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May 2, 2023

Legacy Motor Club to switch manufacturers, field Toyotas in 2024

Legacy Motor Club breaking news graphic
NASCAR Creative Design

Legacy Motor Club announced Tuesday that the organization will switch its manufacturer alignment from Chevrolet to Toyota for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, marking the latest significant shift for the two-car operation.

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The move promises to provide Toyota a boost in numbers in Cup Series competition. The Japanese automaker stands to grow from six chartered cars on the grid to eight next year with the addition of Legacy M.C., which would join Joe Gibbs Racing (four cars) and 23XI Racing (two cars) on the Toyota roster. David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the advent of the Next Gen car – which yielded 19 Cup Series winners in its debut season last year – accelerated the carmaker’s desire to add to its NASCAR fleet.

“I made a supposition before we turned a wheel in anger last year that this could be a game-changer for an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in setting our strategy in place,” Wilson said. “Sure enough, 2022 turned the sport on its head, the most unique winners in our history, I think. And it confirmed the supposition, which was that a very focused — as I call it, a rifle-shot approach — which proved tremendously effective between 2015 and ’21, resulting in three championships for Toyota, that needed to be updated, and that we needed to add quality cars to our family. And so over the better part of a year, we’ve been on that. It has been a plan. It wasn’t reactive because we knew it was coming. And again, we’re just incredibly fortunate to have some interest and to further that interest to the point where we are today with Jimmie and with Maury.”

The “Jimmie and Maury” in that sentence refers to NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and businessman and majority team owner Maury Gallagher, who have guided Legacy Motor Club through a rapid evolution in recent years — through mergers, shifts in ownership and growth. That began with the launch of Petty GMS Motorsports in December 2021, a two-car outfit formed when GMS Racing owner Gallagher purchased a majority stake in Richard Petty’s Cup Series operation. The organization took on Johnson – like Petty, a seven-time Cup champion – as a part-owner last November, and that group rebranded as Legacy M.C. in January.

Legacy Motor Club currently fields two full-time cars in the Cup Series – the No. 43 Chevrolet driven by Erik Jones and the No. 42 Chevrolet for rookie Noah Gragson. Johnson has driven the team’s No. 84 entry in a partial schedule this year, returning to NASCAR after retiring from full-time Cup competition after the 2020 campaign.

The shift represents a crucial break for Johnson, who spent his entire Cup Series career with Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. He ranks sixth on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 83 victories – all under Chevy’s bowtie banner.

“I just want to express my excitement to be a part of the Toyota family,” Johnson said. “Clearly have a long history – 30-plus years with Chevrolet, 20 of those years at Hendrick Motorsports — and what we did together will always be in the record books and something that I’ll always cherish. But as Maury pointed out, strategically long-term, this is a foundational piece for the club that … this really makes sense. It’s something we need to do and to have this deep alignment and partnership with Toyota, it’s been a fun period of time to get to know them and really understand their passion and how much our core values truly align.”

While the news means a major pivot for Johnson, it signifies a sort of homecoming for Jones and Gragson, who both entered NASCAR’s national ranks as prospects in the Toyota pipeline before landing with Chevrolet teams. Both drivers won races for Kyle Busch Motorsports – then a top developmental affiliate for Toyota in the Craftsman Truck Series – and Jones marched to the truck tour’s championship for KBM in 2015 before moving up the stock-car racing ladder.

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“This change, for me, won’t be much of a change,” said Jones, who is now in his seventh Cup Series season – four of which were with Toyota. “It’s going to be really going and working with a lot of people I know pretty well and worked with for a lot of years. So I’m excited about it. For me going in, I guess I kind of already know Toyota’s commitment and how things work and how things run. It makes me excited as a driver, just knowing going in, some of the resources we’re going to have going forward to continue to build the program.”

Said Gragson, in his first year with the Legacy M.C. group: “These guys are involved, and they’re making moves, and they’re making stuff happen. And with that being said, seeing Maury’s vision to bring Jimmie in and just the steps that they’ve been putting into place so far, in the short time coming, has been really exciting to see. And this is another step of this journey, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Wilson had said in recent years that the manufacturer had chosen to be strategic about bolstering its numbers, opting for “quality over quantity” for its Cup Series entries. The carmaker grew from five full-time cars to six when 23XI Racing expanded ahead of the 2022 season. Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota’s flagship team, shares a technical alliance with 23XI, and its pit crews train under the same organizational banner.

Wilson said the potential exists for further growth but that TRD’s expansion efforts are complete for now.

“I think there’s room for a couple more cars, potentially,” Wilson said. “You know, I think the sweet spot is somewhere between eight to 10. If they are quality teams and capable drivers, I think that’s enough. So as it relates to 2024, you can rest assured that we are done, and our focus is on making sure that we deliver to this new partner.”