INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson and Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Wednesday that the seven time Cup Series champion will drive an IndyCar for the organization part-+time in 2021 and again in 2022. While some say that nothing is done in terms of what and when he will drive, he wouldn’t have signed this deal to sit on the sidelines for an IndyCar race. It’s happening folks. To what extent, that’s not exactly known but if the funding is found, which we know it will be, Johnson will race in all road/street course races in the NTT IndyCar series over the next couple of years.
So, here are my main takeaways.
Johnson Kept This A Secret
Jimmie Johnson tested an IndyCar back at the end of July. The announcement came on Sept. 9. But, if you watch the video confirming this, it was done during that test, meaning that the deal was basically done over a month ago.
NASCAR Has Too Many Races
We’ve been saying this for years, but a 36 week season for NASCAR is far too long. That’s a nine month long season. It’s the longest season in sports that spans from mid February to now early November. That’s why Johnson is joining a list of several other drivers that just didn’t want to do that much racing over the course of a season anymore.
Tony Stewart retired but not from racing. He’s racing more now than he did in NASCAR, it’s just he was done with the weekly grind that NASCAR brings. Johnson is doing the same. I mean think about it, if IndyCar returns 12 or 13 road/street course races in 2021, Johnson will be essentially racing a 1/3 of a NASCAR season. He said that his passion has never wavered it’s just that it’s hard to commit to something for nine months and do so for as long as these drivers are doing that.
IndyCar on a normal year starts in mid March and ends in mid to late September. I don’t think this is going to be the last of drivers coming from NASCAR or other racing series’ to IndyCar.
Johnson Could Still Do Select NASCAR Races Too Now
Jimmie Johnson never fully shut the door on a NASCAR return either. He just has no desire to race all 36 races anymore and I believe that he never will again. But, with how NASCAR is, he couldn’t have done one-offs with Hendrick Motorsports for 2021 anyways. They’re maxed out with four teams and can’t downsize due to the charter system. The Ganassi fit is easy for him to do this now. They have two full time cars and have expanded to a third team the last couple of years in a Spire partnership for Ross Chastain. They can do so with Johnson now and allow him to race the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and whatever else he chooses but he also doesn’t have to be full time to make it happen.
Ganassi Would Be Wise To Pair Johnson With Montoya Or Castroneves
We know Jimmie Johnson wants to just do the road/street courses. So, why shelf that car for the ovals? Make it an All-Star car and really make the emphasis on “All-Star.” Two names that come to my mind to drive the ovals are current Penske IMSA drivers in Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves.
Neither want to call it quits on racing and both are looking elsewhere with Penske’s blessing. I know Castroneves wants to race Indy Car full time again and that Ed Carpenter Racing is interested, but he also really wants to win a fourth Indy 500 crown too. Ganassi, would be a strong play to do that in.
Castroneves on all ovals and Johnson on road/street courses?
What about Montoya? He makes the most sense to go back and end his career where it started. Montoya won 15 times in his Indy Car career with eight of them being on ovals. In fact, five of his final seven Indy Car wins were on ovals.
He raced for Ganassi on the Indy Car side from 1999-2000. He rejoined them after an F1 stint on the NASCAR side in the 2006 season finale and full time from 2007 through 2013 before moving over to Penske from 2014 on.
Ganassi Has GOAT’s on 1 Team
Scott Dixon is arguably one of the top three IndyCar drivers ever. His stats rank him up there with AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. Jimmie Johnson’s stats rank him up there with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. These are generational talents and both are now on the same team on the IndyCar side. That’s huge.
IndyCar Field Going To Be Even Deeper
Think about an IndyCar field with names like Castroneves and/or Montoya, Johnson, Dixon, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Power, McLaughlin, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Herta, Andretti, Rosenqvist, Ericsson, Rahal, Sato, O’Ward, Askew, Daly, etc vying for race victories. Just when you think that the field can’t get any deeper it seems like it is.
The future is bright for the series but also you have some huge named veterans that can be making a comeback as well.
IndyCar Safety Has Come A Long Way
A few years ago, I don’t think Johnson even kicks this can down the road. See, Johnson has long been an advocate for something to be over his head when he raced. Before he started having kids, it didn’t matter, he’d race anything. But after, his wife made it pretty clear that IndyCar wasn’t an option any more.
My how things can change with how safe IndyCar’s have become. Thank Jay Frye and his team for that and for bringing the Aeroscreen to the series. I fully believe the Aeroscreen played a part in Johnson coming over to the series.