CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — From Italy to Iowa on the simulator and finally to the Finger Lakes, there’s no rest for Jimmy Johnson. He heads to Watkins Glen this weekend for one of his last two scheduled appearances at the IMSA sports car.
He will then turn his attention to planning his 2023 schedule, which Johnson hopes will include a venue at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet plan to take a stock car to Le Mans next June in a special Garage 56 class designed to showcase the innovation of NASCAR’s new Next Gen model. The iconic endurance race is scheduled for June 10-11, or two weeks after the Indianapolis 500.
Johnson wants to be part of the lineup but his participation, he said, is dependent on the 2023 IndyCar schedule — an indicator that the seven-time NASCAR champion is still planning a third season of open-wheel racing.
Johnson pushed “behind the scenes” this week to IndyCar president Jay Fry to ensure the series takes off during Le Mans.
“I want to go to Le Mans. But I think a lot depends on the release of the schedule to understand whether I can,” Johnson said. “I know there is interest. I am definitely very interested in doing it. We’re just waiting for that first domino to drop.”
Johnson, who has driven for Ric Hendricks for nearly two decades, believes he is on the list of Le Mans candidates.
“I think the interest on both sides is really high,” he said. “We weren’t able to talk about anything more formal because the schedule isn’t out.”
With everything in limbo, Johnson has turned to the dog days of his current racing schedule. IndyCar ran five consecutive weeks before a two-week break, allowing Johnson to take his wife and two daughters to Italy for a quick vacation.
But the 46-year-old had to return for Monday’s test at Iowa Speedway, a rare oval that Johnson has never driven before. He had tears in his eyes during a media session this week and as he sipped coffee, he explained how his next stop was the simulator for this weekend’s preparation for Six Hours of the Glen, which was joined by Johnson in alliance with Hendricks in his schedule. It was the third of four IMSA endurance races built. , Action Express Racing and sponsor partner.
Johnson missed the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March because it contrasted with IndyCar’s stop at Texas Motor Speedway, his open-wheel debut on an oval, hence his return to the No.48 Cadillac this weekend with teammate Mike Rockenefeller and Kamui have a reunion with Kobayashi. ,
He served a short stint in the seat of Watkins Glen a year ago and isn’t sure how much his former NASCAR crew chief and No.48 IMSA program chief Chad Knows will use him on Sunday.
“A six-hour race with three drivers, not a lot of drive time, duration,” Johnson said. “I think the amount of time I spend in the car ultimately depends on my speed.”
Johnson doesn’t know what his 2023 schedule will look like, but he expects it to include another full IndyCar season and, at the very least, the IMSA endurance race.
His return to IndyCar depends largely on funding. Johnson found Carvana on his own to back his transition from NASCAR champion to IndyCar rookie, and last year only ran road and road courses. He added ovals this season, and made his Indy 500 debut last month.
Although he was considered a threat to win his first 500, he wasted late and finished 28th. He continued to struggle on the road and roadways, leading Johnson to dismiss a report that he would only run the oval the following year.
“I’m not sure where it came from. It hasn’t been in any of the discussions or thought processes I’ve had,” Johnson said. “What I’ve been doing has been so much fun and enjoyable. Keep getting better. Definitely looking forward to doing something similar again next year.”
Everything he does in 2023 will come down to sponsorship, scheduling, and changes to the 2023 rules for sports car racing. The prototype DPI class will be replaced by a new LMDH class that will qualify IMSA’s top class to race at Le Mans.
But the concern with the change is that there will not be enough initial chassis and parts for the partially-scheduled teams.
“We are still at this stage with IndyCar, sports car or any other idea that I have to go into racing. Right now everything is people just starting to talk about options,” Johnson said. But summer comes to an end, fall begins when the paper starts rolling around and people are looking at the ink stuff and it’s done. We’re just at the beginning of the cycle, and I’m definitely Trying to keep my options open.”
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