Jimmie Johnson OK after second Long Beach crash; still plans to race with fractured hand
LONG BEACH, California – Jimmie Johnson still plans to drive in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach despite an injury to his right hand and another practice wreck Saturday.
Driving with a small splint to mobilize the ring and pinky fingers on his fractured right hand, Johnson slid into a tire barrier with 12 minutes remaining in the morning session.
Johnson said he felt no pain in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda cockpit and still plans to qualify and race in his hometown race. A care center X-ray showed his bones were more aligned, which Johnson credited to a splint built by Dr. Terry Trammell.
“I had no pain really on track,” said Johnson, who had set a personal-best time the lap before his incident. “Felt great. Just trying to go too fast into the turn 1 and ran into the tires. I’m more disappointed in myself making a mistake and tearing up the car again, but from an injury standpoint, I feel pretty good.
“Just I hate making mistakes, and I made two of them. I feel really good about (Sunday’s race). Still qualifying today and get through all that, but all indications right now are favorable. I feel great in the car. I don’t have a full grip going, but Terry Trammell is amazing. He knew exactly what to build, how to build it, where to position it. Great communication with him working on the splint.”
Blair Julian, the No. 48 engineer, told Speed Sport News that Johnson “was actually feeling pretty good and pretty comfortable trying to get a feel for a long run on the (softer compound tires). He got pushing there and ended up in a bad spot. It seems like the hand is doing OK.
“We’ll go back, put it back together and try again. You know these guys. He’s a competitor and will be pushing as hard as he can. His hand will hurt on Monday, but he will endure on Sunday. He’s a tough guy.”
Johnson arrived at 6 a.m. Saturday to ensure the splint worked well. He forgot about the injury while turning laps.
“You notice it more sitting still,” he said. “On the track, iit just faded away on my end.”
Johnson sustained the injury during an IndyCar practice accident Friday afternoon.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s right hand was hit by the steering wheel as it snapped around after his No. 48 Dallara-Honda made head-on contact with a tire barrier in Turn 5 during a Friday afternoon session for his hometown IndyCar race.
“I let go” of the wheel, Johnson said. “I didn’t get them far enough out of the way. So I let go, and then with the impact, I guess my hands moved into the pathway of the wheel spinning and the bottom of the wheel.
In a Twitter video Saturday morning, Johnson confirmed the fracture.
“It’s really just take it how it comes from here,” Johnson said. “Again, working with the team to make sure my cockpit is as comfortable as it can be. I feel very good about things now and am willing to try practice, but I really won’t know until I’m out there in the practice session and feel the demands of the race car to know if I can go further and into the race.”
After missing the post-practice autograph session that is mandatory for IndyCar drivers, Johnson appeared wearing a splint (with his ring and pinky fingers immobilized) in a video posted to Twitter.
“Hey everybody, as you can see, I’m a little banged up here and have a splint on,” Johnson said. “First and foremost apologies to the fans at the autograph session I wasn’t able to attend. Clearly, I’ve got something else going on here.
“I’m on my way to be further evaluated just to get a good honest look and understand what my options are. I really don’t have any clarity at this point. And I look forward to updating you all very soon.”
If Johnson needed an injury substitute, an obvious candidate would be three-time Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais, who won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole position (breaking the track record by nearly 2 seconds) on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course in Ganassi’s No. 01 Cadillac.
“I heard about it just jumping out of the car because Jimmie posted a video,” said Bourdais, who moved into racing full time in IMSA this season after nearly 20 years in IndyCar. “I think he’s got to run some tests and see how he feels. If the team wants me to drive the car, obviously I’m contracted to the team.
“I’ll do whatever they want me to do, but they haven’t asked, and I don’t even think we’re there yet. I just really hope that he’s fine and can race this weekend because he’s obviously showing better pace, and you just don’t want to get setbacks and also hurt yourself. I’m sure he’s tough enough, and he’ll be fine.”
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach holds special meaning for Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion often who attended the race often as a kid and had key meetings that helped launch his racing career.
Johnson had an entourage of 80 on hand to watch him finish 17th in last year’s race, and he said Friday before practice that he had another full suite for Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
After running a partial schedule on road and street courses last year, Johnson is two races into his first full-time season in the IndyCar season and finished a career-best sixth in the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway.
That impressive performance in his IndyCar oval debut raised the anticipation for Johnson’s expected Indy 500 debut next month.