Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson remains open to a return to NASCAR but still has unfinished business on the IndyCar circuit and hopes to take another step in that direction Sunday at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
Johnson, 46, is still looking for his first NTT IndyCar win and heads into the Music City Grand Prix in 2021 faster than he did in his rookie season.
After that, he will consider a possible return to NASCAR.
I’m open (to return to NASCAR); I don’t see myself programming full time but if the right opportunity comes, you know, I love to drive and I still want to drive, I don’t want that NASCAR. A full-time schedule,” Johnson told The Tennessean. “Even the IndyCar full-time schedule is a little bit stretched. I’m in 21 races this year with IndyCar and IMSA and I feel like I’m busier than I want to be.”
When asked what kind of NASCAR opportunity he specifically favors for Johnson, he said, “I’m open to anything; especially some one-time things.”
Johnson’s best IndyCar finish came July 24 when he finished fifth in the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 at Iowa Speedway. He finished 11th in his first Iowa race the day before and was sixth at the Texas oval earlier this season.
“I’m going to continue learning these cars, learning the tracks, building my confidence and becoming more competitive,” Johnson said. “Having two big races like I did at Iowa was really fun.”
Johnson took a step back last weekend, finishing 22nd at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. It moved him into a tie for 20th in the IndyCar points standings with Callum Ilott.
The biggest thing Johnson has learned since leaving NASCAR is that there are fewer similarities to IndyCar than he first thought.
Disqualified in Nashville: Jimmie Johnson was disqualified during the 18th lap of the IndyCar Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. Here’s why
Testing NASCAR: IndyCar driver Joseph Newgarden test drives at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
TIM MCGRAW: Tim McGraw Tour 2022 Includes Nashville Concert Before Music City Grand Prix IndyCar Race
“It’s been a fun ride for me trying to forget everything I’ve done over the years, like a little bit of instinct, being gentle with the tires, taking care of the car, taking care of the breaks,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t work in an Indy car. You have to hit the breaks, you have to light the tires and make them work.”
The Music City Grand Prix marked a low point in Johnson’s rookie year. His team was eliminated on lap 18 after working on Johnson’s car during a red flag.
Johnson’s car was damaged in a large crash involving several cars on that lap.
He also failed in the qualifiers.
“I really love Nashville. I’m there at least once a year, whether it’s going to the Country Music Awards or going in to hang out with friends and catch some live music,” Johnson said. “To run on the streets with the energy that Nashville has, I love it and I’m excited to be back and I hope I have a little bit of luck.”
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.