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Johnson, Grosjean take first laps on Indy's famed oval

Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson passed their rookie test at IMS Wednesday, the first step toward driving in the Indy 500.

INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean turned their first laps on the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Wednesday as part of a test session for approval to race the Indianapolis 500. 

In order to participate in the Indianapolis 500, all drivers are required to complete a rookie orientation program. Rain shortened the session so neither driver completed the testing phase. 

However, for the highly accomplished drivers, this was a big step toward new beginnings in Indianapolis. 

Grosjean donned a yellow and red firesuit. It was the first look at the newest member of Andretti Autosport, an announcement made just weeks ago. He'll be full-time next season, taking Ryan Hunter-Reay's seat and Grosjean will make his Indy 500 debut next May. 

Credit: AP
IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti, left, stands with driver Romain Grosjean at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Long Beach, Calif. Grosjean was named driver of the No. 28 for Andretti sponsored by DHL beginning next season and will drive the entire season, including the Indianapolis 500. (AP Photo/Jenna Fryer)

As for Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion is still deciding when it comes to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Of course, Johnson has taken laps on the oval at IMS many times in a stock car, but the speeds and safety are much different in an IndyCar. He's still getting used to it. So, he wants to make sure he dots his i's and crosses his t's, so to speak, before making the commitment.

Credit: IndyCar/Chris Owens
Jimmie Johnson climbs into his car during the rookie orientation program at IMS on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

Johnson made a step in that decision-making process by feeling things out Wednesday.

"Ultimately, it's feeling like I know where the limit of the car is and having a good sense of that," Johnson said. "You know, there's inherent risks of driving a race car that we all deal with and through the year I have learned about the safety level in the IndyCar Series that I am very comfortable with that so to be smart and systematic about it, I need to go drive around on the ragged edge for a while and see if that's something that I want to do in one of these cars at these speeds."

But for Johnson, the thought of running in the Indy 500 next year is exciting. He said he was really intrigued by the unmatched energy at IMS during the Indy 500. 

Credit: IndyCar/Chris Owens
Jimmie Johnson drives across the "Yard of Bricks" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during rookie testing on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

"The energy at this race [the Indy 500] was unlike any event I've ever seen or experienced and everyone talks about it but until you are here to feel it in person— that one really sat with me," Johnson said. "I want to be standing on the grid someday and feel that as I climb in a car. So that's what we're working towards and now we'll see where things shake out here in the near future."

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Race fans will have to wait and see if Jimmie Johnson will be back at IMS in May, but Wednesday was certainly a productive day for him and Grosjean as they both prepare to take the next step in IndyCar.