By Zach Sturniolo
Published: 11 Jan, 2023
5 Minute Read
A new legacy takes center stage in NASCAR with plenty of history guiding it.
LEGACY Motor Club was officially introduced to the NASCAR world Tuesday morning, a rebrand of the former Petty GMS organization as seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson joins fellow seven-timer Richard Petty and Maury Gallagher as co-owners.
Johnson, who stepped away from full-time NASCAR racing following the 2020 season and full-time racing in general in September 2022, also returns to the driver’s seat of a stock car for a part-time schedule in 2023. He’ll pilot the No. 84 Chevrolet starting with the 65th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, Sirius XM).
WHAT’S IN A NAME
It’s another fresh start for a still-fledging team. Despite the association with Petty, whose family history in NASCAR dates back to 1949, LEGACY M.C. itself stands at just 13 months old.
RELATED: With Johnson aboard, Petty GMS fast-tracks growth
Trying to work the Johnson name into the Petty GMS brand was “clunky and clumsy,” Johnson told NASCAR.com on Tuesday. Finding an alternative that would honor both the history of the team’s owners while driving it forward was imperative to the group.
“We’re looking at the legacy deal,” Petty told NASCAR.com. “You know, we (the Pettys) have been doing this 75 years, OK? And you’re getting a bunch of new fans and a bunch of new situations with a new car, new venues that we’re going to. And you’re saying, ‘OK, you know, what’s our next step?’ And I feel like after 75 years, then we’re looking at (when) people see the 43 car, they think of Petty. We’ve got new fans that, you know, what are they gonna think about a number? So we’re trying to put a team together with legacy.”
A team name absent of Petty won’t deter the family’s tremendous legacy in NASCAR – especially as the Nos. 43 and 42 remain on track, with Erik Jones and Noah Gragson, respectively, piloting their Chevrolets forward.
“Knowing that we’re going to have the Petty font and numbers on our cars forever,” Johnson said, “really gave us a chance to take the team name and try to honor all of us kind of in a founding way and the legacies that we have all built. And then certainly, looking forward [at] the legacy that we hope to create as an organization, our drivers hope to create within their careers, crew chiefs, crew members, personnel in general, we just felt like legacy fit us very well.”
RELATED: Noah Gragson to drive No. 42 Chevrolet in 2023
There’s also a quirk to the new name: LEGACY Motor Club.
“The motor club concept was wildly popular in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and we felt like it’s a great nod to the past,” Johnson said. “But then also, our plan and vision moving forward in a way to incorporate fans and to bring people into our organization in support of LEGACY Motor Club. We feel that there’s a great story to tell there and a great opportunity to engage with fans and to grow our fan base.”
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL
Trackhouse Racing ruffled traditional feathers around American motorsports with its sudden rise to prominence in 2022.
A culture built by co-owners Justin Marks and Pitbull centers around the team rather than any particular drivers. With that came strong marketing and on-track success with multiple wins via drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez, emphatically highlighted by Chastain’s Martinsville wall ride that propelled him into the Championship 4.
Leadership at LEGACY M.C. quickly took notice – but still eyes a future all its own.
“That was kind of a situation that we looked at and said, ‘Hey, these guys are looking at racing different than what the regular racing people are looking at,’ and they came in away from racing and brought in new ideas,” Petty said. “And we said, ‘OK, we think this is a good concept and so let’s pick up on that concept.’ We know what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.
“Now, they’ve kind of made a path, so it’s up to us to make a bigger path.”
Johnson echoed those sentiments, acknowledging a rapid evolution in fan culture and motorsports.
“I think as you see younger owners come in, you’re just seeing a different vision, a generational vision […],” Johnson said. “The landscape’s changing. And even the role of a team owner, a franchise owner, if you will, it’s an ever-changing environment that we’re trying to adjust to.
“Hats off to Justin and all the recent work that he’s done on and off the track. And we certainly hope to leave our own mark but in a similar fashion, do it in different ways.”
NEW CHAPTER, NEW NUMBER
With the next step of Johnson’s storied career come fresh digits on his Chevrolet’s vinyl.
The No. 84 serves as a simultaneous nod to his own past and present: an inverse of the No. 48 he made famous at Hendrick Motorsports to pair with the goal of claiming his 84th career Cup win. Johnson currently sits at 83, tied with Cale Yarborough for the sixth-most victories in Cup history.
RELATED: All-time NASCAR Cup Series winners
“At this stage with our third car, when you try to find a number, there are only so many numbers available,” Johnson laughed. “But for me, four and eight have been marquee numbers for me throughout my entire life. I go all the way back to my dirt bike racing days. Clearly, 19 years in the 48 car and the seven championships came with it.
“So, as I perused the list and saw the numbers that were available, I couldn’t help myself. And you know I still am chasing that 84th win, so if that moment does come around for me and we are able to ring the bell and get 84 in the 84 car, part of a team that I own, that would be just off the charts.”
Johnson’s races past the Daytona 500 remain unannounced, but the team plans to evaluate how the third car benefits the program. Could another driver compete in the No. 84 this season – or additional races for Johnson?
“I wouldn’t say it’s off the table,” he said. “It just depends on the year. If the third car can help our program and drive us forward, I personally am not against running more. So it just depends on how the year develops.”
His leap to Cup ownership seemed sudden, but don’t mistake this as some quick publicity stunt: Johnson is back in NASCAR to stay.
“Without a doubt, yeah, this isn’t a short-term play for me,” he said. “This is certainly long-term play, long-term vision and trying to build my legacy outside of the car.”