Jimmie Johnson was cruising around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile circuit at Portland International Raceway at Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix before Rinus VeeKay inexplicably pinned him on the outside wall entering Turn 1.
It happened on lap 84 in what had been a green flag race. The contact ended Johnson’s day in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing as he finished 24th.
“I was just trying to be courteous and go around the track at the end, but unfortunately the No. 21 faded into the braking zone at Turn 1 after I gave it the position,” Johnson explained. “We made some contact that put us in the wall and got us out.”
Before that, Johnson was just trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of a race being set by polesitter and race leader Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske.
Johnson spun earlier in the race at Turn 6, but was able to continue without making contact with anything.
A few times, No. 48 threatened to venture out of the 20s, but the accident doomed the recently inducted Sons of The American Legion member to No. 24 for the third time this season.
“We just had bad luck today,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have the pace I was looking for today. With the sun coming up today, I don’t think the car setup is right compared to yesterday’s sessions. .”
Johnson and The American Legion team at Chip Ganassi Racing wrap up their second season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Sunday at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished second to race-winning teammate McLaughlin and was able to increase his championship lead to 20 points over teammate Josef Newgarden. Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing also has 20 points, but Newgarden gets the position based on the tiebreaker: five wins to Dixon’s two.
Dixon remains strong in the battle for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.
“It was definitely a fun race,” Dixon said. “We have to work on qualifying and stop making it so hard for ourselves. The No. 9 PNC Bank had pretty good pace throughout today’s race. Fuel consumption was exceptionally easy, which was very positive. The driveability was fantastic so kudos to Honda as they made my day so much easier. We are still in the hunt for the title and we can definitely get it.”
Marcus Ericsson, winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing, also remains in the championship battle. He is fourth in the standings, 39 points after finishing 11th.
“Starting from 18th was going to be a difficult task,” said Ericsson. “On lap 1, I unfortunately went off track and lost a few places, which wasn’t ideal. From there, I think the No. 8 PNC bench team did a good job of getting us back on track. the field. We tried a few things with the strategy to get out of the sequence. When we were out in the open, we were really strong. The pace was pretty good in the No. 8 car. We made some good calls and got back up.
“On the restart, we started from 16th and got to 11th and really showed our potential. It’s a bit of a disappointing result, but it was a decent race.”
As for Alex Palou, the reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion who has worn the colors of the American Legion in select races this season, he was eliminated from the championship with a 12th-place finish.
“Starting fourth, we were running well at first and then we lost a little bit of rhythm,” Palou said. “We’ll see what happened today and we’ll bounce back next week at Laguna.”
“We still have one race ahead of us and we will try to win it.”