NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson could miss the Daytona 500

Jimmie Johnson, Petty GMS Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Petty GMS Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Because he isn’t driving a chartered entry, Jimmie Johnson isn’t guaranteed a spot in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500.

After spending the last two seasons in IndyCar, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson made the decision to return to the Cup Series in 2023 as a part-time driver with Petty GMS Motorsports. Because Johnson also became a co-owner of the team, they rebranded to Legacy Motor Club.

Johnson retired from Cup Series competition after 20 seasons (19 full seasons), all with Hendrick Motorsports, following the 2020 season, but it didn’t take long for him to talk about a potential return.

Now that return is almost complete, with the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native set to be back behind the wheel for Daytona 500 qualifying this coming Wednesday, February 15 and for one of the two Bluegreen Vacations Duels qualifying races on Thursday, February 16.

But there is a slight chance that Jimmie Johnson won’t make his Legacy Motor Club debut in the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500.

Because Johnson isn’t driving one of the 36 chartered entries, he is not locked into the season opener. There is no past champions’ provisional spot. The field is capped at 40 cars, and there are 42 cars on the entry list for the 200-lap race at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

This means that just four of the six drivers who are behind the wheel of non-chartered entries will actually qualify for the race. The other five drivers set to drive non-chartered cars in an attempt to qualify for the Great American Race are Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Conor Daly, Austin Hill, and Travis Pastrana.

These five drivers are set to drive the No. 13 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford, the No. 50 The Money Team Racing Chevrolet, the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet, and the No. 67 23XI Racing Toyota, respectively.

Of these drivers, the two fastest in the single-car qualifying session lock into the race. Then in the qualifying races, the drivers who finish highest among the drivers of non-chartered entries in their respective qualifying races (one driver from each of the two races) also lock in.

If a driver qualifies for the Daytona 500 utilizing both methods, then one of his spots goes to the next fastest driver of a non-chartered car during the single-car qualifying session, not necessarily the next highest finisher among the drivers of non-chartered cars in that driver’s Duel race.

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The Daytona 500 itself is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 19. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!