NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson facing possible schedule conflict

Jimmie Johnson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmie Johnson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

If Jimmie Johnson wants to compete in the Indy 500, he may have to forgo competing in a NASCAR Cup Series race that was high on his wish list.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spent the last two seasons competing in IndyCar for Chip Ganassi Racing.

But he has returned to the Cup Series in 2023, driving part-time for the newly rebranded Legacy Motor Club.

Legacy Motor Club, formerly known as Petty GMS Motorsports, changed their name to reflect Johnson’s arrival not only as a driver but as a co-owner of the organization.

Jimmie Johnson is still working on solidifying his schedule for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

As of now, it only includes the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, which took place back in mid-February, this weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, and the inaugural race at the new Chicago Street Course in early July.

Shortly after the 2022 IndyCar season ended, the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native confirmed he wouldn’t be back full-time in 2023, but he never ruled out competing in the 107th running of the Indy 500, which is scheduled for Sunday, May 28.

In fact, he has stated on multiple occasions that he would like to attempt the Memorial Day Double and compete in both the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Chip Ganassi is reportedly waiting on Johnson to make his decision on the Indy 500 for 2023.

But what Johnson has also admitted is that the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway is high on his wish list, a list that he says currently contains 12 or 14 races. He is aiming to narrow it down to between five and 10.

However, the All-Star Race is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 21, which is when the second day of Indy 500 qualifying is scheduled to take place. Day two of Indy 500 qualifying includes the fastest 12 drivers from Saturday, May 20, which is also when All-Star Race qualifying is scheduled to take place.

Cup Series champions are locked into the All-Star Race, but only if they are competing full-time, meaning Johnson would need to qualify via the All-Star Open, unless NASCAR makes an exception to the rule.

Day two of Indy 500 qualifying generally runs from 4:00 p.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET, and the All-Star Open is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. ET. The All-Star Race is scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. ET. In 2022, Johnson comfortably advanced to the day two Indy 500 qualifying session with a sixth place effort on day one.

While day one of Indy 500 qualifying generally runs from 11:00 a.m. ET to 5:50 p.m. ET, everyone usually has a four-lap attempt under their belt within the first two or three hours.

So even with a late draw, Johnson could theoretically make a single qualifying attempt and then fly to North Wilkesboro Speedway later that night for an All-Star qualifying attempt (presumably for the All-Star Open), provided he is safely in the Indy 500 field.

But you never know what will happen with the weather in Speedway, Indiana, as we saw a year ago, and it could be risky. What will Johnson ultimately decide? Will he pull off what would be the fifth ever Memorial Day Double attempt? Will he opt for the All-Star Race? Is doing both — effectively including a pre-Memorial Day Double (twice), if you will — an option?

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As of now, a Johnson Indy 500 return is looking unlikely, but it remains a possibility until the door is completely shut. If he does eventually rule it out, it will be interesting to see if Chip Ganassi Racing still run a fifth entry in this year’s running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and if so, for whom.