Advertisement

Could Jimmie Johnson race in a Grand Prix of St. Petersburg?

The seven-time NASCAR champion is open to other forms of racing starting next year. Why not the streets of St. Pete?
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, center, talks with Will Power, left, and Josef Newgarden during practice for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 16, 2019.
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, center, talks with Will Power, left, and Josef Newgarden during practice for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 16, 2019. [ DARRON CUMMINGS | AP ]
Published Feb. 13, 2020

DAYTONA BEACH — Now that Jimmie Johnson has announced that this will be his final full-time NASCAR season, the seven-time Cup Series champion has started to think about other racing possibilities in his future.

So how about an appearance in a future Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg?

Johnson, 44, has an interest in open-wheel racing. He has friends in IndyCar and even visited Austin, Texas, on Tuesday for the series’ testing at Circuit of the Americas.

Related: Daytona 500: How Denny Hamlin transformed himself to have a shot at history

“It was just kind of exploring and looking around,” Johnson said Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day. “I don’t have anything planned.”

But…

Johnson does want to continue racing in some capacity next year, whether it’s in IndyCar, sports cars, skiing, off-road racing or something else. He said he has been approached by various sanctioning bodies and team owners over the years about potential fits.

If Johnson does decide to try an IndyCar race or two, he said he probably wouldn’t want to do an oval.

“I’ve gone in circles enough,” Johnson said.

That leaves road and street courses … like St. Petersburg.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is one of the crown jewels of the IndyCar Series.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is one of the crown jewels of the IndyCar Series.

Don’t get your hopes up yet. Johnson didn’t specifically mention street circuits, where courses include parts of actual city streets.

But he is intrigued by road courses in general, where the routes feature different kinds of turns and, often, changes in elevation. Johnson specifically mentioned how impressive Formula 1 tracks are.

“There’s just a unique feel that TV doesn’t carry over,” Johnson said. “The tracks are awesome. They look big and nice and wonderful, but from the driver’s seat, the way they shape turns, really complicated angles and corners, a lot of elevation that you can’t see from television, which is very intriguing as a driver.”

St. Petersburg is tricky in its own right, and drivers love coming here. It has become one of the crown jewels of the series. But if Johnson does eventually race an IndyCar street course, California’s Grand Prix of Long Beach seems like a better bet; Johnson grew up in California and attended the race as a child.

Related: How the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg became one of IndyCar’s crown jewels

Then again, Johnson isn’t ruling anything out about his post-NASCAR future.

“I’m just open,” Johnson said.