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Those who are scheduled to have time Sunday afternoon with Chase Elliott beware: he will be tardy if former NASCAR teammate Jimmie Johnson is in contention at the end of the Indianapolis 500.
“I’m going to try to keep up as best I can; I feel like our day is always getting kind of busy when that race is going on or at least when it starts to wind down,” Elliott said.
“I’ll try to keep up with it. Hopefully, he (Johnson)’s in the running and if so, I might be late to one or two obligations if Jimmie’s leading that thing coming down to the end.”
Elliott is one of many in the NASCAR garage who will have an eye on the television for IndyCar’s biggest race. Charlotte Motor Speedway usually turns into a big viewing party with the race on the big screen overlooking the backstretch, which crew members in the garage can be found watching when given a chance. The race is also on inside the media center for those preparing to work the Coca-Cola 600.
“I’m super intrigued and I’m excited for him,” Elliott said of Johnson. “I think he has a legit shot at it from what I’ve kept up with. And his performance at Texas, I think, impressed a lot of people. I wasn’t super surprised by that, just as good as he is on ovals and how much oval experience he has. So, I think that’s really cool. As I said, I feel like he’s got a shot at the win.”
Kurt Busch knows all about being a NASCAR driver participating in his first Indianapolis 500. Busch pulled off the Indianapolis/Charlotte double in 2014 with a sixth-place finish at Indy before suffering a mechanical failure that ended his night at Charlotte early.
“I’ve been rooting him on with sone texts and some driver advice and trying to drag Tony Stewart’s experience as well into it with the double and just trying to fuel Jimmie the best way we can,” Busch said. “And, of course, we’re rooting for him and I’ll be watching. I usually can watch until about halfway, and then my duties start for race day with fan events and meetings with our team. But it’s on the DVR, and I can’t wait to watch, and I can’t wait to hear the results for Jimmie.”
Before the sun goes down in Charlotte, a number of Cup drivers will keep their eyes on Johnson at Indy. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images
Johnson starts 12th in his first Indianapolis 500. He is a four-time winner at the Brickyard in NASCAR.
Ryan Blaney will support Johnson to an extent. As a Team Penske driver, Blaney knows how important Indianapolis is to Roger Penske and trying to sweep the day with a win at Charlotte.
“I definitely make sure I watch as much as I can,” Blaney said. “You can usually watch most of it before we have to do go (driver) intros and stuff like that. I look forward to watching. Obviously, I’m going to be rooting for Jimmie after my Penske guys — Scott [McLaughlin], Josef [Newgarden], and Will [Power]. But I will be rooting for Jimmie because I think it’s going to be really special for him, and it seems like talking to him, he’s been having a lot of fun up there and doing a pretty good job.
“So that’s something I always make sure I watch just to see how those guys are doing. Obviously, first, I want our Penske guys to win, but I will be rooting for Jimmie to run fourth. So we’ll see how that goes. It’ll be a fun time. I hope he really enjoys it. I know that he’ll appreciate that he gets to do that, and he’s very deserving to get to run the 500.”
As Bubba Wallace offered, all of the NASCAR industry is pulling for their seven-time champion.
“He’s a crazy you-know-what to be doing what he’s doing, and the biggest thing is he’s enjoying it and having fun,” Wallace said. “He seems like a kid in a candy store living out his lifelong dream to be able to do that. I’m cheering for him.”