Jimmie Johnson’s full-time ride in NASCAR may be winding down but it would appear that Johnson’s racing days are far from over.
On Wednesday, Johnson and Chip Ganassi Racing announced a partnership that if it comes to fruition would see the seven-time NASCAR Cup series champion climbing into the cockpit of an open-wheel racer and competing next season in the IndyCar Series.
“Ganassi was highly motivated to give me a chance to drive a car to see what I thought and the experience was all that I hoped for and more,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I left a good impression with them where there’s definitely interest on their side and now it’s time to formalize things and get the ball rolling.”
Ganassi and Johnson are currently working to finalize a sponsorship package that would enable the driver to run a two-year program in IndyCar that would see him race in all of the circuit’s road and street course circuits.
In a normal season, IndyCar includes 11-12 street and road-course events. IndyCar is expected to confirm its 2021 race schedule later this month.
“As part of a natural progression, I wanted to publicly show the alignment with Chip Ganassi Racing to kick the sponsorship program into high gear,” Johnson said in a statement announcing the move. “The goal is to run the full road and street program, and today is a very important first step in accomplishing that goal.”
Ganassi expressed delight at the notion of adding Johnson to his race team.
“I didn’t realize he was serious about it,” Ganassi said in a video posted by Johnson on social media. “Our team couldn’t be happier that Jimmie wants to be here, so we’re looking forward to it.”
NASCAR Still In the Picture
The partial IndyCar deal would leave Johnson the openings and availability to run select NASCAR races for Ganassi, which only operates a two-car team in NASCAR’s top series.
Johnson has spent his entire 20-year Cup career driving for Hendrick Motorsports. However, Hendrick runs the full four-car maximum in the NASCAR Cup series and therefore would not have a spot for Johnson once he retires from full-time NASCAR competition in November.
An IndyCar Super Team
If they can secure funding, Johnson will be teammates with five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in what could only be described as a racing super team.
Dixon currently leads the season standings with five races to go and is the favorite in the Las Vegas sportsbooks betting odds to capture the IndyCar season title.
“To pair Jimmie with the likes of Scott Dixon is quite an opportunity,” Ganassi said. “They are truly in rarified air, and I think everyone knows by now that I like winners.
“The goal right now is for us to run Jimmie in an Indy car for at least the next couple of seasons, and we want to show people we’re serious about the program. We felt it was important to get the partnership done and start putting the financial building blocks in place to make this a reality.”
This dynamic duo would be a pairing of the winningest drivers of their generation in North American motorsports. Johnson is sixth all-time with 83 NASCAR wins. His seven titles are a NASCAR record he shares with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Only A.J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52) own more IndyCar victories than Dixon. He’s won four times this season, giving him 50 career wins. His five titles are behind only Foyt’s seven. Dixon currently owns a 96-point lead in the championship standings.
Indianapolis 500 On The Table
Though he’s committed to road racing, Johnson, nearing his 45th birthday, hasn’t ruled out taking a run at the Indianapolis 500 next year. He tested a Ganassi car on the two-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28.
“It only lit the fire more,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I want to do this more than ever before. It was something new, something different.
“NASCAR has been so good to me, and I am so proud of the success I’ve had. But to try something new, man, this was really cool.”