Travis Hinkle | Penske Entertainment
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Petty GMS announced Friday that Jimmie Johnson has invested in an ownership stake with the organization, a move that will bring the seven-time champion back to NASCAR Cup Series competition in a part-time role next season for select races — including the 2023 Daytona 500.
Petty GMS announced the move Friday at Phoenix Raceway, site of this weekend’s championship finales for all three NASCAR national series. It’s also the site of Johnson’s last Cup Series start as a full-time driver in 2020.
The partnership pairs the Cup Series’ living seven-time champs in a team ownership collective with majority co-owner Maury Gallagher. Richard Petty and Gallagher merged their Cup operations before the 2022 season, forming a two-car effort with Erik Jones and Ty Dillon as the drivers.
“It’s great to be back in NASCAR,” Johnson said in a press release. “When the IndyCar season ended I started on this journey of what was next. Maury and I connected, this opportunity came to light and it’s the perfect fit for me. Team ownership makes so much sense at this stage of my career and after spending time with Maury and his family, talking with Mike (Beam), Dave (Elenz, crew chief of the No. 43) and Joey (Cohen, Director of Competition and Engineering), I realized this was something I wanted to be involved with from both the business perspective and on the competition side. If I’m going to commit to something like this, I want to make a difference and have something tangible to show for it when it’s all said and done. So, this opportunity with Petty GMS is all of that and much more.”
The team will move forward with Jones and Noah Gragson on the driver roster next season, with both locked up to multiyear deals. Jones is winding down his sixth Cup Series season, a campaign that added another Southern 500 win to his career portfolio. Gragson is making the move up to Cup after a stellar Xfinity Series tenure, which will culminate in a title shot in Saturday’s finale at Phoenix.
Johnson, 47, was a decorated Cup Series standout who scored 83 victories — tied for sixth all-time with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough. Five of his championships came consecutively in a record-breaking stretch from 2006-2010.
“What an exciting time for Petty GMS,” Petty said in a press release. “This year we’ve accomplished so much together with Maury and now adding Jimmie will only continue to help us grow. To have Jimmie — another seven-time champion — as a part of the team, and his abilities both on track and off will be special for Petty GMS. I’m looking forward to having him as a part of our team and seeing what we can build together.”
Upon his retirement from full-time NASCAR competition, Johnson shifted to other motorsports disciplines. He drove in IndyCar the last two years, part-time in 2021 before moving to a full-time ride with Chip Ganassi Racing this season. Johnson has also explored sports-car racing, registering two podium finishes in seven IMSA starts the last two years.
Two weeks after this year’s IndyCar finale, Johnson announced Sept. 26 that he would retire from full-time competition. “I’ve got a blank sheet of paper, and we can now see what opportunities exist and start making a calendar,” Johnson told the Associated Press.
Johnson has expressed interest in driving in several “bucket list” events, leaving the door open to a part-time role in NASCAR. He has also mentioned that the Garage 56 project for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was a consideration, adding that attempting a same-day double in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 held special intrigue.
Rick Hendrick, the former team owner for Johnson’s decorated full-time NASCAR career, released a statement following the announcement.
“This is a tremendous day for our sport. Jimmie is one of the all-time great champions on the racetrack, and I know he’ll apply the same mentality to his role as a team owner,” said the owner of Hendrick Motorsports.”When he sets his mind to something, the level of commitment and work ethic he brings is unsurpassed. Seeing Jimmie in a fire suit with his name on the roof of a Chevrolet at the Daytona 500 is going to be very special for a lot of people. Competing against him will certainly be a change, and a big challenge, but we welcome his return to NASCAR and look forward to the next chapter of a truly remarkable career.”
This story will be updated.