NASCAR: Why isn’t Jimmie Johnson driving the No. 48 car?

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Jimmie Johnson is back in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2023 season after spending the last two years in IndyCar, but why is he no longer driving the No. 48 car?

Shortly before the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season ended, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson announced that he would be returning to the series as not only a part-time driver but as a co-owner of Petty GMS Motorsports, which has since been renamed Legacy Motor Club to reflect the arrival of the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native.

Johnson initially retired from the Cup Series after the 2020 season, his 20th season (19th full season) with Hendrick Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet.

When he switched to IndyCar in 2021, he continued to drive the No. 48 car, driving the No. 48 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the road and street course races. He drove the car full-time in the 2022 season but announced that he would not be returning for another full season in 2023.

But despite Jimmie Johnson’s return to NASCAR in 2023, he will not drive the No. 48 car.

All 686 of his Cup Series starts have come behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet, but that streak is set to end when he makes his first start with Legacy Motor Club in this Sunday afternoon’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

After Johnson retired, Kyle Larson, who had lost his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing during the 2020 season, was named his replacement, but not behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet.

The team opted to bring back the No. 5 Chevrolet for Larson and move Alex Bowman, who had driven the No. 88 Chevrolet as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement since 2018, to the No. 48 Chevrolet, thus eliminating the No. 88 Chevrolet from their lineup.

Bowman and the team confirmed pretty early on that, despite Johnson’s return to the Cup Series, he would be back for a third season behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet in 2023. Bowman has won five races since taking over for Johnson, including a career-high four in 2021.

Johnson’s full part-time schedule hasn’t been confirmed for the 2023 season, but whenever and wherever he competes, he is set to drive the No. 84 Chevrolet. In addition to the Daytona 500, he is set to compete in the inaugural race at the Chicago Street Course in July.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

The No. 84 was selected because it is what you get when you switch the digits in No. 48 — and because of the fact that Johnson has been sitting on 83 career victories, good for a sixth place tie on the all-time wins list, since June 2017 when he won at Dover Motor Speedway. Additionally, the numbers 4 and 8 have both held significance throughout Johnson’s racing career, even before his NASCAR days.