Jimmie Johnson on the IndyCar grid at Portland International Raceway
Travis Hinkle | Penske Entertainment

Jimmie Johnson joins Petty GMS in part-owner role, plans return to select Cup races in 2023

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. 

Jimmie Johnson sits between Richard Petty and Maury Gallagher
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

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.

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“So when I left here, I really had no idea what was in store for me,” Johnson said. “I knew I wanted to try IndyCar and had an amazing experience there. And stepping away from full-time IndyCar, I wanted to create a good eight-to-10-race schedule with just really fun races, and then certainly coming back to NASCAR. And as this conversation started, it’s just … it’s one that I really had to pay close attention to, and an offer and an opportunity that, it’s just a life-changing opportunity for me and one that I had to take. So I’m very excited about this.”

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.

The team will move forward with Jones and Noah Gragson on the full-time 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, and his titles in 2013 and 2016 brought him into a tie with Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt as the premier series’ only seven-time champs.

Petty had welcomed Gallagher into their newly-launched team a year ago with one of his signature cowboy hats. Friday, Petty provided Johnson with a master class on the art of wearing sunglasses indoors, and Gallagher offered a welcome gift of his trademark “dad shoes” as the organization puts a plan of succession in place.

“I said, this has got to be one of the biggest things that has happened to the Petty crowd, and GMS from that standpoint,” Petty said. “You know, we joined cahoots last year, got a pretty good start this year, but with Jimmie adding on with his popularity and the people he knows that we don’t know, it had to be a heck of a deal. So from my standpoint, it’s a big, big step — not just for one year, but I’m looking farther, farther down the road. Jimmie comes in, does his deal. I’m 85 years old, so I’m not gonna be here for another 15, 20 years, then Jimmie can kind of take over so that that had to be a plus-plus.”

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. That paper is now a wide-open sheet, with IndyCar and sports cars still in consideration for his racing future, but with a stock-car return back on the table.

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, reiterating Friday that “it’s still on the table. I’ve made sure that my calendar is nice and open in June, and hopefully it can stay that way.”

Johnson has mentioned that attempting a same-day double in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 held special intrigue. Johnson didn’t dip into specific races outside of Daytona that were in his plans, but Petty joked that those with the biggest purse would be focal points.

“I think we have a few ways to look at it,” said Johnson, a two-time Daytona 500 winner (2006, 2013). “I mean, obviously partners in areas that they want to race is one thing to look at. I have a list of races that I’m super interested in and would love to do, and then there’s also the competition point — the same point of what’s best for the team. Are there test sessions? It would be really nice if I can test a car, and then go to that race because so much has changed.”

Besides his own driving exploits, Johnson says he will take a mentorship role with Jones, 26, and the 24-year-old Gragson as the team tries to build its foundation.

“I’m excited to work side by side with him,” Jones said. “Getting him in the fold, see a different evaluation of the program, somebody who’s been at the top, you know, he’s won multiple races,  championships. Just having those set of eyes on there, I think is going to be good for our group.”

The announcement was also cheered from Johnson’s former colleagues at Hendrick Motorsports, which fielded the No. 48 Chevrolet that Johnson drove to all of his stock-car accolades. Jeff Gordon, his ex-teammate who now serves as the company’s vice chairman, and team owner Rick Hendrick applauded Johnson as he enters the next phase of his career.

“This is a tremendous day for our sport. Jimmie is one of the all-time great champions on the race track, and I know he’ll apply the same mentality to his role as a team owner,” Hendrick said in a statement. “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.”