The Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver grabbed a tad too much curb on the inside of Turn 5 of the legendary street course during Friday’s sole practice session, so that the underside of the car grounded out, taking weight off his wheels just as he needed maximum grip to complete the corner.
The #48 Carvana machine plowed into the tire wall on the outside and Johnson’s right hand took the strain as the steering wheel wrenched it around.
Johnson then headed to hospital, and while there were rumors that Ganassi’s IMSA ace, Sebastien Bourdais might sub for Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion elected to continue in his second ever GP of Long Beach. His decision was made easier by the Ganassi team managing to devise a neat carbon-fiber splint for his hand, to minimize the strain.
Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t get any easier for Johnson, and this was arguably his most torrid IndyCar event yet. In Saturday morning practice, he slid head-on into the Turn 1 tire barrier, in qualifying on Saturday afternoon, he was informed his best laps would be deleted for interference with one of Graham Rahal’s flying laps, and on Sunday he would crash again, this time at Turn 8, where his car also sustained damage from rookie David Malukas’ striking it.
This morning, Johnson tweeted a picture of his heavily bandaged hand as he sat in a simulator. He wrote, “From Long Beach to the operating room. Good news is, I plan to be ready for the IMS test in 9 days and Barber on May 1st. Thank you to all the medical staff involved.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway will, weather allowing, host a two-day test on the iconic 2.5-mile oval on Wednesday-Thursday, April 20-21, and Johnson is expected to complete his Rookie Orientation Program which he started last fall.
Given the nature of the course, IMS is less likely to put strain on his sore right hand than the high-g, long-duration corners at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL, which will host the fourth round of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season on April 29-May 1.
Although this is Johnson’s second year in IndyCar, it is his first season running the full schedule, as he has added ovals to his open-wheel repertoire. In that regard, he has already shone, finishing sixth in the second round of the year at Texas Motor Speedway.