Jimmie Johnson Flirts with Disaster at Indy 500 Qualifying

·2 min read
Photo credit: Penske Entertainment/Dana Garrett
Photo credit: Penske Entertainment/Dana Garrett

Jimmie Johnson had arguably the closest flirt with disaster to date in the first week of practice and qualifying for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 when he came off Turn 1 on the first of his four qualifying laps Sunday and just barely missed hitting the wall on his exit out.

Battling a strong crosswind, Johnson’s car began to understeer and the right tire started coming around, just barely missing skimming the concrete wall. It was so close that you probably couldn’t have put a toothpick between Johnson’s car and the wall.

Johnson recovered and found more speed to collect himself, but failed to advance to the Firestone Fast Six with a round of 233.440 mph.

“That was interesting,” Johnson quipped on his team radio after taking the checkered flag.

Later, Johnson told NBC Sports, “The track was a little different than it was this morning (in practice). We certainly were trying for it. … I was committed to run (Turn 1) flat and it was so light on the track. I was light on top of the track. It was wide and trying to keep it off the fence at that point.”

So much has been made of the four drivers who are in the “Four-Time 500 Winner’s Club” – A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears and defending 500 winner Helio Castroneves. But Johnson is hoping to join an even more exclusive club that currently has just two members: Only two drivers have ever won the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, Foyt and Mario Andretti.

Castroneves said of Johnson’s near scrape of the wall, “Jimmie, first time, no open-wheel background. He comes to a place where he’s raced stock cars but still completely different. It’s a plus that he has amazing teammates and battling with those guys. My hands up for Jimmie, he’s doing a great job.”