AP Exclusive: Jimmie Johnson to retire full-time race | National sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is retiring from full-time racing and will focus on spending time with his family.

He calculates his future schedule will not include more than 10 bucket list events, but the 47-year-old had no idea on Monday what it will look like in 2023.

Johnson told The Associated Press he was thrilled to report “I have a blank sheet of paper, and now we can see what opportunities exist and start creating a timeline.” Carvana has previously told Johnson that he would support any races he pursues.

Johnson took two weeks from the IndyCar final – with a weekend spent in England with Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti at the Goodwood Revival – before finalizing his decision to cut back. He told the AP he didn’t really need time to think about his future.

“It’s been an interesting process to feel so satisfied with the experience and then try to come to a decision,” Johnson said. “In the grand scheme of things, there is so much life planning with children. We always had the idea of ​​trying to live abroad for a year or two. We love Colorado and want to spend more time there, and there are so many personal and professional whirlwinds that I just wanted to take some time and make the decision not on the back of a positive or negative experience on the tour .

So what is Johnson, who retired from NASCAR in 2020thinking?

LE MANS

The 24 Hours of Le Mans would be is part of the NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports “Garage 56” special entry. Johnson said from the start that he wanted to be part of the three-driver lineup at Le Mans, even though it is an exhibition for the Next Gen and the car will be alone in its class.

He was waiting for the 2023 IndyCar schedule to see if he would even be available, but will make sure his schedule is clear if NASCAR wants its future Hall of Famer on the draft.

INDYCAR

Johnson certainly won’t be returning for a second full IndyCar season with Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s only raced street and road courses in 2021, added ovals to race the entire 2022 season and isn’t even sure he’ll race in IndyCar at all.

“We fully support Jimmie. He’s been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to keep working together, we’d love to,” said team owner Ganassi, who told AP he would love to roll. four cars full time. that Johnson has decided against driving a full season in No. 48, Ganassi is looking to keep this entry on track.

Johnson struggled on street and road courses for two seasons, with his best performances on ovals – the discipline he dominated for nearly two decades in NASCAR. He finished fifth in IndyCar at Iowa, and although he eventually crashed on his Indianapolis 500 debut, Johnson clocked laps over 240 mph in a dazzling qualifying performance.

“I have the desire to go back, it’s just at this point, I know what it takes to do a full program, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion I need to commit to a full season.”

BIG IDEA

Johnson has said since retiring from NASCAR in 2020 that he would race in the series again at the right opportunity, and now plans to do “The Double” – the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt the 1,100-mile two-state odyssey in 2014. Busch lost 200 miles before completing it when his engine failed in the closer NASCAR. Tony Stewart, who has attempted both races twice, is the only driver to complete the 1,100 miles. John Andretti and Robby Gordon both made attempts before Busch.

Johnson would like to try: He’s won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway four times, including three straight wins from 2003 to 2005.

“You know me and endurance sports, and doubles sounds awesome,” Johnson told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who did the double. I’d say it’s more about respect than a bucket list item, and I’d like to put some energy into this idea and see if I can pull it off.

Other NASCAR events that caught his attention? Next year’s inaugural race on the streets of downtown Chicago and the All-Star race in North Wilkesboro. Johnson noted that as a former winner, he earned a bye for both the All-Star race and the exhibition season-opening Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. However, 2022 NASCAR rules state that a driver must be racing full-time to compete in the Star Race.

WHAT ELSE?

The future of sports car racing is an unknown for Johnson after this weekend’s season-ending IMSA Petit Le Mans. He has spent the past two seasons racing the endurance races in a joint venture with Hendrick and Action Express, but does not expect sufficient inventory next year when IMSA adopts new cars for the project. of Johnson continues.

He told AP he would consider racing in a lower IMSA category, such as LMP2, and is even curious about the six-race World Endurance Championship. But the WEC series intrigues him because of its exotic locations – Monza, Italy, Fuji Speedway in Japan, Bahrain – and the love of international travel he shares with his wife and two young daughters.

He and Chani Johnson have explored enrolling their daughters in school in England or France for a year for the experience, and as a hands-on father, Johnson plays an active role in shuttling his daughters to and from their full program of sports and activities. . Chani Johnson is also a successful art gallery owner and is looking to expand her business.

“Chani has always supported me to the nth degree and also at the same time had his goals, his desires and continued his journey and his career. I think she’s being cautious optimistically, I’m following that plan,” Johnson told AP. But those decisions are based on family needs and requests, and I think it gets tricky and a bit more complicated in my schedule if we can get some traction on traveling and living abroad.

“But these are decisions that will be made in the coming months. And so I go into what I would say with no regrets. I look back and have definitely learned from what happened, good and bad. But I don’t have a pit in my stomach about something left unfinished, nor any regrets I might have. ___

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