Jimmie Johnson, who stood on the starting grid before the 24 Hours of Daytona, became nervous.
The seven-time NASCAR champion, at the age of 45, is beginning a new chapter in his career with an unfamiliar race car. He was tabbed to start America’s most prestigious sports car race for the Action Express team, and Johnson has only one goal for his first stint in Cadillac I did.
“Sure, I didn’t want to break the toys in the first few hours,” Johnson said after driving around the Daytona International Speedway for about 70 minutes on Saturday.
He handed over number 48 to his teammate Simon Pagenaud and then asked Kamui Kobayashi, who won the Rolex 24 twice, to report the animation.
Johnson has been the most dominant NASCAR driver in the last two decades, more than two months away, and “jumped into the deepest part of the pool with weights on his ankles” as he moved to the new race system. This Rolex 24 is the eighth in his career, the first in ten years, and a warm-up to his move to IndyCar. In IndyCar, you’ll be a rookie in the field where half-aged drivers gather.
His career changes brought a busy off-season of testing with some of the world’s top drivers, and Johnson’s demands sparked. He had no chance of winning in the last three seasons of NASCAR’s career.
“I know the world I’m stepping into, what I’m away from, the comfort there was, and how uncomfortable it is to step into this new arena. I am very aware. I feel alive, “said Johnson. “I’m uncomfortable and very excited to learn something new. I’m very excited to drive these cars, I’ve really grown up as a driver and have a lot of new experiences in my life. ..
“It makes me feel more lively than I have for quite some time.”
Rolex started with 50 healthy fields and was a strong rebound after the event. Last season it was as low as 38 entries. Daytona officials said participation in the infield was limited to the event, but did not announce the capacity. Motorhomes were banned from tents and were only allowed on premises with masks required.
Shortly before the race began, Alegra Motorsports announced that driver Michael de Quesada had tested positive for COVID-19 and had left the speedway to quarantine himself. He was replaced by Mike Skine in the GT Daytona class Mercedes.
Otherwise, the event went as planned. Along the way, it was crowded with fans visiting the manufacturer’s displays, the Ferris wheel was up and running, and many of the world’s best road course racers were keen on a 24-hour endurance event.
Johnson held himself in his first stint driving a Cadillac, and the Action Express Entry, partially fielded with Hendrick Motorsport and sponsored by Ally, is a solid chance with an overall victory. I have. His team has to fight a full-time Action Express entry. As a result, NASCAR champion Chase Elliott made his sports car debut.
Hendrick has sent a small number of employees to Daytona, including former Johnson Crew Chief Chad Knaus and Jeff Gordon, who was part of Wayne Taylor Racing’s Rolex winning team in 2017. Johnson climbed onto the pit stand after driving to chat with both Elliott and Gordon.
Elliott appeared discouraged after his first run in his first sports car race. He said he was “terrible,” “out of pace,” and “did not do a good job at all.”
“In the next go-around, we need to step up for these guys,” he said, adding that he struck a curb early in the run. “I was a little worried that I might have hurt my bottom. I can never do that.”
After a driver change between Elliott and Mike Conway, his No. 31 Action Express entry slipped to the end of the class.
But at least according to Acura factory driver Dane Cameron, Cadillac seemed to have an advantage. The Acura program has two DPi entries, both of which are new to IMSA’s top series.
This includes Wayne Taylor Racing, who returned to Daytona as the winner of the last two Rolex 24s, and three of the last four dating back to Gordon’s victory. However, the team switched from Cadillac during the off-season and is still adapting to the move. The transition was mitigated by drivers Ricky Taylor, Elio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, who have piloted Acura for Team Penske for the past three years.
However, Cadillac (there are four in seven DPi classes) has been the leader of the puck so far. The Action Express entry, with Elliott joining the lineup, started on Paul after winning the qualifying race last weekend. Chip Ganassi Racing showed no signs of rust one year after the series.
Ganassi’s entry was a race following the starter Renger van der Zande and was the overall race leader for just over two hours. Renger van der Zande aims to be the first driver to win a Rolex watch three times in a row, winning two consecutive WTRs with Kobayashi.
Ganassi, who won eight Rolex wins, also uses IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and Kevin Magnussen, who moved to a sports car seven seasons later in F1.
As Dixon was waiting for his turn in the car, he was surprised at the work Johnson had done in the last two months. Dixon and Johnson will be IndyCar’s Ganassi teammates.
“Many people, especially on our team, are his work ethics and I think he will grind everything,” Dixon said. “He’s just trying to speed up as quickly as possible. This should probably be the biggest job for anyone who has tried to go from the other side of the motorsports.”
Johnson admitted that he was an old dog trying to learn a new trick.
“It was really fun to grab the steering wheel and challenge myself in a whole new way,” Johnson said. “These highdownforce cars are so much fun and number one, and rewiring everything we learned from driving a heavy sedan is a huge challenge.”
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Johnson got well after a stint at the prestigious Rolex 24
Source link Johnson got well after a stint at the prestigious Rolex 24