Jimmie Johnson: Drivers should add variety to their career

© XPB 

Fresh from his car-swap with Fernando Alonso in Bahrain on Monday, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson says it would be a good thing if drivers were able to have a little more variety in their careers.

Johnson himself had never driven a single-seater car on a racing circuit before this week. But now he has, he's open to expanding his horizons once his current stock car contract with Hendrick Motorsport expires in 2020.

"Without a doubt," he said when asked if open-wheel racing appealed - although he admitted that he wasn't keen on high-speed ovals, and would likely stick to road courses.

"I want to keep driving [beyond 2020] and hopefully I can find some good opportunities," he said. "I’ve done sportscar racing in the past, I’ve finished second in the Rolex 24 a couple of times in the Prototype division

"I’d love to get back to doing that. Anything’s open," he said. "I think with my status and relationships I could put together some road course races in IndyCar."

Johnson said that he last raced an open-wheel car in the 1990s, and wished that he hadn't ended up having to specialise to the degree that he had.

"I feel like drivers at a young age have to decide if they’re going to drive sedans or open-wheel cars,” he said. "I don’t know if that’s right, if it’s right for that judgment to take place."

He pointed to his own childhood heroes such as Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and Emerson Fittipaldi who had "raced anything" during their careers.

"I feel like an open-minded driver – and one that’s ready to work – could cross and go either direction," he said.

It's a view shared by Fernando Alonso, who has gone from Formula 1 to success in sportscars and a maiden run in the Indianapolis 500 over the last two years in his bid to become only the second driver in history to achieve the Triple Crown of Motorsports after Graham Hill.

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet, straps on his helmet

© Josh Hedges/Getty Images for NASCAR

Some open wheel stars including F1's Juan Pablo Montoya, and IndyCar stars Danica Patrick and Dario Franchitti have tried their hand at stock car racing.

The most successful in recent years was Tony Stewart, who won the 1996-97 IndyCar championship before switching to NASCAR and picking up three Cup series titles.

"We’ve seen quite a few open-wheel guys try NASCAR and they’ve been competitive," said Johnson. "I don’t think there’s been as many victories as some would have thought, but they’ve been competitive.

“No-one has gone the other way, so I would love to see somebody [do that].”

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