Jimmie Johnson still has a big decision to make

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

While he picked a number for his new NASCAR Cup Series entry, Jimmie Johnson still has a big decision to make about the 2023 season.

At long last, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson confirmed the number he is set to use when he returns to the sport’s top level this season.

Johnson, who signed with Petty GMS Motorsports in early November to become both a part-time driver and a co-owner of the team, is set to drive the No. 84 Chevrolet in select races throughout the season.

With Johnson joining as a co-owner, the team, also owned by fellow seven-time champion Richard Petty and Maury Gallagher, renamed themselves Legacy Motor Club, as it would have been “clunky and clumsy” to try to include Johnson’s name in the organization’s name.

A new number was needed for Johnson, whose 686 Cup Series starts have all come behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, since Hendrick Motorsports are keeping the No. 48 for Alex Bowman’s Chevrolet.

But while his number for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is set, Jimmie Johnson still has another big decision to make.

Following his “retirement” from the Cup Series in 2020, Johnson made the switch to IndyCar. In 2021, he drove the No. 48 Honda in the road and street course races for Chip Ganassi Racing, and in 2022, he ran the full schedule, including the Indy 500.

Despite the fact that he won’t be competing full-time (or even part-time) in IndyCar in 2023, the door remains open for him to compete in this year’s Indy 500, and Chip Ganassi is waiting on his decision. Even as a Chevrolet driver in the Cup Series, he would be allowed to drive a Honda in the Indy 500.

Could this potentially result in a Memorial Day Double attempt, with Johnson competing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day?

A second consecutive Indy 500 bid for Johnson would likely come in a fifth entry for Chip Ganassi Racing. Tony Kanaan, who drove the team’s fifth car in last year’s Indy 500, joined Arrow McLaren for this year’s running of the race, and Chip Ganassi Racing have already begun to fill what was once Johnson’s full-time entry.

Rookie Marcus Armstrong is set to drive the car, now the No. 11 Honda, in the road and street course races, and it has long been rumored that two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato will get the nod for the oval races, including the 107th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

The team’s other three full-time drivers are again set to be Marcus Ericsson, Scott Dixon, and Alex Palou.

Beyond the fact that the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native is set to attempt to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, nothing has been confirmed about his Cup Series schedule for 2023, but the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway is reportedly one of the races he would really like to run.

With All-Star Race set to take place during the same weekend as Indy 500 qualifying, that could pose a conflict. Johnson has the sponsorship to make another Indy 500 attempt, but will he decide to go for it? If not, will Chip Ganassi Racing still run a fifth car?

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It may seem strange to say in mid-January, but the clock is indeed ticking.