Newly retired NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson tests IndyCar at Laguna Seca

After wrapping up a storied NASCAR career, Jimmie Johnson visited Monterey County to kick off his new chapter as a 45-year-old rookie IndyCar driver.  

The newly retired Johnson spent Tuesday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca testing a car and getting some laps in with Chip Ganassi Racing. His transition is underway with the 2021 IndyCar season set to start on March 7 in St. Petersburg.

Johnson’s two decades as the driver of No. 48, which includes seven championships, established himself as the best of his generation. He finished fifth at Phoenix Raceway when the checkered flag waved on his NASCAR career. Moving forward, the Californian is ready to compete. 

“The experience driving the [IndyCar] is so over the top,” Johnson said. “I’m very happy with the decision I made and look forward to climbing up to speed.” 

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Johnson, who had 686 career starts over 19 complete NASCAR seasons, said his training regime has increased in intensity as he gears up for the new challenge. 

“This is a much higher heart rate, interval-style training and it’s certainly more physical,” Johnson said. “The people I know from the NASCAR world think I’m crazy for starting all over. But they all understand the interest in driving one of these cars.”

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season finishes at Laguna Seca on Sept. 19. Johnson is slated to race in all 13 road and street courses. 

“I am crazy. There’s no doubt about it,” Johnson said. “To come in and be a 45-year-old rookie and start all over again is kind of wild. But I just love a good challenge.” 

Johnson updated his fans on how retirement is going so far with an outline of his Central Coast visit, which included a round of golf at famed Pebble Beach before getting laps in at Laguna Seca. 

“Epic experience,” he said. “Retirement is off to a good start with a day of golf and now a day of IndyCar driving.” 

KTVU Photojournalist Steve Doerr and Digital Producer Ryan Moran contributed to this report.