in NASCAR.
“Feeling the thrust and the straight speed and looking down at this 90-degree turn and thinking I’m going to hold out [the pedal] “Flat, it’s going to be a fun conversation on my right foot,” Johnson said.
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