It isn’t a permanent goodbye, but there will be significantly less of a presence by Jimmie Johnson moving forward in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Johnson, 47, announced his full-time farewell from North America’s premier open-wheel championship on Monday.
After an illustrious career in NASCAR that featured two Daytona 500 victories and a record-tying seven Cup Series championships, Johnson made the initial leap into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2021 with a part-time campaign consisting of road and street events as the driver of the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The addition of ovals bolstered his effort to full-time status this year, with the fireworks coming early as he charged to a sixth-place finish – his first career top 10 – in the XPEL 375 in March at Texas Motor Speedway. He went on to qualify 12th and lead two laps in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May, which was followed by career-best fifth-place result in the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 oval race in July at Iowa Speedway.
“There were a lot of lessons learned, but I think what I've noticed I did the most was ... we all have default mechanisms in our minds and how we operate and what we do,” Johnson said. “Throughout my Cup career, being able to handle and manage high-pressure situations, I always defaulted to this calm place and just approached the challenge in front of me with a realistic mindset. I found myself multiple times in the Indy car and throughout the last two years with all these new experiences using that same default. I'm thankful I have that in me.
“I maybe didn't recognize it as much in the Cup Series just because I was so busy and occupied with life and what was going on. Now, at a different point in life looking at this experience differently than what I did then, I've been more aware of this default that I have and it kind of makes me smile and laugh the way I've been able to just stay within my own head.
“And I've even said this as I raced for NASCAR championships, I always put blinders on and just focused on my world, and I found myself doing that again here in INDYCAR. I think it's just served me well and it's just in my DNA and why I am who I am.”
Johnson also shared thoughts on what impression he left for those following his journey into making 29 starts so far in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
“Carvana came up with this tagline of 'no finish lines,' and I feel that most people want to believe that's reality, and most people would like to challenge themselves and maybe start a second career or pivot in life and try something new and different, but it's tough to do. And I've found through these last two years how many fans, even how many other racers, identify with what I have done and want to do that in their lives.
“So, hopefully through this I've been able to show that, sure, I'm competitive, sure, I want to race and do well, but at the same time, I was willing to get uncomfortable. I can sit here and say that I've had the most amazing two years, even though I wasn't winning races and even though I qualified at the back of the field at all these road and street courses, I was still having the time of my life. You can pivot and get uncomfortable and still have an amazing experience doing so.”
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, Johnson is open to several options, which includes the possibility of another partial season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES or even vying to complete “The Double” that features running the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.
“I'm kind of running out of specific events that are bucket list races and truthfully, that's kind of what led to my decision to not come back full time,” Johnson said. “Just looking at it through that lens, I've had that amazing opportunity in INDYCAR, but I still am open to tracks that are important to me, to races that are important to me and doing it with people and teams that are important to me.
“So, if something develops with Chip and it's a mixed bag of road and street courses and some ovals, I'm open to it. I'm open to just 'The Double' or the '500' alone. You know, I really do have a clean sheet of paper in front of myself right now and eager to see what meaningful opportunities develop and make sense.”