Jimmie Johnson believes he’s in a “better place” ahead of his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship return in this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is set for his second start of the season in the No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller after kicking off the season at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Johnson was forced to miss the second Michelin Endurance Cup race of the season at Sebring International Raceway due to a clashing NTT IndyCar Series event, making this weekend’s run his first time back in the Cadillac in nearly five months.
“I’m happy to be back in the race car and happy to be back with everybody at Action Express Racing,” said Johnson. “Really excited to see Kamui and Mike – two great human beings and great guys to be around.
“All in all, I have a lot of excitement to come back to Watkins Glen. It’s a track and area that I really do enjoy. And to be on the track through the full loop – the Boot – I have not done that many times in all the trips that I’ve been there, so I’m excited to run the full-distance track.
“And in one of these DPi Cadillacs, the pace and effort you have to drive around that racetrack is quite impressive. Especially comparing it to my days in NASCAR.
“Some of the braking zones, the Bus Stop and the Carousel, it’s just mind-blowing how fast these cars can travel through those tight little areas. So very excited to get back and have that experience once again.”
While having had a challenging Rolex 24 after a collision with a GTD car, Johnson is hopeful for a rebound this weekend.
“I truly feel like I’m in a better place,” he said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive the car at Sebring to see where I kind of fit in and get more time in the DPi car.
“Clearly, I’ve been [busier] in the IndyCar and have a lot more reps and I feel like I’m evolving and more on pace.
“I think the [Rolex] 24 and even Petit [Le Mans] last year you can see that gap closing and I felt much more comfortable and competitive in the car.
“In a short race, a six-hour race, the importance of being on pace is even higher yet.
“I’m excited to get a few laps in practice, and I’m not sure I’ll get much more than that the way the practice sessions work out. Hopefully, the time I spend in the sim will pay off and I can get a step closer to the pace I want to run.”
Johnson gained seat time virtually on Wednesday in the simulator, which he said he’ll be leaning on heavily this weekend.
“I know last year I had a testing conflict with IndyCar and I wasn’t able to drive the sim with Action,” he said. “After the practice session took place, it was obvious that the sim session would have been very useful for me.
“The drivers that did participate in it were very pleased with how close reality and sim were for that given experience. So, I worked really hard to get in the sim this time knowing how few laps you get in practice prior to the race.
“But I think my senses, my eyes have really adjusted well to how fast an IndyCar gets around a racetrack and I think that experience will carry over for us in the DPi car.”