INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson looked every bit like a four-time race winner on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s historic oval for an Indy 500 test Wednesday.
Only this time, his blue No. 48 was an Indy car turning laps in excess of 215 mph.
The seven-time NASCAR champion climbed as high as third on the speed chart before finishing the first of two Indianapolis 500 test sessions pain free. He told reporters he has been feeling good since doctors surgically inserted a screw into his broken right hand on April 11.
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“I was surprised with how big the screw was, but the pain was just gone in such a short time after the surgery,” Johnson said on pit road. “But I didn’t have any soft tissue issues, either.”
Johnson later said in a social media video that he was pleased to finish with the sixth-best lap in the early two-hour veteran session.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) April 20, 2022
Johnson, 46, still took some precautions – wearing protective padding over a wrap around his injured hand. It certainly did n’t slow down his car or his learning curve from him.
Johnson noted the ovals he avoided in his inaugural IndyCar season last year put less force on his hand than the Long Beach street course, where he drove with a splint after suffering the injury in a practice crash, or than he might endure in the May 1 race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
Johnson finished a career-best sixth March 20 at Texas Motor Speedway in his IndyCar oval debut.
While many veterans struggled Wednesday with pit exit during a blustery session that began after a 90-minute rain delay, Johnson posted the eighth-fastest non-tow lap in the first two-hour window of on-track activity.
Johnson, of course, is quite familiar with ovals after spending 20 seasons in NASCAR’s premier series and earning 83 victories — four in the Brickyard 400.
The difference was until Texas, he hadn’t turned such fast laps in traffic. Yet he looked every bit as comfortable as Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, and the six-time series champion said Johnson his eager for his Indy 500 debut May 29 on NBC.
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“I think seeing him here last year (as an NBC Sports analyst for the Indy 500), you already knew he made his decision,” Dixon said. “It just took him a little longer to say it.”
The test will continue Thursday with a six-hour session starting at 10 am ET and televised on Peacock.
“These two days are kind of freebies for us,” Johnson said. “We shouldn’t be making any excuses come Memorial Day, and I think we’ll be OK.”