Could Daly run Daytona 500? Dixon says Johnson still wants to run Indy 500, but may not work this year

There’s been more and more talk regarding the popular INDYCAR-NASCAR driver crossover. We know Kyle Larson will attempt the “double” in 2024, which this all sparked the conversation up again, but some were wondering if Jimmie Johnson would try to do so this year.

Johnson made his Indianapolis 500 debut last year and was largely successful. Being near the top of the daily speed charts, qualifying in the Fast 12 and even leading some laps in the race itself. He wants to do it again. However, Johnson is also making a return to NASCAR this season in a multitude of roles.

“Yeah, I think that surprised a few people,” Dixon said of Johnson’s step away. “I’d kind of heard rumblings and we had spoken a bit about it, probably right around a similar time. I don’t think it was a super shock to a lot of us, but I think for maybe the industry it was.

“But I guess some people, that’s kind of the natural progression. I think who and how and how he did it I think was probably more of a shock than him actually going into the ownership role.

“I think that was in Nashville where he was kind of talking about maybe not coming back or how it was going to be, but I was like, come on, man, you’ve got to make sure you can get the deal together and come back.

“I think anybody that knows Jimmie well, he’s a great person. He’s a fun guy to hang out with. I think what he brought to the team, whether it was on the sponsor side to his competitiveness and competition side and info, not just information but kind of his history of being so successful I think really helped with the team.

“Obviously we can see that he’s moved on to different pastures, and a lot of exciting stuff for him that’s coming up.”

Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan chat on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Back in November, Johnson announced that he was going to be a part owner of Petty GMS Racing. Not only that, he’d also run select Cup races in 2023 including the Daytona 500. Last month, it was unveiled that Petty GMS Racing was rebranded to Legacy Motor Club and that Johnson has taken on a big role with this team and taking this new venture very seriously.

During those discussions in New York, Johnson didn’t close the door on a possible return to Indy this May. However, he also didn’t give a large boost of confidence that he will either.

He knows for certain that he has a ride again with Chip Ganassi Racing. That much is known. Even with being an owner in NASCAR for a Chevrolet branded team, the bow tie camp has given Johnson their full blessing to compete against them in INDYCAR in a Honda prepared by Ganassi.

The only hold up is squarely on Johnson’s shoulders. It’s up to him. Carvana is backing him this season, so he has a sponsor, he has a car, he has an opportunity, but does he want to truly make it work…this year?

Johnson knows he wants to run the NASCAR All-Star race in North Wilkesboro and if he does, that pretty much closes the door on an Indy 500 return because that race is during qualifying weekend. He also knows that he’s running the Garage 56 entry in Le Mans in June. Does fitting the Indy 500 in there make him busier than he wants?

“I think so. I’m not sure about this year, though,” Dixon said on if he thinks we’ll ever see Johnson at Indy again. “I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. Maybe he’s already punted until next year, I don’t know.

“But he wants to do it. It’s just timing. It’s very difficult, and especially with the Garage 56 entry and all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot going on, especially around that period of time. It’s pretty tight.”

Ganassi needs to know soon one way or the other because if Johnson punts on this year, then they can give that Honda package back and it can go elsewhere.

In a rare set of circumstances, we also have to talk about an INDYCAR driver going to NASCAR too .

Conor Daly made his Cup Series debut last Fall on the Charlotte ROVAL. Now, there’s a chance he gets a second go at it later this month in Daytona. That’s right, Daly has a chance to race his way into NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

The Money Team made their NASCAR debut in last year’s race with Kaz Grala. The Massachusetts native raced his way into the big show. That’s the same team Daly made his debut for in Charlotte. This offseason, there were rumors that Helio Castroneves could end up in that very car for this year’s Daytona 500.

See, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion said that he had a deal with Don Hawk that if he could win an SRX race then Hawk would find Castroneves at Daytona 500 opportunity.

Hawk was true to his word. He was trying. The most logical fit was with the Trackhouse Project91 car. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get that car as a viable option for Daytona. That ride won’t be in Daytona next month.

The Money Team with Floyd Mayweather looked the most promising, but Castroneves said that the opportunity will have to wait since the team doesn’t have a charter and with the 47-year-old never having raced a stock car before, let alone at Daytona, and having to race his way in, it didn’t make much sense this year to do so.

With that said, it doesn’t necessarily change the number on the entry-list since TMT wasn’t on it…yet. Word is Conor Daly may be the leader in that clubhouse to land that ride.

“Great question (laughter). I mean, I didn’t know anything about that until recently. Who knows what will happen in the next couple days or weeks, I guess. Is it February yet,” Daly said on Wednesday.

“Well, if that opportunity were to come up, I chatted with a young man by the name of Helio Castroneves earlier, and I think for him an opportunity like that could probably come about really anytime. But for me, I don’t know if an opportunity like that would come again.

“I have done a lot in my life by, you know what, if there is a chance to do it, might as well do it. So who knows what might happen. But if there is a chance, I feel like I can’t not do it, or not try to do it at least.”

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