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Arrow McLaren SP still interested in Jimmie Johnson despite Ganassi test

McLaren Jimmie Johnson Ganassi

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown gives a thumbs up as he arrives at the circuit during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 12, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

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McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said his IndyCar team remains interested in fielding a car for Jimmie Johnson even as the seven-time NASCAR champion works with Chip Ganassi Racing.

A July 8 test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in a Dallara-Honda for Ganassi was postponed after Johnson tested positive for COVID-19. The Hendrick Motorsports driver since has tested negative twice and been cleared to return Sunday at Kentucky Speedway. During a Friday news conference, Johnson said there had been “a couple of conversations” about rescheduling the test with Ganassi.

“I think Ganassi and IndyCar are eager to have that experience to get me in a car and get me tested,” Johnson said. “But everybody is giving everything a little time to breathe right now and maybe identify the next possible date that works for IndyCar and works for Ganassi.

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“And I’m clearly hopeful to get a test with McLaren as I was trying to work on back in April that went away because of the lockdown. So, I think that’s all to come. It’s hard to say anything’s really taking place just yet, but I know I’m eager and I know everybody involved is eager for that to take place.”

Johnson originally was scheduled to test April 6 at Barber Motorsports Park with Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports (the IndyCar operation of McLaren Racing) before the session was scrubbed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He visited the team’s Indianapolis shop in March for a seat fitting in one of its Dallara-Chevrolets.

“He’s free to do what he wants,” Brown said Friday during a team media availability when asked whether Johnson working with Ganassi would rule out Arrow McLaren SP. “It really just depends on the situation that we’d be presented with as to what we would do and when we would do it. He’s got a desire to get as much experience as possible. With the limited testing that looks like we’re going to be allowed, the more testing for Jimmie, the better wherever he ends up racing, so that certainly wouldn’t put us off.

While there are no immediate plans to test Johnson, Brown said Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports would be open to trying another test in a few months.

“Anytime you can put a seven-time champion of anything in your racing car, that’s always a lot of fun,” Brown said. “He did a great job in our Formula One car, so if schedules allow, timing allows, then we’d love to have a go. Our priority is exclusively on (IndyCar drivers) Oliver (Askew) and Pato (O’Ward). So that’s all on our mind at the moment.

“But later in the year, at the end of the year, if it makes sense, it would be great to see what (Johnson) can do in an IndyCar.”