Sunday, May 28, 2023

Jimmie Johnson Retires From Full Time Racing

Jimmie Johnson prepares to qualify for the 2022 Indianapolis 500.
Jimmie Johnson prepares to qualify for the 2022 Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment.

After two decades on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit and two years competing in the NTT IndyCar Series, Jimmie Johnson has called time on his full-time racing career.

The El Cajon, California native won seven NASCAR Cup Series championships before pivoting his full-time racing career from stock cars to open wheel cars in 2021, competing on the road and street course races before doing a full IndyCar season in 2022 in the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Johnson won Rookie of the Year for the 2022 Indianapolis 500 as the highest-qualified rookie and the only rookie to lead laps at Indianapolis this year before crashing with fewer than 10 laps to go. The ovals were where Johnson shined as he finished sixth on his IndyCar oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway in March and fifth in the second Iowa Speedway race in July.

Those finishes were the main highlights in a 29-race IndyCar career consisting of mostly road and street course races. Johnson’s best finish on a road/street course race was 16th at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July and at the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September.

“I feel like I have improved, but I realize that the challenge is about two to three times greater than what I first thought,” Johnson said in a statement released on YouTube. “I don’t want to enter another full season if I know I can’t give it my all. But I’d love to go back and do it again. I just feel like I need to let the dust settle from the year.”

Carvana has indicated that they will support Johnson in whatever racing he decides to compete in for 2023.

“From a full-time standpoint and what’s required, the energy, effort, time away from home, all the commitments required to be your best for a full time season, I’m just not there right now,” Johnson said. “And I feel like 2022 checked so many boxes for me and I had such an incredible time that I’m going to take a deep breath and think hard about what 2023 will look like.”

Johnson is looking at doing some races on his bucket list. That would include the 24 Hours of Le Mans, having said that he enjoys sports car racing.

Johnson’s racing career began in off-road racing before going to stock cars in the late 1990s in ASA. His NASCAR debut came in what is now the Xfinity Series in 1998 and Johnson ran two full Xfinity Series seasons in 2000 and 2001 before making the jump to Cup full time in 2002. Johnson won the pole for the 2002 Daytona 500 and won three races in his rookie Cup season.

By the time Johnson called time on his full-time NASCAR career in 2020, he won seven Cup Series championships and 83 races for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson tested an Indy car for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020 and decided to switch to an IndyCar Series schedule of road and street course races for 2021.

Johnson found a good rhythm on ovals in IndyCar competition, running in the top-five at Texas before having to save a large amount of fuel at the end of the race, forfeiting that position in the final few laps. After qualifying in 12th place for this year’s Indianapolis 500, Johnson spun in Turn 2 with a handful of laps remaining, creating a red flag that led to a hectic finish.

Johnson’s 2023 racing schedule has yet to be confirmed.

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