NASCAR legend finally silences IndyCar critics at Texas

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson earned his first career top 10 IndyCar finish with an eye-opening sixth place effort at Texas Motor Speedway.

Heading into Sunday’s race in Texas Motor Speedway, it was well-documented that Jimmie Johnson’s young IndyCar career had been a tremendous uphill battle.

With an average starting position of 23.6 and an average finish of 21.1 in his rookie IndyCar season with Chip Ganassi Racing last year, his performance left a lot to be desired for one of motorsport’s greatest drivers.

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However, if any athlete could switch professions at the tender age of 45 and find success, it’s the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Before the weekend, when asked how he felt about finally competing at a track where he had immense success (Cup Series-record seven wins at Texas Motor Speedway), the El Cajon, California native’s face seemed to light up immediately.

“I’ve never been in traffic going that fast, I’ve never been in traffic in an IndyCar, we downshift and upshift,” a wide-eyed, excited Johnson said, “(I’m) very excited to get into a lot of these firsts and see how I stack up.”

The cautious optimism carried into the weekend, as he quietly clicked away laps in practice (series-high 69 laps logged in the first session) and earned his best career qualifying result of 18th place.

In the race, Johnson’s deliberate, calculated, and aggressive race pace that NASCAR fans have become so used to seeing over the years finally showed out on full display in an open-wheel machine.

Pass after pass, Johnson gained more confidence as the race went on.

Johnson ran as high as fifth place in the closing laps before settling for sixth, just behind teammate, six-time IndyCar champion, and five-time Texas Motor Speedway winner Scott Dixon. Dixon got around him with two laps to go due to sudden fuel issues for the #48 Honda.

Johnson’s performance on Sunday indicated a spark, a spark that shows there is still plenty of fire left in his tank heading into the rest of the season.

Should we expect seven-time to become an automatic top-10 threat each and every week?

Absolutely not.

However, Sunday’s performance in Fort Worth, Texas showed yet another reason why Johnson didn’t just make the switch to IndyCar for publicity or any other non-racing-related reason.

He switched because of that unrelenting desire to compete, challenge himself, and fulfill a dream that made him fall in love with motorsports.

Johnson’s next opportunity on an oval just happens to be at a place he’s earned four victories at in the past: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And this time, he gets to compete in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

After Johnson crossed the finish line in Texas, race engineer Eric Cowdin radioed to him, “Let’s go win the Indy 500.”

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Jimmie Johnson, Indianapolis 500 champion. That has a very intriguing and historical ring to it, don’t you think?