Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to make his IndyCar debut at Barber Motorsports Park, the first of his 13 scheduled starts in 2021.
After a second consecutive extended offseason, IndyCar is scheduled to get the 2021 season underway this afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst.
In this 90-lap race around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.830-kilometer) natural terrain road course in Birmingham, Alabama, two drivers are set to make their series debuts as “rookies”: former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
The latter is the 45-year-old rookie on whom we are focusing in this article.
Johnson retired from NASCAR after 19 seasons as a full-time Cup Series driver. He won multiple races in each of his first 16 seasons as a full-time driver, all behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
But despite racking up a record-tying seven championships and winning 83 races, good for a sixth place tie on the all-time list, in stock car racing, Johnson has always maintained that it was his dream to compete in open-wheel racing, specifically in IndyCar.
This afternoon, he finally gets to fulfill that dream.
The El Cajon, California native signed with Chip Ganassi Racing, a team he competed against in the Cup Series for many years, to drive the #48 Honda in the road and street course races during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, although he hasn’t ruled out oval races for 2022.
Nobody expects Johnson to walk into IndyCar and dominate right away. In fact, this is probably the worst possible time for him to be starting his IndyCar career, given just how deep this year’s field is.
Nevertheless, should he find success, he would have the opportunity to join an elite club.
Only 14 drivers have ever found victory lane in both the NASCAR Cup Series and in IndyCar. Those 14 drivers are Johnny Mantz, Chuck Stevenson, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, Jim Hurtubise, Johnny Rutherford, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger.
Of those 14 drivers, only six won multiple races in both series. Those six are Gurney, Jones, Foyt, Stewart, Gordon and Montoya. Foyt has the most combined victories with 74, having won 67 IndyCar races and seven Cup Series races.
Johnson may not be favored to find victory lane in 2021 or even in 2022, but if he does, he would automatically become the winningest driver across those two series among those with at least one win in each, since he won 83 Cup Series races.
Right now, the winningest Cup Series driver who also won in IndyCar is Stewart, who won 49 Cup Series races (and three in IndyCar). No other driver on this list won more than seven times at NASCAR’s top level.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Barber Motorsports Park beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET this afternoon.