On Friday morning, at Phoenix Raceway, Richard Petty, Maury Gallagher, and Jimmie Johnson confirmed their surprise deal.
- Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has become a partner with Petty GMS Racing.
- Johnson, who raced full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this past year, plans to race a limited NASCAR Cup schedule in 2023.
- Johnson raced 19 full seasons in NASCAR, all for Hendrick Motorsports.
Perhaps the only NASCAR news big enough to bump Ross Chastain’s recent heroics off racing’s front page has happened: seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has become a partner with Petty GMS Racing with an eye toward racing a limited Cup Series schedule in 2023.
Thursday’s rumor became Friday’s fact when legendary Hall of Fame driver and seven-time champion Richard Petty announced that Johnson has bought into the Chevrolet-based team. Petty sold his Richard Petty Motorsports to two-time Truck Series championship owner Maury Gallagher last year, and they fielded Camaros this year for Erik Jones and Ty Dillon.
Dillon had almost no success in the No. 42 car, but teammate Erik Jones won in the No. 43 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend. The Petty GMS team announced late in the season that Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson will replace Dillon for the full schedule in 2023. Meanwhile, Johnson will rejoin NASCAR in a car number TBD after a two-year ordeal with IndyCar owner Chip Ganassi that proved to be an abysmal failure.
On Friday morning, at Phoenix Raceway, Petty, Gallagher, and Johnson confirmed their surprise deal. It was cobbled together fairly quickly, brokered primarily by Alan Miller, the business agent for both Jones and Johnson. It will see Johnson run a handful of Cup races next year, including the season-opening Daytona 500 and almost certainly the Brickyard 400. There were no immediate details regarding what Johnson paid to become an owner, the percentage of Petty GMS Racing he bought, or Johnson’s precise 2023 schedule. In the recent past, he’s expressed interest in entering more IMSA sports car races and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Jimmie Johnson is ending his fling with IndyCar to return to his NASCAR roots.
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“Me and Maury talk all the time about what can we do to improve our situation, make our business bigger, win some more races,” Petty said at the press conference. “He called me one day and said, ‘I’ve been talking to Jimmie Johnson,’ and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Jimmie Johnson wants to be involved with us, and we’ll be involved with him?’ This has got to be one of the biggest things that has happened to the Petty crowd and GMS.
“With Jimmie adding on with his popularity and the people he knows and we don’t know, it had to be a heck of a deal. From my standpoint, it’s a big, big step. Not just for one year. I’m looking further down the road. If Jimmie comes in, does his deal. … I’m 85 years old so I’m not going to be here for another 15 or 20 years, then Jimmie can kind of take over. That had to be a plus-plus.”
Johnson raced 19 full seasons in NASCAR, all for Hendrick Motorsports. He won 36 poles, 83 races, seven championships (including an unimaginable five in a row) and took home every individual honor in the sport. But his two-year, 29-start IndyCar career (2021-2022) was a disaster: no poles or victories, and only one top-five and two top-10 finishes. Of his 29 starts, he finished 18 times in the 20s.
Jimmie Johnson, left, raced 19 full seasons with team owner Rick Hendrick.
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“It’s great to be back in NASCAR,” he said in a team press release. “When the IndyCar season ended, I started on this journey of what was next. Maury and I connected, this opportunity came to light and it’s the perfect fit for me.
“Ownership makes so much sense at this stage of my career (he’s 47), and after spending time with Maury and his family and talking with (team members), I realized this was something I wanted to be involved with from both the business perspective and competition side.
“If I’m going to commit to something like this, I want to make a difference and have something tangible to show for it. This opportunity with Petty GMS is all of that and much more.”
Hendrick, the 14-time championship owner, couldn’t be happier Johnson is coming back. “This is a tremendous day for our sport,” he said on Friday. “Jimmie is one of the all-time great champions on the race track, and I know he’ll apply the same mentality to his role as a team owner. When he sets his mind to something, the level of commitment and work ethic he brings is unsurpassed.”