MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson isn’t retiring from racing; he’s simply shifting gears and heading in a different direction.
He made that point clear Tuesday when he spoke to a select group of media outlets that included SPEED SPORT.
“I saw the word ‘retirement’ too and sort of chuckled, mainly because I tried to retire once and it didn’t work out,” Johnson said. “To see it up there a second time is like the ‘Boy that Cried Wolf.’
“I really don’t feel like this is the end of driving for me. It’s a chance to pivot, run in marquee events and have these amazing experiences that any driver would want to have. Carvana is very interested and expected to continue on in IndyCar with me.
“The situation I’m in, I don’t think the word retirement isn’t correct, but it is certainly a pivot to less. Slowing down or part-time, I wore a rookie hat in IndyCar and now maybe I should wear a part-time hat.”
Instead of running full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, as he has since 2021 with Chip Ganassi Racing including a full-time effort in 2022, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion wants to run a “Bucket List” schedule.
“IndyCar is certainly on the list,” Johnson told SPEED SPORT. “Clearly with the relationship I have had with Chip Ganassi (team owner), there have been more conversations IndyCar related.
“Yesterday, in making this public knowledge now gives me the opportunity to speak to other teams, look at other opportunities in other series. I just recently made this decision and haven’t had any time to explore other options. I believe in the next month or so, I should know what opportunities are out there for me. I’m in a good place in the budget cycle for corporate dollars and for the potential to bring Carvana along, and any other interested parties.
“My timing is in a good spot, and we’ll see what the coming weeks bring.”
Three “Bucket List” areas that Johnson spoke of the most include running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day for Memorial Day Weekend’s “Double.” Also, Johnson wants to win a Rolex watch as one of the winning drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and would love to be part of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports “Garage 56” entry in next year’s 24 Hours of LeMans.
He also wants to return to one or two NASCAR Cup Series races next season and compete in a variety of events on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule, just not the full 17-race season.
“I honestly could get really excited about all of them or any of them,” Johnson said. “Street courses provide such unique opportunity and clearly the street course at Long Beach has so much sentimental value to me. The ovals, I was much more competitive than on the street courses, especially the ovals that had multiple lanes. My NASCAR background came into play, and I was really competitive on the two-lane ovals.
“Road courses, to drive at Road America and Laguna Seca, those are amazing marquee race tracks to run on. I could honestly get excited about any of it, and it depends on what opportunity will develop.”
Johnson said being competitive certainly makes racing more fun. Although he wasn’t that competitive in IndyCar statistically, he made dramatic improvement from his first race in April 2021 at Barber Motorsports Park to his most recent IndyCar race at Laguna Seca on September 11.
He finished 16th that day, matching his career-best on a road course (also 16th at Mid-Ohio on July 3). Johnson’s best finish came on an oval, fifth at Iowa Speedway on July 26.
“What I’m doing now isn’t result driven, it’s about the experience,” Johnson said. “Of course, I want to run well and I will apply myself. I do take it very seriously.
“I’m not trying to start a second career here. I’m trying to have meaningful experiences with teams that have meaning, individuals behind it that have meaning and tracks and races that have meaning as well.
“It is a few degrees different than what I spent the bulk of my career doing. That allows me to open up the runway and gives me more time to experience this.”
Johnson doesn’t see this as the end of his IndyCar career, he’s just taking a different direction to see where it leads him.
It’s all about the experience.
“Carvana came up with this tagline, ‘No Finish Lines,’” Johnson said. “Most people want to believe that’s reality and would like to challenge themselves and start a second career and pivot in life, but it’s tough to do.
“I have discovered these last two years how many fans and racers identify with what I have done and want to do that in their lives.
“Sure, I’m competitive and want to win races, but at the same time, I was willing to get uncomfortable. I can sit here and say I’ve had the most amazing two years. Even though I wasn’t winning races and was qualifying at the back of the field in all these road and street races, I was having the time of my life.
“You can pivot and get uncomfortable and have an amazing experience doing so.”