Jimmie Johnson’s reputation as a champion helped make him one of the biggest names in North American racing, and a driver with international acclaim.
During his outstanding career in NASCAR, when he won a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, race fans in Canada were following along on Canadian television.
This weekend, Canadian race fans will get to see him compete in their homeland.
Johnson will race in Canada for the first time in his career in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. He will hit the streets in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing and is coming off the best road course finish in his career. Johnson started 27th and finished 16th in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 3.
It’s 85 laps on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course at Toronto’s Exhibition Place.
“I’ve never raced in Canada, and I’m really looking forward to that,” Johnson said. “It’s been so widely loved by everybody in the INDYCAR SERIES, so I’m excited to get there and experience it myself. I was so disappointed last year we couldn’t go because of COVID.
“I’ve only been to Canada a few times in my life to go fishing in British Columbia. I would fish anything that I could from abalone to clams to salmon. My grandparents would go up there and fish all the time and I would go visit them in the summer. Now, I’m very excited to return and get to sit behind the wheel of a race car.”
Johnson is one of the greatest stock car drivers in history. In 2020, he concluded a NASCAR career that included seven NASCAR Cup Series championships and 84 victories, including four wins in the Brickyard 400 and two in the Daytona 500.
He made the bold move to switch to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and join Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda.
The streets of Toronto is the last track on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule that Johnson will race on for the first time in his career. The Honda Indy Toronto was not held in 2020, Johnson’s final year in NASCAR, and 2021 because of COVID.
To prepare for the track, Johnson has immersed himself in videos from past races and talking to his teammates. He will use the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Ind., the week before heading to the race.
It will also be the biggest city that Johnson has ever raced in. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America behind, in order, Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles.
“I know how highly regarded that event is and how positive everybody talks about the experience and how wonderful the city is,” Johnson said. “I was super bummed we didn’t get to go last year and excited we are going back so I can experience it. It has great restaurants. I love that. Let’s eat.”
In his two years since joining INDYCAR, Johnson has feasted on the experience. This past May, he won the 2022 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award for his outstanding performance throughout the month of May leading into the 106th Indianapolis 500.
Although he had difficulty in the race and crashed into the Turn 2 wall with five laps remaining and finished 28th, Johnson was among the fastest drivers every day in practice and made the Fast 12 that determined the first four rows of the Indianapolis 500 starting grid.
In the Fast 12 practice session on the final day of qualifications, Johnson was third with a four-lap average of 233.261 mph in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda.
During his final qualification attempt, Johnson bobbled entering the first turn at IMS on his first lap but was able to regain control of the car and completed a four-lap average of 231.264 miles per hour.
Not bad for a 46-year-old rookie.
After competing on the streets of Detroit and beautiful Road America in June, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES opened July at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, home of the Honda Indy 200.
A one-week break followed and now it’s on to the streets of Toronto, where Johnson gets to achieve another “first” in his career.
“There are so many great things about INDYCAR, I think these markets are unique and amazing, especially city street racing and putting it into major areas in North America,” Johnson said. “I love the diversity of the tracks and I love the diversity of our fan base.
“It really is a change of pace from my NASCAR days and one that I’m embracing and really like.”
Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto takes the green flag at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, but it is important to note that Sunday’s race will be streamed live on Peacock Premium beginning at 3 p.m. ET. It will not be available on NBC or USA Network but will be streamed with limited commercial interruption on Peacock Premium.