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Jimmie Johnson often describes his rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series as “a journey,” and his favorite stretch of road so far might be Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Though he finished 22nd (for the second consecutive race) after starting 25th Sunday on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course, Johnson lost none of his enthusiasm for Mid-Ohio and avoided trouble on the track’s roller-coaster layout.
“Really good day here at Mid-Ohio,” Johnson said. ” Last two sets of tires, I really found confidence and pace. Made some good adjustments on the pit stops. Kind of slotted in in the middle of the pack, ran with (Rinsu) VeeKay in front of me and (Simon) Pagenaud in front of him and closed out the laps and ran some really competitive lap times the last stint and a half.
“Very, very proud of that. It’s what we needed. We’ll build on this and head to the next one.”
Sunday was the best day for Johnson, who ranked last in three practice sessions over Friday and Saturday but didn’t seem discouraged by it, referring to Mid-Ohio as an “awesome racetrack” after tackling its rolling hills for the first time. He also filled his social media feeds with updates of the bucolic facility in Lexington, Ohio.
“What a place,” Johnson said Friday. “Just a fun, fun track. Tons of elevation change. The grip level changed so much from the start to the end, so really fit my progression. Made very little changes. Really just focused on getting the laps.
“This place definitely overdelivered. Not many drivers talked to me about it coming in, so I think this one is a bit of a sleeper from an experience standpoint.”
NEXT: Johnson will be making his fourth street course start of the season as IndyCar makes its Aug. 8 debut on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, with the Music City Grand Prix. The 12th round of the 2021 season will be at 5:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN).
Johnson’s schedule was shortened by a race with news IndyCar announcing it won’t replace the Toronto race (which was scrubbed for the second consecutive season because of the COVID-19 pandemic). That leaves 12 street and road courses for Johnson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Johnson also has begun exploring oval tests for a possible Indy 500 attempt next year.
JOHNSON’S ROOKIE SEASON
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is racing 12 road and street course events this year. Here’s how he has fared in prevous races:
‘HE’S GOING TO GET THERE’: An inside look at Jimmie Johnson’s rookie season at the halfway mark
In seven starts, Johnson has completed 517 of 558 laps with an average start of 23.1 and an average finish of 22nd.
Jimmie Johnson IndyCar Watch, Race 7: An enjoyable ride at ‘awesome’ Mid-Ohio originally appeared on NBCSports.com