NASCAR’s seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will run a complete IndyCar schedule in 2022, including racing in the Indianapolis 500, Johnson announced Wednesday morning.
Johnson stepped away from NASCAR racing after the 2020 season and embarked on a part-time IndyCar schedule this year with Chip Ganassi Racing. His first venture into the open-wheel series included only running on street and road courses this year, but Johnson had long been toying with the idea of racing on ovals.
He told The Observer in August that he was open to more oval racing in IndyCar after getting comfortable with the aeroscreen safety enhancements and, not long after, completed a test at Texas.
“Spending the year around the series, I’ve learned a lot more about the cars and what they’re capable of,” Johnson said at the time. “And now I’m at a point where I want to try it on an oval by myself to see if the experience is what I anticipate it being, and maybe pursue the 500 or more.”
Johnson, whose Ganassi contract was announced for two years through 2022, also then said that he was unsure about sponsorship for the 500 the following season. Partner Carvana is set to sponsor Johnson in almost all races next year, while The American Legion will sponsor his No. 48 for one event at Iowa.
The former Hendrick Motorsports driver competed in 12 of 16 IndyCar races last season, starting no higher than 21st on the grid. He posted his season-best 17th place finishes in the final two races. Johnson participated in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program in October, but rain ended the session early.
Johnson isn’t the only NASCAR-IndyCar crossover driver. Other racers like John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and AJ Allmendinger have competed in events in both series. By completing the Indy 500, considered one of the biggest and best spectacles in racing, Johnson will become the first Daytona 500 winner to run in an Indy 500 since Mario Andretti in 1994, according to Yahoo Sports.
“I can’t wait to be part of the Indianapolis 500, it’s a childhood dream come true,” Johnson said in a statement to the IndyStar. “Last season was so incredible for me and I made a lot of progress, so I know I can be competitive on tracks that I have experience on.”
This story was originally published December 15, 2021 9:43 AM.