Byron gets driven by Andretti, catches up with Johnson
INDIANAPOLIS – William Byron got the thrill of his life Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 24-year-old driver of the #24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 went for a spin in a two-seater IndyCar with racing legend Mario Andretti. Before and after the ride, Byron debriefed and caught up with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion turned IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson. Byron’s former teammate would give him insight into what it was like to drive in a new discipline and talk about the move to the Next Gen car in NASCAR. Byron also met Johnson’s IndyCar teammate Marcus Ericsson.
Before jumping in the car, Byron admitted he didn’t think he had ever ridden in a race car as a non-driver. Andretti even offered the two-time 2022 winner a chance to drive, but Byron was thrilled to take a lap around the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile course.
RELATED: Acronis is on board for two races with Byron in ’22
A difference in the rides was immediately apparent as Byron entered when Johnson quipped, “you kinda have to get used to people tying you down.”
Returning from his lap with Andretti, the Charlotte, North Carolina native pumped his right arm, delighted with his experience. When he was unbuckled, he immediately exclaimed, “That was cool.”
After getting out of the car, Byron and Johnson discussed the experience and the difference between Cup Series and IndyCar cars.
“I felt like my knees were the only thing holding me down,” Byron said. “The braking was crazy.”
Johnson acknowledged that “the braking performance and just the cornering potential. It’s so much fun.”
“With all the downforce, our brake tracks that we’re building in to increase the pressure so we can avoid wheel hop and here they want it vertical,” Johnson explained. “I still have a few degrees where if you look at the data I’m still slipping all the way to max power. They literally want you to pop it at 1600 psi and then you have full downforce on the car , so unlock the tires and then you match the level of downforce and try to have a triangle shape for your brake track.”
“For us, you know what it is,” Byron said. “You go in, you brake hard, then you modulate and brake hard again.”
“If you have to add more brake pressure on entry later in the braking zone, you’ll absolutely lock up the tire every time,” Johnson said. “It was a very interesting thing to learn. How to be disciplined on that first hit and even though I’m not ready to turn the wheel, I just brake because if you lock up it’s even worse, especially in a street That’s how I broke my hand.
The California native asked the rising Cup Series talent how the transition to the Next Gen car went.
“It took some getting used to at the entrance because you’d feel, man, I’m so tight at the entrance,” Byron said. “You just can’t quite because the nose isn’t down giving that positivity. It was weird.”
The conversation turned to the recently announced Chicago street race scheduled for July 2, 2023. Having done a little more in the road and street racing disciplines, Johnson was thrilled with what Byron will experience in this event.
“I think you’re going to have fun,” Johnson said. “I think the cars are going to adapt so well to it. The track is going to be rougher than anything you’ve ever done.”
RELATED: Road wins for Hendrick Motorsports