Jimmie Johnson has signed a deal to race for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series.
The Associated Press was first to report Wednesday that Johnson is working on finalizing sponsorship for a two-year program to field Johnson in road and street course races in IndyCar. It also could put Johnson in a Ganassi Chevrolet at select NASCAR events, the AP said.
“Ganassi was highly motivated to give me a chance to drive a car to see what I thought and the experience was all that I hoped for and more,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I left a good impression with them where there’s definitely interest on their side and now it’s time to formalize things and get the ball rolling.”
I will be soaking up the next nine weeks of my full time @NASCAR career. I’m sad to see it coming to an end but I’m excited to announce a future partnership with @CGRTeams in @IndyCar. pic.twitter.com/Y4VdVN0UP1
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) September 9, 2020
In a video posted by Johnson, team owner Chip Ganassi said Johnson always said he wanted to drive for his team in IndyCar but “I didn’t realize he was serious about it. Our team couldn’t be happier that Jimmie wants to be here, so we’re looking forward to it.”
There was no confirmation of any races in Chip Ganassi Racing’s Wednesday release that announced “a partnership that will see (Johnson) officially explore the possibility of racing a full road and street course calendar in the NTT IndyCar Series for the 2021 and ’22 seasons.
IndyCar has yet to announce its schedule for next season, but it’s expected by the end of the month. Series officials have said it’s likely to be a 17-race slate similar to the original 2020 schedule, which featured 11 street and road courses.
“As part of a natural progression, I wanted to publicly show the alignment with Chip Ganassi Racing to kick the sponsorship program into high gear,” Johnson said in the release. “The goal is to run the full road and street program, and today is a very important first step in accomplishing that goal.”
On the Dale Jr. Download podcast last month, Johnson said he wanted to run about 15 races in 2021, including at least a dozen IndyCar races on road and street courses (along with potentially a handful of NASCAR, off-road and sports car events).
He also is open to the Indianapolis 500 in 2022 after watching how the aeroscreen safety device has performed this season.
Jimmie Johnson tested July 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in an IndyCar Dallara-Honda for Ganassi (three weeks after an initial test was scrubbed because of a positive COVID-19 test). The seven-time Cup Series champion said the session reignited his passion for wanting to race in IndyCar.
“It only lit the fire more,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I want to do this more than ever before. It was something new, something different. NASCAR has been so good to me. and I am so proud of the success I’ve had. But to try something new, man, this was really cool.”
Today was incredible. Sign me up for more! pic.twitter.com/oz69CimIAp
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 28, 2020
Johnson had been angling for an IndyCar ride since attending the NTT Series’ preseason test at Austin, Texas, He initially was scheduled to test for Arrow McLaren SP at Barber Motorsports Park in April and was fitted for a seat before the session was canceled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said in July that the team remained interested in fielding a car for Johnson even after his test with Ganassi. Arrow McLaren SP managing director Taylor Kiel reaffirmed the point in a media conference call last week.