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Jimmie Johnson wrecks twice in Grand Prix of St. Petersburg debut

The NASCAR legend and IndyCar rookie finished 22nd.
Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Honda needed a new front wing after he wrecked during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Honda needed a new front wing after he wrecked during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Apr. 25
Updated Apr. 25

ST. PETERSBURG — Racing legend Jimmie Johnson’s transition from NASCAR to IndyCar hit another bump in his second race in this series.

The seven-time Cup Series champion locked up his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on Lap 16 and ran into the tires off Turn 13 for the day’s first caution. Johnson brought out the second yellow, too, when he spun out in Turn 3 with 27 laps to go.

Related: Photos: Indy Car returns to the streets of St. Petersburg

He finished five laps and 22nd in the 24-car field but remained upbeat in a rookie season that’s more about fun than results right now.

“I had a blast here,” Johnson said.

Jimmie Johnson signs the shirt of fan Caroline Gast of Sarasota after the morning practice session.
Jimmie Johnson signs the shirt of fan Caroline Gast of Sarasota after the morning practice session. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Sold-out scorcher

The Grand Prix moved back a month from its traditional March spot to allow for more fans as coronavirus vaccinations increase. The decision seemed to pay off; the event sold out its reduced capacity (20,000), and the event felt fuller than the rescheduled race in October.

The schedule change did, however, create another wrinkle: heat. The humidity was 82 percent before the green flag, according to the National Weather Service. Winner Colton Herta said he was winded afterward.

“Have never been hotter in a race car in my life,” driver Conor Daly said on Twitter. “Struggled to breathe about halfway through the race till the end.”

Scotty Miller’s speed

Bucs wide receiver Scotty Miller, racing legend Mario Andretti and grand marshal Marquez Valdes-Scantling pose for a photo before the start of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Bucs wide receiver Scotty Miller, racing legend Mario Andretti and grand marshal Marquez Valdes-Scantling pose for a photo before the start of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Bucs receiver Scotty Miller found something faster than he is when he got to take a ride with Mario Andretti around the track. Miller was the passenger in the IndyCar two-seater, called the Fastest Seat in Sports.

Packers receiver and St. Petersburg resident Marquez Valdes-Scantling served as the grand marshal. Valdes-Scantling, a product of USF and Lakewood High, gave the command for drivers to start their engines. On Twitter, Valdes-Scantling called it “one of the coolest things I’ve done.”

The Bachelor and a youngster

Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks had a couple notable participants. Gordon’s 12-year-old son, Max, competed and finished seventh out of eight. His dad said Max hopes to become a professional driver when he gets older.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. — a former lead on The Bachelor — joked that he got a hall pass from his wife, Lauren (whom he met on the hit reality TV show) to race, even though she’s 31 weeks pregnant with twins. He finished fourth Sunday and third for the weekend.