Jimmie Johnson steps away from full-time IndyCar competition for 2023
Jimmie Johnson’s days as a full-time IndyCar driver are over after one season, the 47-year-old seven-time NASCAR Cup champ announced Monday. His plans for 2023, though, are still undecided.
Fifteen days removed from the 2022 IndyCar season-finale, where Johnson tied a career-best road/street course finish of 16th at Laguna Seca days after announcing that Carvana would support all his 2023 racing endeavors, Johnson said he’d taken time to reflect on his experiences, potential opportunities and the burden of going through a similar schedule again for next year. After more than a week of discussions with his wife, Chani, and daughters, Evie and Lydia, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver says the choice was clear.
“I’m here to say today I will not compete full-time in 2023 (in IndyCar),” Johnson said during the latest episode of his docuseries, ‘Reinventing the Wheel.’ “I’m really at a point where I’m satisfied with the accomplishments I had in 2022. I truly felt like as this year started, I would want more years and would want to continue on, but through this period of time I’ve had to reflect and feeling as full as I do from my full-season of racing in the IndyCar series and the accomplishments I was able to have and the experiences I was able to have, I’ve arrived here today.
“I still very much have the desire to compete, but from a full-season standpoint and what’s required and the energy, the effort, the time away from home, all the commitments that are required to be your best for a full-season, I’m just not there right now, and I feel 2022 checks so many boxes for me.”
Clearly still leaving the door open for some sort of return for Johnson in 2023, the driver’s team owner during his two-year IndyCar foray, Chip Ganassi, provided this statement: “We are fully supportive of Jimmie. He has been a valued member of our team, and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”
Such a return could still include either an oval-only calendar (almost certain to be five races across four weekends, not including qualifying for the Indianapolis 500), an Indy 500-only run or perhaps no IndyCar running at all, as Johnson pursues a much lighter load now three years removed from stepping away from his full-time NASCAR career.
In 2021, Johnson raced a full endurance calendar in IMSA, along with 12 road and street course IndyCar races before opting to dive in full-time in 2022. In keeping his same IMSA duties (minus Sebring due to the conflict with the Texas IndyCar weekend) Johnson’s 2022 included 17 weekends racing in IndyCar, all-day simulator sessions for 15 of the 17 races, four IndyCar tests, four weekends on-track for IMSA and three IMSA sim days.
Even earlier this month, having just learned that Carvana would again back his plans for 2023, Johnson knew it all had been too much, even if he didn’t yet know how he’d want to organize his next steps.
“This summer has been busy. It’s honestly felt like the (NASCAR) Cup days, where you’re gone Thursday through Sunday (each weekend),” Johnson said on this week’s episode. “I feel like I have improved, but the challenge is about 2-3 times greater than what I first thought."
Johnson previously said he ended his rookie IndyCar campaign, in terms of results, speed and comfort, about where he expected to begin, despite a rigorous offseason testing program in Indy cars and other open-wheel machines in late-2020 and early-2021. As a rookie, he recorded four of his five best finishes of the year over those final four races, taking a season-best 17th in the final two runs of the year at Laguna Seca and Portland.
Facing returns to all those road and street course tracks in Year 2, while hoping for more competitive speed as he logged more hours and days in the sim and on the track, Johnson, his team and his wide fan base hoped the end of his rookie year might be a sign he'd frequently run mid-pack on road and street courses in Year 2. Instead, the driver of the No. 48 Honda registered more finishes of 21st or worse on road and street courses in 2022 (eight) than he did over as many starts in 2021 (seven). His best finish on those types of tracks that make up the bulk of the calendar rose to 16th this year, which he hit both Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca.
Though he often wowed even his fiercest competitors with his performance and daring nature in several of his IndyCar oval starts this year -- running the second lane at Texas and picking off car after car at times at Iowa -- Johnson's level of comfort and performance ovals (6th at Texas and a career-best 5th at Iowa among them) never quite translated off of them. For someone who knows his days in racing are numbered, was offered yet another chapter with Carvana to pursue whatever he desired and who also wanted to scale things back, trimming his IndyCar commitments back seemed a logical next step once -- particularly after Johnson scaled back his desire to compete full-time when his latest deal with Carvana became public.
"This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it's the right one," Johnson said Monday. "This was about an experience, not about results, and about the friendships I’ve built and the relationships I’ve formed, but I don’t want to enter another full season (in IndyCar) if I know I can’t give it my all.
“I’m still working on my bucket list of races to compete in. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is still out there for me. I love sportscar racing. I love IndyCar racing. I’ve always been curious if there might be a one-off event in NASCAR that might fit for me or work for me, so all of that is still in play, and I do anticipate racing somewhere next year. This isn’t a goodbye. I’m going to find some new projects and find new ways to challenge myself.”