"Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!"

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to make his Indianapolis 500 debut on Sunday.


"I truly thought I was going to slow down," Johnson said Wednesday on the Tonight Show. "Then I had a chance to drive one of these Indy cars, and I thought, 'OK, I'll just try a limited schedule in '21.' And here I am in '22 with a full schedule."

Johnson, 46, is no stranger to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Throughout his almost two-decade NASCAR career, Johnson captured four Brickyard 400 wins at the historic venue.

However, Johnson explained why Sunday's race is going to be a different drive than the others.

"The car is a bit more dangerous and certainly faster," he said. "It's like Star Wars when you hit the gas in the Millennium Falcon. That's it."

Johnson drove over 240 mph when he qualified for the race, he said.

"It's a rush," Johnson said. "It's so gnarly. ... The kid in me, the racer in me, loves that experience, and it's just been so cool."

Johnson's first Indy 500 is set to be a family affair, with his father acting as his spotter and informing him of other drivers' positions and his daughter offering words of encouragement.

"Make sure your hands stay safe," Lydia said to her father on the track, referring to an injury. "And Daddy, remember: Whatever you place in, you'll still be good because you tried. You'll be fine."

While Johnson said he was happy to hear the advice, he admitted that he is eyeing a first-place finish.

"I'm a pro-athlete," he said. "I've got to win."

Johnson will also be rocking a special helmet for his rookie Indy 500, which he designed with country music legend Blake Shelton. It features patriotic images and pictures of family members who served in the military.


Johnson will start the race 12th on the grid in row four.

The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday in Speedway, Indiana, with coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.