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Michelle R. Martinelli

Like so many curious racing fans, motor sports legend Mario Andretti will surely have his eye on Jimmie Johnson when he takes his first shot at the Indianapolis 500 later this month.

And Andretti has a feeling the NASCAR turned IndyCar driver will “be a force to be reckoned with” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The anticipation for Johnson’s first Indy 500 has been growing since he announced his plans to retire from the NASCAR Cup Series as a seven-time champion at the end of the 2020 season and make the jump to open-wheeled racing in the IndyCar Series, still behind the wheel of the No. 48 car.

It subsided a little during Johnson’s 2021 rookie IndyCar season with Chip Ganassi Racing, during which he only raced on the street and road courses — not the ovals, like Indianapolis Motor Speedway — because of safety concerns with a faster car that was new to him.

Now, Johnson is in the middle of a full IndyCar season with Ganassi, and that means he’ll run his first Indy 500 on May 29 at the iconic Brickyard.

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And after his strong sixth-place finish in March at Texas Motor Speedway — his first IndyCar oval race and his best IndyCar finish to date — the hype over his first Indy 500 began building again. (Johnson won seven races at Texas in NASCAR.)

Though Johnson finished inside the top-20 drivers just once in IndyCar’s other three races so far this season, his performance at Texas, in part, led 82-year-old Andretti to praise the NASCAR turned IndyCar driver’s improvements and potential in oval races.



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