American Legion driver Jimmie Johnson was part of a trio of Chip Ganassi Racing drivers who were on top of the timing charts in Monday’s two-hour, full-field practice for the 106th Indianapolis 500.
Johnson and the other 32 drivers in the 33-car starting lineup had converted their Indy cars over to race setup and used Monday’s session to prepare for the big event on Sunday.
Johnson’s No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda ran 67 laps, and his fastest lap was 228.467 miles per hour. Teammate Alex Palou was the fastest at 229.441 mph in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda and five-time Indy 500 pole winner and CGR teammate Scott Dixon was second at 229.000 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda.
“Great start to the week, nice to get back into race trim and get a sense of the car,” Johnson said. “Things keep changing. The track keeps evolving. It was nice to work through some changes and try to find neutral in the car again by myself, then work my way into traffic and put up some good lap times and competitive passes over other cars.
“Small little gains each time I’m out there. I’m learning a little bit more and putting a better race car under myself each time I’m out there.”
Another Ganassi driver, Marcus Ericsson, was fifth, just behind two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato. Ericsson’s fast lap was 228.017 mph and Sato’s was 228.381 mph.
Tony Kanaan, who is driving the No. 1 American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, was 22nd at 224.517 mph. He ran 32 laps in the session.
After practice was complete, Johnson had “Carolina on his Mind” as the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is flying back to his North Carolina home for a few days before returning to Indianapolis for Media Day on Thursday.
“I’d be on my way now, if I didn’t have plenty of debriefing to do,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be nice to get home. My wife was out of the country for a week, and I saw her and the kids briefly for a couple of hours on qualifying day and that’s been in.
“I’m eager to get home. See Team Johnson and get some time with them. Help out around the house. Chani has been super mom trying to do what she does for her career, plus the kids, plus support me. It will be nice to get home for a couple of days.”
On the track, Monday’s two-hour practice session was very important as Johnson’s team homes in on race setup instead of qualification speed.
He will start 12th in Sunday’s 106th Indianapolis 500 on the outside of Row 4.
“They are all important and as we look at the forecast, we could be wet on Friday for Carb Day,” Johnson said. “This could be the last race trim running that we do before the 500. I’m glad we focused on what we did. Last week, conditions were different, and the car behaved differently. I’m glad we were as methodical on adjustments and changes on the car today.”
Johnson welcomed a ‘lower energy, lower stress day’ on Monday.
“From an energy standpoint, yesterday was the peak of it all with the excitement trying to make the Fast Six. I’m ready to take a few days off, get my batteries recharged and be ready to go for the Indianapolis 500. I’m sure after Sunday, I’ll be a lot smarter.”
Johnson’s rookie performance at the 106th Indianapolis 500 has certainly made an impact. He’s had one of the fastest cars every day.
“We’ve had a great car,” Johnson said. “I wish we could have put it together for qualifying. I feel like I could have been in that Fast Six.
“To have my main disappointment be 12th on the grid, that’s pretty damn awesome.”