Johnson needs to find "comfort" before tackling IndyCar ovals

Jimmie Johnson hopes to lean on his NASCAR Cup experience ahead of his first IndyCar oval test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, saying he needs "to find comfort" on them.

Johnson needs to find "comfort" before tackling IndyCar ovals

Johnson currently only races on the road and street courses for Chip Ganassi Racing, with oval duty delegated to IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan - who qualified fifth at the Indianapolis 500 after making it into the Fast Nine with the third-fastest run.

Although seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Johnson has years of experience racing on ovals in stock car machinery, he elected not to run them in his maiden IndyCar season - but will conduct a test at Homestead to "get comfortable" with them.

The California native says that he hopes there will be crossover in his knowledge of ovals from his storied NASCAR career, and has been gleaning knowledge from two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya - who also raced in both series - and fellow IndyCar rookie Romain Grosjean, who will make his own oval debut at IndyCar's Gateway round.

“I’m trying to find my comfort with the ovals," Johnson said. "I think [Grosjean] is in a similar place. We’ve been chatting over the year about ovals and really the whole experience altogether.

“As I get more and more comfortable with ovals – hopefully the test when it happens late August will go well – and I’ll continue to work closer to the Indy 500 and ovals in general."

"I feel like there’s some carryover [from NASCAR]; of all the types of tracks we run on, there should be some crossover on ovals.

"I spent some time talking with Juan Pablo [Montoya] and he felt like when he was able to return to IndyCar after his NASCAR experience, that there was a lot of knowledge of driving technique he could bring over and he felt like he could have a leg up on the traditional IndyCar drivers at that point.

"That’s the carrot hanging out in front of me. I’m running around at the back of the pack on street and road courses and I’m thinking, ‘Man, if I was on an oval, where would I be?’ That’s the balance I’m fighting with right now, of risk versus reward.”

Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

Johnson explained that his reservations over racing on ovals had been down to his own concerns over safety, but he says that watching team-mate Alex Palou walk away from a 220mph practice crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway "was a big check mark" in ensuring his own participation.

In addition, Johnson explained that part of his Homestead test was understanding the safety of IndyCar's Dallara chassis on an oval course, and suggested he won't know how safe the car will be unless he crashes for himself.

"Ultimately I'm trying to understand the safety level of IndyCar on the ovals," he said. "That's really been my fear, from being a fan and watching from afar and watching my friends race on ovals.

"But after seeing a few big crashes at the Brickyard and speaking to the drivers after, I'm becoming much more comfortable with the ovals and with the crash dynamics that take place.

“I'm at a point now where in a funny way I'm willing to go hit a wall; I'm not going to know unless I really hammer a wall how much it hurts, the difference between a Cup car and an IndyCar.

“Watching the Indy 500 this year and seeing Alex's huge crash that he had in practice, he was fine: he walked away. That was a big check mark for me, like ‘OK, wall, car, that speed – that all worked well."

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