Jimmie Johnson will return to NASCAR and compete in select NASCAR Cup Series races in 2023, starting with the Daytona 500, after entering an ownership agreement with Petty GMS owner Maury Gallagher and chairman Richard Petty.
The pairing of two of NASCAR’s three seven-time Cup Series champions was announced Friday morning at Phoenix Raceway.
A team release said Johnson’s racing schedule, sponsors and car number would be revealed in the future and made no mention of whether he would be racing in other series.
During a news conference Friday, Johnson said he initially planned to run eight to 10 races in the NTT IndyCar Series next year, as well as sports car races, in 2023.
Johnson said he still has a “great relationship” with Chip Ganassi Racing, whom he raced with in IndyCar the past two seasons. But Petty GMS is a Chevrolet team, and Ganassi runs Hondas, casting doubt on whether the manufacturer conflict would preclude Johnson from returning to the team at the Brickyard.
Johnson said he remains interested in running IndyCar and sports car races (adding his June schedule is clear to allow for the 24 Hours of Le Mans).
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 4, 2022
Johnson said his new NASCAR deal “escalated quickly” after he entered into discussions with Gallagher over the past month. Johnson said the meetings came through his longtime agent Alan Miller, who also represents Petty GMS driver Erik Jones.
“This is a life-changing opportunity for me, and one I had to take,” Johnson, 47, said. “So I’m very excited about this.”
No financial terms were disclosed, and Johnson said he had no partners in the deal.
The size of Johnson’s ownership stake also wasn’t disclosed, but Petty said he hoped that Johnson eventually would be the majority owner.
“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. “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, and then Jimmie can kind of take over. That had to be a plus-plus.”
After retiring from full-time NASCAR competition, Johnson spent the past two season racing in IndyCar, including a full-time season last year that included his Indy 500 debut.
“It’s great to be back in NASCAR,” Johnson said in a 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.
“Team ownership makes so much sense at this stage of my career and after spending time with Maury and his family, talking with Mike (Beam), Dave (Elenz, crew chief of the No. 43) and Joey (Cohen, Director of Competition and Engineering), I realized this was something I wanted to be involved with from both the business perspective and on the 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 when it’s all said and done. So, this opportunity with Petty GMS is all of that and much more.”
Johnson’s most recent NASCAR start was the 2020 season finale at Phoenix. Over 19 seasons in NASCAR’s premier series with Hendrick Motorsports from 2002-20, the El Cajon, California native scored 83 victories, ranking sixth on the all-time Cup Series list
“This is a tremendous day for our sport,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “Jimmie is one of the all-time great champions on the racetrack, 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. Seeing Jimmie in a firesuit with his name on the roof of a Chevrolet at the DAYTONA 500 is going to be very special for a lot of people. Competing against him will certainly be a change, and a big challenge, but we welcome his return to NASCAR and look forward to the next chapter of a truly remarkable career.”
He became NASCAR’s third seven-time Cup Series champion in 2016, joining Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
Johnson will be teamed with Petty GMS’ full-time drivers: Jones (who delivered the team’s first win at the Southern 500) and incoming rookie Noah Gragson.
“I’m fortunate that I had incredible mentors throughout my life, and I’ve always tried to pay that forward,” said Johnson. “My experience and energy will add value to a team with young drivers like Erik and Noah – I feel like I can be a good resource both on and off the track.”
Said Gallagher: “I couldn’t be happier to have Jimmie Johnson joining Petty GMS. We have been consistent since we began our Cup effort last year in wanting to be up front and have a winning program. No one in the modern era of NASCAR has won more than Jimmie. Having a driver, the caliber of Jimmie, driving our equipment and being able to provide feedback to our crew chiefs and engineers but most importantly, mentoring Erik and Noah will be invaluable. Perhaps most important of all, Jimmie will be a great partner.
“I know I speak for all the Petty GMS team members, including Richard Petty, in welcoming Jimmie to the team. No one else will be able to say they have two seven-time Cup champions on their team. We are looking to make a strong statement next year and show that we are here to contend for wins and championships. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”
Gallagher and Petty formed their team last December when Gallagher purchased Richard Petty Motorsports.
Petty GMS was formed in December 2021 when Gallagher, a two-time NASCAR Truck Series Championship team owner, purchased Richard Petty Motorsports.
“What an exciting time for Petty GMS,” said Petty, NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver with 200 Cup victories. “This year we’ve accomplished so much together with Maury and now adding Jimmie will only continue to help us grow. To have Jimmie – another seven-time champion – as a part of the team, and his abilities both on track and off will be special for Petty GMS. I’m looking forward to having him as a part of our team and seeing what we can build together.”