Jimmie Johnson will not bow out of Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach despite a fractured right hand.
The 46-year-old California native sustained the injury during a crash in opening practice on Friday. He was fitted with a carbon fiber brace for an attempt to run Saturday’s festivities, where he sustained another crash in the second practice. Fortunately, no futher damage was done to the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion’s hand.
He ended up participating in qualifying, where he was hit with a penalty from Race Control for qualifying interference with Graham Rahal. Johnson was docked his two fastest laps as a result, and did not advance out of Round 1.
He will start Sunday’s 85-lap race from 25th.
“The hand’s really good inside the car,” Johnson said to NBC Sports reporter Marty Smith. “We’ve built this splint. You can’t really see behind (the tape), it’s a carbon fiber splint. It’s really supporting the broken bone in my hand very well. It’s holding up and doing well. I made some mistakes, certainly trying to get better at a certain part of the braking zone in the corner and made two mistakes in the process. So just try to reel it back in and drive laps that I knew I was capable of there in qualifying and build on that for the race.”
Johnson, who came in after finishing scoring a sixth – his best result in the NTT IndyCar Series – in his oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway last moth, admitted he was ready pull out of the rest of the weekend’s running if it was at the cost of participating in next month’s 106th Indianapolis 500.
“Yeah. I mean, my real goal is the 500 and we have a test session April 20th and 21st (at Indianapolis Motor Speedway),” Johnson said. “I’ve talked to many specialists on the west coast and the east coast about my hand, any further damage that could be done, options that I might have.
“More focused on Indy. Really, as much as I want to be here, if I had to give this one up to make sure that I’m ready for Barber, the test in two weeks or the 500, I was willing to forego this, but this morning things started to improve as I worked in the cockpit, worked on the splint and I’ve ended up in a really good spot with it.”