Handful of drivers, teams set to complete St. Pete to Sebring double

Photo: Scuderia Corsa
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SEBRING, Fla. – Last week, the Verizon IndyCar Series season kicked off at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Tomorrow, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

And there’s a handful of drivers and teams who will be competing in both races, as they’ll have their sports car races tomorrow after running in either IndyCar or Pirelli World Challenge last weekend.

To wit, here’s the four IndyCar drivers now competing at Sebring tomorrow:

  • Spencer Pigot, finished 14th at St. Pete, starts fifth in P in No. 55 Mazda Prototype
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, finished third at St. Pete, startes sixth in P in No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP
  • Scott Dixon, finished seventh at St. Pete, starts fourth in GTLM in No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
  • Sebastien Bourdais, finished 21st at St. Pete, starts ninth in GTLM in No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT

Also, Hunter-Reay, Dixon and Bourdais all tested Tuesday in their IndyCars at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Meanwhile here’s the two World Challenge drivers competing at Sebring:

  • Kyle Marcelli, finished 11th twice, starts fourth in PC in No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09
  • Patrick Long, finished seventh and fourth, starts 18th in GTD in No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams runs its two Ford GTs tomorrow, and BMW Team RLL runs its two BMW M6 GTLMs. BMW has the GTLM pole and second place spots on the grid in GTLM; Ganassi’s two Fords line up fourth and ninth in class.

Scuderia Corsa, which ran a World Challenge GTA class entry and won twice with Martin Fuentes at St. Petersburg, has both a GTLM and GTD variant of the new Ferrari 488 this weekend. The GTLM – the 488 GTE – rolls off third in class courtesy of a flier from Daniel Serra, while the GTD – the 488 GT3 – has the class pole in the hands of Jeff Segal.

Flying Lizard Motorsports is also coming off a hectic stretch. They have a technical and marketing partnership with K-PAX Racing in World Challenge and three McLaren 650S GT3s. In IMSA, they have a partnership with Krohn Racing to field a “Krohn Green” No. 45 Audi R8 LMS ultra, which starts 19th in GTD.

A handful of drivers have pulled double duty this weekend between the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge races, and additionally, Pro Mazda race one winner from St. Pete, Pato O’Ward, raced in the Mazda Prototype Lites races this weekend. He finished second and fourth in these two races at Sebring.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”