Jimmie Johnson

Note: This week the Roundtable welcomes its newest member, Joey Barnes, who has joined INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as editorial & digital content lead. Fans with a keen eye and memory will recall Joey’s excellent contributions to INDYCAR.com as a freelance writer from 2016-19.

Today’s question: What was the moment you remember most about Jimmie Johnson’s two seasons in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES?

Curt Cavin: I go back to last October when Jimmie and Romain Grosjean took their rookie tests at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Up until that point, Jimmie had only driven Indy cars on road courses and street circuits, and he hadn’t excelled at either – never qualifying in the top 20 or finishing a race in the top 15. But that day at IMS, he was back in his comfort zone, and he was very much enjoying it because he could relate the experience and give his team proper feedback. It’s important to note that Jimmie very rarely, if ever, showed his frustration at not reaching the level he reached in NASCAR, but on that October day he looked and felt like the all-time great that he is, and he couldn’t have been happier about it. He also appreciated the opportunity to drive an Indy car on the hallowed grounds, which I appreciated.

Joey Barnes: There are quite a few to choose from, including that stout qualifying performance in May to break into the top 12 for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. However, I have to go with his late charge in the XPEL 375 earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway where he climbed as high as fifth before settling for sixth for his first top-10 result in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which also served as his official oval debut. The definitive impression left on me was when I was standing on pit road and watching Johnson and Scott Dixon, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate that he sparred with on the 1.5-mile oval, share a moment during post-race activities. There was an expression of relief – a payoff, if you will – on Johnson’s face after breaking through with something positive to show in the challenging, and at times humbling, transition from NASCAR. Additionally, it’s wild to think we witnessed a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion go wheel-to-wheel with a six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion in Dixon. That’s certainly a historical highlight reel moment, and something that we may very well never get to see again.

Paul Kelly: This might sound odd, but the moment that always will stick with me about Jimmie Johnson’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES career in 2021 and 2022 came when he wasn’t even in his driving suit or strapped into the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It came in May 2021, when Johnson didn’t compete in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and instead worked as an analyst on the NBC television team for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Johnson immediately was enthralled with the Month of May – he “got Indy” right from the opening laps of practice. And you could tell during his spots on the telecasts it was eating him alive not to be in a car and racing along with 32 other drivers at 230 mph on the world’s most famous racetrack. I knew right then and there he had made the mental transition from NASCAR and was a Master lock to run the full NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule in 2022, including his Indy 500 debut.