Only one Chip Ganassi Racing driver missed out on the Fast Six in qualifying for the 106th Indianapolis 500 and that was the organization’s only rookie, Jimmie Johnson.
Saturday’s opening day of qualifications was a successful session for the No. 48 CGR Honda team, advancing to the Fast 12. On Sunday, Johnson put together a best four-lap average at 231.264 mph and will start 12th for the Indy 500.
It wasn’t an easy time trial with Johnson nearly making contact with the wall for a second time this week on the opening lap of his run. Diving into Turn 1, the car flowed off the corner with the right rear tire coming inches from kissing the barrier.
“I was just trying to get my tools right in my car,” Johnson said, via Peacock. “But, track’s a little different than it was this morning. The same approach wasn’t going to work and we certainly we’re trying for it. That’s the most effort in the setup of the car and trim settings and stuff that we’ve had and was committed to run one flat. It just was so light on top of the track that was wide and trying to keep it off the fence at that point.”
Throughout the month of May, Johnson has followed the speed of his fellow teammates. Despite this marking his first go around in the build up to the Indy 500, he still lacks the one variable every driver needs to be a true favorite in any race.
“Inexperience, I think ultimately,” he said. “I think the sunlight on the track and the track temp coming up and these conditions, just trying to find that right balance in the race car and these guys are so good at what they do. You know, in these trickier conditions, I just need a bit more experience.”
Though, being a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion comes with much knowledge on the ovals, making this event potentially the best chance Johnson has to win all year. What also makes this a spectacle for the oval veterans is the amount of NASCAR drivers who have brought their talents over from stock cars.
Like Johnson, Kurt Busch started 12th in his only 500 start to date. Rolling off just outside the top 10 and driving for Andretti Autosport, Busch earned a sixth-place finish.
A title holder in both series, Tony Stewart competed in the Indy 500 twice while he was a full-time Cup pilot. He started a highest of seventh on the grid in 1999 for Johnson’s current team.
Danica Patrick made her last start at Indy in 2018, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing and tied Stewart’s starting position.