RPW Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – VIRTUAL HOMESTEAD, FL – Even a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion can be humbled when it comes to eSports.
That happened Sunday afternoon when Jimmie Johnson had a tough time adjusting to the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It all started with Johnson qualifying last on the field. He was .250 behind pole sitter Garrett Smithley. Even with that, it only went down hill from there.
The 83-time Cup Series race winner then missed the start of the race, putting him multiple laps behind the leaders. Once he got things going, he was involved in an early-race wreck. Trying to avoid a spinning car, Johnson hit the outside wall and spun to miss defending Cup Champ Kyle Busch. That caused him to use one of his two free repairs allowed on the day.
Even then it wasn’t over as it seemed on the next green flag run, Jimmie was off the pace. The field came around to lap him on Lap 12 with Denny Hamlin leading.
As the field split Johnson in turns three and four, he got loose and took out a good portion of the field.
If this was a normal race, NASCAR Twitter would be blowing up. However, due to the fun nature of this event, it was the opposite. Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman, tweeted:
“Just got cleaned out by @JimmieJohnson. No worries my virtual crew used a fast repair and it’s good as new. Also I’m eating an uncrustable.”
Jimmie was heard saying “I don’t know what’s going on” after the wreck.
The accidents were not dampening the championship drivers experience. When told there was no tire limit, he said:
“Sweet! I’ll keep putting them on.”
While most other racers have a rig built with a normal oval steering wheel, it’s the opposite for ole’ seven-time. He has announced that 2020 is his last full-time year of Cup Competition. However, it doesn’t mean the end of his career in motorsports. Johnson had a rig built to test Indy Cars with an Indy Car like steering wheel. He’s expressed his want to drive one in real life.
Jimmie even went on the FS1 broadcast and shared his thoughts.
“I’m having fun.” he said. “I missed the start of the race which put up laps down. I’ve had trouble getting into my pit stall and sliding through it. I also don’t have a clutch on the petals like most of the other drivers do, mine is on my steering wheel so that’s another aspect I have to get used to.”
Many NASCAR drivers found time to tweet during cautions and have a comical sense of humor, letting people escape the reality of the world we’re in right now, even for a short while. However it just goes to show…you can take a real driver and he might be up to par with little practice at sim racing.
The same can be said if you take a sim racer and put them in a real car. However all drivers kept with the humor aspect of this event. That even included the FS1 broadcast team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds. All three did a very good job with their first time calling an event in the virtual racing world.
Jimmie may have finished 31st, seven laps behind winner Denny Hamlin, but he sure got a slice of humble pie. Even with that, though, he had fun in the process.
Even seven-time champions can be humbled on occasion.