IndyCar: Possible Jimmie Johnson Indy 500 entry looms large

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

While Jimmie Johnson is returning to the NASCAR Cup Series for 2023, there is still a chance that he will return to IndyCar for the Indy 500.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced in early November that he would be making his return to the Cup Series in 2023 with Petty GMS Motorsports, which have since been renamed Legacy Motor Club to reflect his arrival as not only a part-time driver but as a co-owner of the organization.

The 47-year-old El Cajon, California native has spoken about a potential return to the Cup Series since retiring at the end of the 2020 season, his 19th season as a full-time driver, and now it is set to come to fruition.

Johnson moved to IndyCar in 2021 and competed in the road and street course races for Chip Ganassi Racing, and he became a full-time driver for the team in 2022. He made his Indy 500 debut last year.

Shortly after the 2022 season ended, he announced that he would not be back for a second full season in IndyCar, but he didn’t shut the door on an Indy 500 return. That door is reportedly still open, with Chip Ganassi willing to add a fifth entry should Johnson want to pursue that route.

Will Jimmie Johnson return to IndyCar for the Indy 500?

What makes his decision more intriguing is the fact that there are currently 32 confirmed entries for the 107th running of the Indy 500, including 27 full-time entries and five part-time/Indy 500-only entries.

The addition of a fifth Chip Ganassi Racing for Johnson would ensure that this year’s Indy 500 doesn’t become the first without a full 33-car field since 1947.

There are, of course, several implications beyond Johnson’s entry becoming the 33rd confirmed entry on the entry list for this year’s running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

And there could still be other Indy 500 entries added to fill the field before the race, which is still more than four months away. A.J. Foyt Enterprises (currently at two cars), Dale Coyne Racing (two), and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (one) are all seen as potential candidates to add entries.

Johnson has said that the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway is pretty high up on his wish list for 2023, and that race is scheduled to take place on the same weekend as Indy 500 qualifying.

Additionally, an Indy 500 run could set Johnson up to become the fifth driver to attempt the Memorial Day Double, should he also decide that he wants to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway following the Indy 500.

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An attempt at this rare feat hasn’t been made since 2014, when 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch tried to pull it off. Only three-time Cup Series champion and 1996-97 Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart completed all 1,100 miles on the same day, doing so back in 2001. 2021 Cup Series champion Kyle Larson is set to attempt it in 2024.