NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson landing spot ruled out?

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

While Trackhouse Racing Team could field an extra entry for Jimmie Johnson in select NASCAR Cup Series races, he likely isn’t a candidate for PROJECT 91.

Ever since retiring from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the 2020, Jimmie Johnson has stated that he wouldn’t rule out returning to the sport for select races.

With Hendrick Motorsports having replaced him with Kyle Larson (even though it was Alex Bowman who took over the #48 Chevrolet), their four-car lineup is solidified.

So Johnson would have to compete for a team owned by somebody other than Rick Hendrick for the first time, if he were to make career Cup Series start number 687.

Johnson switched from NASCAR to IndyCar in 2021 and drove the #48 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the road and street course races. In 2022, he became a full-time driver, but he decided after the season ended that he no longer wanted to compete full-time in any racing series.

He stated that he wanted to compete in “bucket list” races next year, and he has backing from primary sponsor Carvana to run whatever races he can line up.

Trackhouse Racing Team owner Justin Marks is a former Chip Ganassi Racing driver, and Trackhouse Racing Team acquired Chip Ganassi’s Cup Series operation following the 2021 season.

Marks is also a friend of Johnson, and he has stated that he would “absolutely” be willing to run a third car for Johnson in 2023, specifically in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway if the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native were to pursue a Memorial Day Double attempt. He is still likely to compete in the Indy 500 with Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Marks and Pitbull-owned team are also a Chevrolet team, so Johnson could reunite with his longtime Cup Series manufacturer.

While Trackhouse Racing Team’s full-time driver lineup has long been set with Ross Chastain behind the wheel of the #1 Chevrolet and Daniel Suarez behind the wheel of the #99 Chevrolet, the team recently introduced the #91 Chevrolet through what they call PROJECT91.

The car made its debut at Watkins Glen International with Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen behind the wheel, and while there are no more races planned for it in 2022, the plan is to run it in several races next year.

But PROJECT91 is designed to expand the international reach of the organization by fielding a third entry for “renowned international racing drivers” in select races.

While Johnson no longer competes in the Cup Series and has certainly done a lot elsewhere in the world of motorsport in recent years, a seven-time Cup Series champion with 83 wins over 19 seasons doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

However, Marks didn’t rule out fielding an extra for Johnson, so nothing has changed on that front; he could still end up at Trackhouse Racing Team.

The #91 Chevrolet isn’t slated to be a full-time entry next year, so Johnson could technically join the team in a third car depending on the race or races he chooses to run. It wouldn’t require the team to run four cars, which probably isn’t happening yet anyway.

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Will Jimmie Johnson add his name to the very short list of drivers who have attempted the Memorial Day Double next year, and if so, will he do it in a third Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet alongside Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez? While PROJECT91 itself isn’t an option, don’t rule out this possibility.