CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson will retire from racing full-time and will focus on spending time with family.
He believes that his future schedule will not include more than 10 events on the bucket list, but the 47-year-old had no idea on Monday what that will look like in 2023.
Johnson told The Associated Press that he was excited to announce, “I have a blank sheet of paper, and we can now see the possibilities and start making a calendar.” Carvana has already told Johnson it will support whatever race he pursues.
Johnson took two weeks before the IndyCar final – with a weekend spent in England with Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti at the Goodwood Revival – before making the final decision to scale back. He told the AP that he didn’t really need the time to think about his future.
“It was an interesting process to feel so fulfilled with the experience and then also try to make a decision,” Johnson said. “In the grand scheme of things, there’s so much life planning going on with the kids. We’ve always had the idea of living abroad for a year or two. We love Colorado and want to spend more time there, and there’s just so much whirling personal and professional that I just wanted to take some time and make the decision, not based on a positive or negative experience on the track.”
So what is Johnson, who retired from NASCAR in 2020?think?
The 24 Hours of Le Mans would be part of the NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports special “Garage 56” entry. Johnson has said from the outset that he wants to be part of the three-driver Le Mans lineup, even though it is an exhibition for the Next Gen and the car will be the only one in its class.
He had been waiting for the IndyCar schedule for 2023 to see if he would even be available, but will make sure his schedule is clear if NASCAR wants its future Hall of Famer to be part of the project.
Johnson will most certainly not be returning for a second full IndyCar season with Chip Ganassi Racing. He only raced the street and road courses in 2021, added the ovals to run the full 2022 season and isn’t even sure now if he’ll drive IndyCar at all.
“We fully support Jimmie. He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we’d love to,” said team owner Ganassi, who told AP he would like to drive four full-time cars. Now that Johnson has made the decision not to run a full season in the No. 48, Ganassi is figuring out how to keep that entry on track.
Johnson struggled for two seasons on the street and on the road, with his best performances on ovals – the discipline he dominated in NASCAR for nearly two decades. He finished IndyCar-best fifth in Iowa, and though he ended up crashing on his Indianapolis 500 debut, Johnson lapped at over 240 mph in a dazzling qualifying performance.
“I do have a desire to go back, it’s just at this point. I know what it takes to make a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have the passion I need for myself to commit to a full season.”
Johnson has said since his 2020 NASCAR retirement that he would race in the series again given the right opportunity, and now has the idea of doing “The Double” — the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt the 1,100-mile two-state odyssey in 2014. Busch fell 200 miles shy of completing it when his engine broke down in the NASCAR closer. Tony Stewart, who attempted both races twice, is the only driver to have completed all 1,100 miles. John Andretti and Robby Gordon both made attempts for Busch.
Johnson would love to give it a try: He won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway four times, including three consecutive wins from 2003-2005.
“You know me and endurance sports, and the double sounds great,” Johnson told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who did the double. I’d say it’s more a matter of respect than a bucket list item, and I’d like to put some energy into that idea and see if I can make it happen.”
The other NASCAR events that caught his eye? Next year’s inaugural race through the streets of Chicago and the All-Star race in North Wilkesboro. Johnson noted that as a past winner, he has been exempted from both the All-Star race and the exhibition season opening at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. However, the 2022 NASCAR rules state that a driver must compete full-time to compete in the all-star race.
The future in sports car racing is an unknown for Johnson after Petit Le Mans, this weekend’s IMSA season finale. He has raced the endurance races for the past two seasons in a joint entry with Hendrick and Action Express, but don’t expect enough stock next year when IMSA adopts new cars for Johnson’s project.
He told AP he would consider racing in a lower IMSA category, such as LMP2, and is even curious about the six-race World Endurance Championship. But the WEC Series intrigues him because of the exotic locations – Monza, Italy, Fuji Speedway in Japan, Bahrain – and the love of international travel he shares with his wife and two young daughters.
He and Chani Johnson researched whether they could enroll their girls in school for a year in England or France for the experience, and as a hands-on dad, Johnson takes an active role in commuting his daughters to and from their full schedule of sports. and activities. Chani Johnson is also a successful art gallery owner and wants to expand her businesses.
“Chani has always supported me to perfection and at the same time had her goals, desires and followed her path and her career. I think she’s optimistically cautious that I go through with this plan,” Johnson told AP. “But these decisions are based on the needs and demands of the family, and I think it will be tricky and a bit more complicated in my schedule if we can get some traction on traveling and living abroad.
“But those are decisions that will be made in the coming months. And so I go into this, I would say without regret. I look back and have certainly learned lessons from what happened, good and bad. But I don’t have a stomach for anything left unfinished, or any regrets I might have.” ____
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