Seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson says learning to adapt to the levels of downforce achievable in high-speed corners is the biggest challenge he faces as he continues to get up to speed in IndyCar.
Johnson has spent two decades in NASCAR but for 2021 will switch to single-seater competition by running the road and street courses with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Johnson completed his first solo IndyCar test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, but recently got his first taste of driving with his future competitors on track with a one day-test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
“I’m still working on the boundaries. I would say the low-speed stuff, I have a good sense of it, seem to be on pace, where I need to be,” said Johnson.
“Faster turns with the vehicle speed creates more downforce, I’m just not used to that environment. I’m used to trusting that all the years that I spent in the heavy NASCAR vehicles without much downforce.
“That’s the challenge right now, to carry a bit more speed in, use a lot less brake, let the vehicle create the grip and the downforce from the corner itself.
They handed me a sheet that compared me to, I believe [Scott] Dixon. The slow-speed stuff I was really trending well, didn’t have a lot to work on there
“It was the high-speed corners, the flat-out corners where you have to trust the vehicle, trust the downforce that the vehicle provides. That’s where I had my biggest gap.”
With only a handful of one-day tests prior to the 2021 campaign available to him, Johnson admits it hasn’t been an ideal time to make the switch but is still relishing the challenge ahead.
“I probably have five or six test sessions before the season starts. I think seven between now and next season will take place,” he added.
“Those are only one-day events, not two-day events for testing. The weekend schedules are getting more and more condensed. They released some data how these practice sessions are going to be less next year even if we have a traditional style weekend.
“It’s a bad time to be a rookie, even a 45-year-old rookie with all the years I have in racing. To learn these cars and tracks, it’s going to be a real steep learning curve for me.”