Jimmie Johnson runs the first laps of a Next-Gen car in the Phoenix test

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had his first rides in a Next-Gen car Tuesday in a test at Phoenix Raceway, and said the car was “significantly different” from what he’s used to in the Cup Series.

“You can’t drive these cars sideways like the generation of cars I’ve driven because of the sidewall (tire) and also just the aerodynamics of the car,” Johnson told reporters after he finished his one-day session.

Johnson was allowed to test under NASCAR’s Driver Steering Test rules. It limits the team to three sets of frames and how much data they can collect. The test is allowed to take part in a lane that the driver will not enter.

This rule allowed former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen to test a Cup car last year before competing for Trackhouse Racing at Watkins Glen in his series debut.

Johnson was tested in the car in its 2022 configuration. Six other cars were tested Tuesday in Phoenix in 2023 configurations. Among the NASCAR testing targets for those six cars was To improve racing primarily on short tracks and road courses. Johnson was not allowed to run in these cars.

Tuesday marked Johnson’s first in a Cup car still leaving the series after the 2020 season to compete in IndyCar.

“(I’ve been) trying to work through it and find speed today,” Johnson said of his goal for the test. “Sim helped. I’ve come to understand some important things about where I put my hands, when I go to the throttle. … In the end, I wanted to face the limit today and get to know things.”

The Legacy MC co-owner said he felt good at the session.

“I think the fifth or sixth time was my fastest time in the car,” said Johnson. “To be able to be on pace and be with the group so quickly, it was just nice to just lean on that and really instinctively drive the car instead of worrying about all the little details, where to put the car and how to use the pedals and the wheel like I used to do in IndyCar.” over the past two years.”

Even with a session in the simulator last week, Johnson was grateful for some track time in the new car.

“Seat time is everything,” he told reporters. “The drivers, the teams, you try to do what you can in the simulation, but being on the track is where you learn everything.

“To run a limited schedule with (the #84 team) running a limited schedule we need to keep our expectations realistic about the job ahead of us. It’s a very competitive sport. Lots of great teams and drivers.

“I suppose, as I continue to get more sitting time in these cars, I will understand where to find the pace and continue to make myself more competitive.”

Also marked on Tuesday Johnson’s first day working with crew chief Todd Gordon on the track. The team announced this week that Gordon, the former Cup champion crew chief, will work with Johnson this season.

“Todd is a true professional,” said Johnson. “Obviously his stats speak for themselves. Trying to find someone who really helps me fit in with me as well as help the organization. Todd is the perfect candidate for that, so we’re really excited to have him on board.”

Johnson will be bidding to win one of four open places in the Daytona 500 next month. He said he plans to run “a handful” of Cup races this season but that schedule will likely not be decided until “the coming weeks”.

Johnson is still hoping to be one of the Garage 56 drivers who will take a specially prepared Cup car to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Johnson said that “the door is probably closed” on any IndyCar races, which means he won’t have the opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day this year.

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