“Small Victory in This Journey” – NASCAR Legend Jimmie Johnson on His First Day of IndyCar Racing

Published 04/18/2021, 8:15 AM EDT
BRISTOL, TN – APRIL 06: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 6, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


After all the excitement and build-up, Jimmie Johnson has finally kicked off his first-ever racing weekend in the IndyCar Series. Johnson and the rest of the field ran two practice sessions and then the qualifying session on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s main race at Barber Motorsports Park.

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The seven-time NASCAR champ got an early taste of the challenges ahead in IndyCar, after finishing slowest after the two practice sessions earlier on Saturday. Then, Johnson found it difficult in qualifying too, but out-qualified Dalton Kellett in Group 1 to finish 11th among the 12 drivers.

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As a result, Johnson did not finish last in qualifying in his first-ever IndyCar session and calls it a ‘small victory’ for himself. The 45-year-old rookie will begin in 21st place in Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

Jimmie Johnson is thrilled despite a tough start in IndyCar Series

The results weren’t the best, but Johnson has been clear in the build-up that it is all about the process. He was a happy man after his first experience in the new machine,

“This smile is not going to go away. What an amazing day. Didn’t qualify last, so that’s a really good thing and a small victory for me in this journey,” Johnson said soon after the end of his first day in the 2021 IndyCar season.

“Today was full of firsts, red tires, qualifying session, race weekend. Just the different layers that exist. And I survived the day. Had a lot of fun. And really excited about my first race tomorrow,” Johnson said further.

In IndyCar, drivers run warm-up sessions on the morning of race-day, another first for Johnson. He looks forward to finding some good rhythm there and then in the main showdown.

“Dial-in our race setup and then we go racing tomorrow and have a lot of fun in that Carvana Honda,” he added.

“Wrestling this monster around the racetrack”

Johnson’s excitement was high all day. He was better in the second practice session, but still was the slowest on the day. For him, the biggest takeaway was being able to handle the “monster” that is the Indy car.

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“What a rush, though. These cars are so physical, so demanding. It’s not two or three laps in, and the tongue’s hanging out, panting. Just wrestling this monster around the racetrack,” Johnson said after the end of Saturday’s practice.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 16: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, is introduced prior to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Despite starting at the back, Johnson will just look to enjoy the occasion on Sunday as he is fulfilling a childhood dream. At the same time, he will aim to get better and better every week.

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Aayush Majumdar

996 articles

Aayush Majumdar is a NASCAR content strategist, a Tennis Writer, and a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. He is well-tenured as a tennis and NASCAR writer, with over 900 articles across both sports. After pursuing a Post Graduate program in Sports Management, Aayush explored various roles in Sports Media, including a Sports Reporting role at a leading English daily.

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