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NASCAR retirement ‘off to a good start’ for Jimmie Johnson with more driving in store

Jimmie Johnson Laguna Seca

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 08: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, sits in his car prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway on November 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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After closing his career in the No. 48 Chevrolet with a fifth-place finish Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, Jimmie Johnson spent the next two days doing some driving on two iconic layouts of California’s Central Coast.

Johnson played golf Monday at the legendary Pebble Beach course and then spent Tuesday testing his No. 48 Dallara-Honda at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway.

The Monterey, California, track will play host to one of 13 road and street course races that the seven-time NASCAR champion will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.

“Epic experience,” Johnson said about Pebble Beach in a video he posted to social media. “Retirement is off to a good start with a day of golf and now a day of IndyCar driving.”

In his Instagram story, Johnson posted video of navigating Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew section and of his final lap Tuesday.

The session also included new teammate Alex Palou, who has yet to race track after its 2020 race was canceled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Laguna Seca will close the 2021 IndyCar season.

Johnson also drove in his first full-scale IndyCar test Nov. 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. He said he likely won’t be back in the car until January when he will drive in the series’ annual preseason session at Sebring International Raceway and in a few other tests before his IndyCar debut March 7 on the streets of St. Petersburg (Johnson announced his sponsorship with Carvana there last month).

“I learned a lot (at the Barber test), and I know the areas that I need to work to be more competitive in those cars,” Johnson said after his final start as a full-time Cup driver. “I’m integrated into the team. Certainly more throughout the offseason will take place.

“But I’m plugged in over there and trying to learn what I can and just trying to make the switch from a car with very little downforce to a car with a lot of downforce. I have a big challenge ahead of myself.”