The seven-time NASCAR champion, part-owner of Petty GMS, will return in 2023 to the series that made him a global motorsports star. He will also race about five Cup races.
Johnson disclosed to The Associated Press that his maiden outing will be the Daytona 500, in which he has been triumphant on two occasions. He voiced his enthusiasm for the new ownership model of NASCAR charters, commenting to . “I’m delighted to be part of it. Michael Jordan joining, the Trackhouse Racing folks, and all the others wanting to participate in racing – I’m pleased and grateful to be a part of it.”
Johnson, who turned 47 in September, is still working on his car number and sponsors – and maybe even the current Petty GMS name. He wants NASCAR to make him eligible for the 2023 All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, as he has won the Coca-Cola 600 four times.
As Chip Ganassi shapes the organization Johnson left after two seasons, Johnson is still interested in doing “The Double” of the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 on the same day. Even if an Indy 500 ride materializes, the All-Star race would clash with qualifying for Indy 500. Plus, he now owns a Chevrolet team, so theoretically he can’t race with Ganassi, a Honda team.
In his debut, Johnson proved decent on the ovals of the IndyCar – he skipped them his first season – but he struggled with the road and street courses, and he admitted he felt burnt out at the end of it all. In addition to stepping back from full-time racing, he plans to attend about ten events, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a NASCAR representative.
Johnson insisted he had no idea what he wanted to do next when he made that late-September decision to step away. After conversations initiated by the management firm Johnson and Erik Jones, the Petty GMS driver he just inherited, Johnson got back into NASCAR after about six weeks.
The GMS deal came together out of the blue. Johnson said he alerted Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon of his plans. He drove for Hendrick for 20 years and won 83 Cup races.
This is an incredible day in our sport. Jimmie has always been one of the most successful drivers, and it’s clear that same drive will be behind his role as an owner. Seeing him dressed in a fire suit with his name above a Chevrolet vehicle at Daytona 500 will be incredibly special for many spectators. Racing against him again is certain to be a distinct, difficult experience – but we are more than happy to have him back in NASCAR and look forward to the future of his remarkable journey!
Johnson’s seven championships puts him on the same level as Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. On Friday, Johnson and GMS founder Maury Gallagher made the announcement at Phoenix Raceway, where Johnson had retired from NASCAR following the 2020 season finale. It was a special day, with Chase Elliott taking home the Cup title – Johnson was not far behind in fifth – and Johnson starting to pursue his IndyCar ambition. Since the end of that 2020 season finale race, he hasn’t been back in a NASCAR event.
Now he wants back in and with a bigger piece of the action. He gets it with Petty GMS, an upstart two-car team funded by Gallagher, Chairman of Allegiant Air, and fronted by Petty. “The King” won his 200th race in the famed No. 43 car in September. In the weeks leading up to this deal, the team had already decided to trade Ty Dillon for Noah Gragson.
The swiftness of the deal amazed both Gallagher and Johnson, with Gallagher telling the AP that the latter had acquired financial stakes in RFK Racing similar to Brad Keselowski. “Jimmie is a great person and at my age I place emphasis on friendships,” he said. “I prefer to stay in the background, allowing Jimmie and Richard to lead the organization while I assist with economics and operations.”
In about a decade, GMS has grown from a Truck Series team to a Cup organization that acquired Richard Petty Motorsports and its 85-year-old Hall of Fame owner. Although Jones won at Darlington and was competitive, it did not qualify for the playoffs and Gallagher said GMS is overshadowed by Justin Marks, the owner of Trackhouse Racing, who will field Ross Chastain in Sunday’s championship race.