NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson set to make IndyCar debut — sort of

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Jimmie Johnson is set to make his IndyCar “debut” competing in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Watkins Glen International.

It wasn’t how he initially envisioned it happening, but seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to get behind the wheel of an IndyCar and compete against the best at America’s highest level of open-wheel racing later today.

That is, in a virtual setting.

Because the start of the 2020 IndyCar season (and the remainder of the 2020 Cup Series season) have been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, iRacing has taken over as the top platform on which the drivers in these series are able to compete.

NASCAR opened up the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series last week with a virtual race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Now IndyCar is set to open up the IndyCar iRacing Challenge later this afternoon with a virtual race at Watkins Glen International.

Johnson, who drove the virtual #48 Ally Financial Chevrolet in the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a rig that looked more like an IndyCar rig than a NASCAR rig, is set to shift gears to IndyCar this afternoon.

He is set to pilot an open-wheel #48 Ally Financial Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International.

He had hoped to make his true IndyCar debut next Monday, April 6 in a test at Barber Motorsports Park behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren SP, but that test was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That test is part of the reason why his rig is set up more for a virtual open-wheel car as opposed to a virtual stock car.

The real-life Cup Series season is scheduled to resume on Saturday, May 9 at Martinsville Speedway while the IndyCar season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, May 30 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

Both of these dates remain subject to change. IndyCar has released an updated 2020 schedule while NASCAR has not yet done so, although they have confirmed that their goal is still to run all 36 races that were initially on the schedule.

IndyCar and NASCAR postponements and cancellations: TRACKER

Jimmie Johnson has stated that a true non-virtual IndyCar test is still on his “bucket list”, but a new one needs to be scheduled. It is unknown whether he would still test at Barber Motorsports Park or at another venue, but it is believed that his test would still be conducted by Arrow McLaren SP given his connections to the team.