Johnson fills highlight reel with rudder

Johnson fills highlight reel with rudder

Jimmie Johnson was proud to provide a “highlight reel” for the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval race Saturday at Iowa Speedway.

But more impressive than his three-wide, round-the-out pass on lap 109 was the overall performance the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion showed at the 250 presented by DoorDash. Johnson finished 11th, but he consistently — and rightly so — drove in the top six for most of the second half of the race.

Remember, this was only his third oval race in this series.

Johnson struggled to the finish late in the long tire run, losing five positions and dropping out of the lead lap. That’s no shame, though, as several other drivers with significantly more series experience were at the mercy of their fading tire grip.

Johnson’s best finish in this series came on March 20 when he placed sixth at Texas Motor Speedway, and this was an equally strong performance. Johnson was impressive in qualifying 12th for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 29 before crashing into Turn 2 late in the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Best of all, Johnson will have the chance to apply what he learned in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES short track race on Saturday, as the field of 26 cars lines up for Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers, presented by Google ( 3 p.m. ET, NBC and the INDYCAR radio network).

“That last run, we went so far as to burn the right rear tire of the car,” said the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda driver. “But still, a very strong performance.”

For the second time in his 23-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES career, Johnson led laps on Saturday – a career-best 19 in all. His two-lap lead came in the “500”.

Ironically, Johnson took the lead on Saturday thanks to his slip. His car spun out of Turn 4 on lap 16, but he hit nothing and made a pit stop along with the rest of the back half of the field during that caution period.

With new tires and aggression regained, Johnson and many others began to run past those who hadn’t stopped. When Colton Herta, who had similarly pitted and drove Curb-Agajanian to third in Andretti Autosport’s No.26 Gainbridge Honda, pulled out again with the leaders on lap 61, Johnson took the lead.

“Instinctively I tried to drive over the painted line (at the bottom of the track) like I would in a Cup car, and when I touched it I thought, ‘You idiot; why did you do that?’” Johnson said of his spin, adding later that Kevin Harvick had encouraged him to ride that low in a stock car. “Luckily I kept it off the wall. I was able to start it quickly, went to work on the front stretch, was pointed in the right direction.

“It was just great fun. I had the outdoor track working on many of those restarts, making up for spots. Racing hard with the regulars up front was great fun. ”

The highlight reel was achieved with a bold move around Jack Harvey (No.45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco (No.29 PowerTap Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) in Turn 2. Johnson had a similar exciting move around Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing (No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet).

Teammate Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was impressed with Johnson as he followed him for much of the second half of the race.

“Jimmie kind of had his own job there, (job) three and four,” Dixon said. “He did a great job and he was a lot of fun to watch because he was constantly trying things that I may need to do more.”

Dixon finished fifth. Fellow Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson finished sixth and eighth respectively.

Johnson’s quick cup of coffee

Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award was at 9:30 a.m. local time and Johnson came in fourth on the track. The speed caught his attention.

“Wow, that’s the best cup of coffee you could ever have,” he said on the team’s radio.

Johnson’s laps were 175.205 mph and 175.812 mph, which topped the charts at the time. He finished 15th and 13th starting positions for the races and was excited about the experience.

“What a rush,” Johnson said after climbing out of the car. “Going so fast on such a short track – it’s such a crazy experience.”

The speeds were certainly higher than the last time the series raced here, in 2020. In that doubleheader, Conor Daly took pole for the first race at 175.188 mph, while Josef Newgarden surpassed qualifying for Race 2 at 175.333 mph.

This year, Will Power won his 65th and 66th pole in the career series, setting a pole of Mario Andretti’s all-time record with laps of 178.199 mph and 178.013 mph.

Newgarden’s win in the #2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet meant that the pole winner at Iowa Speedway has won just one of 11 races in the series since the first race in 2007. Newgarden, who started second on Saturday, won the second race of the 2020 doubleheader off the pole.

Hy-Vee Sets High Bar with Support

All around Iowa Speedway there were signs that Hy-Vee’s foray into race sponsorship was outstanding.

From activating its stores to following signage to food delivery to helping paint much of its 2006-built facility, the West Des Moines supermarket chain showed first-class support in returning the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to Newton.

Hy-Vee sponsored Harvey’s number 45 Honda and pasted Harvey’s likeness and that of his race car across the region. Hy-Vee operates more than 240 stores in eight Midwestern states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Harvey said he felt like a star.

“What they’ve brought to the series is re-raising the bar on how sponsors can use the series,” he said.

The weekend featured concerts from Grammy-winning artists such as Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line on Saturday, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton on Sunday.

Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said he was pleased with how Iowa Speedway looked.

“I think it turned out pretty well,” he said.

Odds and Ends

  • Herta’s strong run in the first half of the race ended with a clutch problem mid-race during a pit stop that cost him six laps from the leader. He finished 24th. He finished eight laps off the pace.
  • Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) had first contact with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this weekend, losing the rear of the car at Turn 2 on Lap 110. He said the rear was too late in the fuel supply. was loose.
  • Daly (Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet) qualified third for both races, but his chance of winning Saturday’s race was dented during the warning for Rosenqvist’s wall contact. Daly had left the pits just a few laps earlier, which cost him a lap ahead of the leaders after the reorganisation. He finished 19th.
  • Owner/driver Ed Carpenter’s race came to an end on lap 161 when his No. 33 Alzamed Neuro Chevrolet spun into the wall of Turn 3.
  • Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet) lost fourth position on a restart in the second half of the race when the lug nut came off the right rear wheel. He had to go into the pits and lost two laps to the leaders. He fell all the way to 22nd at the finish.
  • David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) described a chaotic race in his first series race on the track. Most of it was based on heavy, non-stop traffic, but he also choked to death drinking from his hot water bottle during a warning. Malukas said he could hardly control his coughing and sneezing. “It was very frustrating,” he said.
  • It was a birthday weekend. Scott Dixon turned 42 on Friday. Rookie Christian Lundgaard turned 21 on Saturday and then finished 10th after starting 20th in the #30 Shield Cleansers Honda. It will be almost a month before the next active driver’s birthday. That will be Dalton Kellett on August 19. He’s going to be 29.
  • Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300, presented by Google, will air at 3 p.m. (ET), with the green flag for the 300-lap race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. There will be no morning workout; instead, the 11:55 p.m. session will mean each car will get an installation round to check the equipment.
  • Most car colors will remain the same for Sunday’s race. Johnson will wear The American Legion; Takuma Sato switches to Nurtec ODT.
  • The Gwen Stefani concert is held in between the round trip. Blake Shelton performs on the front podium right after the race.
  • Hunter McElrea led an Andretti Autosport victory on the podium at the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires on Saturday when series leader Linus Lundqvist, the first driver to cross the finish line, was penalized three places for avoidable late race contact with Matthew Brabham. Brabham’s car sustained heavy damage to the front wing after making contact with the outside wall exiting Turn 2. He finished third behind his teammates, McElrea and Christian Rasmussen.
  • McElrea now has a two-race winning streak after capturing the July 3rd race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He moved up two positions in the standings to second place, trailing Lundqvist by 77 points.
  • Indy Lights returns to action on August 7 with the Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. It will be the first race on the downtown street circuit.

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