Motor racing-Johnson says he faces 'steep' IndyCar learning curve

Nov 2 (Reuters) - Jimmie Johnson may be one of the most decorated champions in stock car racing but on Monday the seven-times NASCAR champion admitted he faces a steep learning curve ahead of his IndyCar debut next year.

The 45-year-old Johnson, whose full-time NASCAR Cup Series career will end on Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway, said learning the nuances of an IndyCar are made tougher given he will only have a handful of test sessions before his March debut.

“Practice sessions are going to be less next year even if we have a traditional style weekend,” Johnson said on a conference call from an open test event at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It’s a bad time to be a rookie. Even a 45-year-old rookie with all the years I have in racing, to learn these cars and tracks it’s going to be a real steep learning curve for me.”

For Johnson, who said he has five or six tests lined up before the 2021 season opener in St. Petersburg, the test event at Barber marked the first time he stepped into the Carvana No. 48 that he will pilot for Chip Ganassi Racing next year.

Johnson said he has a good sense for the slow and technical parts of the track but that the biggest challenge is how exactly to attack the high-speed sections where faster vehicle speed creates more downforce.

“I’m just not used to that environment and used to trusting that from all the years that I have spent in those big heavy NASCAR vehicles without much downforce,” said Johnson.

“That’s really the challenge right now is to carry a bit more speed in, use a lot less brake and just let the vehicle create the grip and the downforce through the corner itself.”

Johnson described getting into an Indy Car cockpit a “really tight squeeze” compared to what he is used to in NASCAR and that the demands of the driver do not end there.

“Inside the car there are many more adjustments and knobs that the team needs you to work on a course of a lap and over the course of a run,” said Johnson.

“Just a lot of different procedures that take place and far different and in a very compact area.” (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)