Jimmie Johnson wasn’t kidding when he said he wouldn’t be done racing after his retirement from NASCAR.
The seven-time Cup Series champ announced Wednesday that he would compete for Chip Ganassi Racing in the IndyCar Series for the next two seasons. According to the Associated Press, Johnson will compete part-time and race on the series’ road- and street-course races over the next two seasons.
“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.”
Johnson announced before the 2020 season that it would be his final full-time season in NASCAR. Johnson, 45, hasn’t won a Cup Series race since June 2017 and has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. When he said in November that he was done racing full-time in NASCAR, he made it clear that he would still continue to race.
“This is not retirement from racing; this is stepping down from the 38 weeks a year that it takes to be competitive and the time that goes with that,” Johnson said at the time.
His part-time IndyCar schedule, according to the AP report, leaves open the possibility that Johnson could run a few NASCAR races in the coming years. Ganassi fields a two-car Cup Series team and would have the ability to add an extra car for Johnson when he wants it because it’s under the four-car team limit.
A coup for IndyCar
Johnson’s arrival is a huge boost for a series that struggles for mainstream recognition outside the Indianapolis 500. While Johnson had expressed interest in running the 500 in the past, he hasn’t shown much desire to run it in recent years.
Johnson said in July that he’d “have to do a lot of selling to my wife to get that hall pass” to do the 500 even with the IndyCar Series adding a windscreen to cars in 2020.
“My true desire right now is just to run the road courses,” Johnson said in July after testing an IndyCar with CGR. “There are 12 on the schedule right now. I would be open to run all 12 if the right opportunity came along.”
Johnson would be the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to move from NASCAR to IndyCar since Juan Pablo Montoya joined Team Penske in 2014 after his final full-time NASCAR season (coincidentally with Chip Ganassi Racing) in 2013.
Montoya had much more open-wheel familiarity when he switched from NASCAR to IndyCar, however. The seven-time Formula 1 winner raced two full-time seasons in CART in 1999 and 2000 before he went to Formula 1.
When Johnson joins CGR in 2021 he’ll be a part of the most dominant active driver partnership. While Johnson is tied with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most NASCAR Cup Series titles, CGR IndyCar driver Scott Dixon is the best driver in the series. Dixon has 49 wins across 291 IndyCar starts and is currently on pace to win his sixth IndyCar title.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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