Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson says he’s interested in running IndyCar but is likely to opt for road course races than the ovals he’s more used to running in stock cars.
Following his ride-swap with Fernando Alonso, in which Johnson drove a Formula 1 2013 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-28 V8 at Bahrain International Circuit, and Alonso drove a Hendrick Chevrolet NASCAR, Johnson was asked if open-wheel racing would be of interest.
“Without a doubt,” responded Johnson, who grew up with Indy car legend Rick Mears as his hero. “2020 is my last year under contract with Hendrick, and I’ve been approached many times about the Indy 500.
“I’m not overly excited about those fast ovals, but I think with my status and relationships I could put together some road course races in IndyCar.
“I’ve done sportscar racing in the past, I’ve finished second in the Rolex 24 a couple of times in the Prototype division, I’d love to get back to doing that. Anything’s open.
“I’m far from done, I want to keep driving and hopefully I can find some good opportunities.”
Johnson who, like Mears, started his four-wheel career in off-road racing, admitted that the last time he’d tried an open-wheel car had been a “single-seater desert buggy [with] a 1600cc Volkswagen engine in it – maybe ’94…” confirmed he’d not driven an open-wheel car on a circuit. He explained that he approved of racers being more versatile.
“I feel like drivers at a young age have to decide if they’re going to drive sedans or open-wheel cars,” he stated. “I don’t know if that’s right, if it’s right for that judgment to take place.
“I look back at some of my heroes – and I know some of them are yours – but when you look at Parnelli Jones, Mario [Andretti], Dan Gurney, Emmo [Fittipaldi], they raced anything. And I don’t know where that got lost. In the ’80s or ’90s, it was ‘You’re just open wheel and you’re just sedan.’
“I don’t know why that’s there. I feel like an open-minded driver – and one that’s ready to work – could cross and go either direction. We’ve seen quite a few open-wheel guys try NASCAR and they’ve been competitive. I don’t think there’s been as many victories as some would have thought, but they’ve been competitive.
“No-one has gone the other way. So I would love to see somebody go the other way.”