AVONDALE, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR retirement and IndyCar trial lasted all of two seasons.

The seven-time NASCAR champion is returning to the series set to become a world motorsports star in 2023 as a part-owner of Petty GMs. It will also enter five cup competitions.

Johnson told The Associated Press that the first race will be the two-time winner’s season-opening Daytona 500.

“I looked closely at the ownership department and what was happening at NASCAR, and the opportunity here, the business structure and model with the NASCAR charter is very different from anything else in motorsports,” Johnson said. A.P. “I want to be a part of it. We saw what the Trackhouse Racing guys did when he joined Michael Jordan, and there are all these rumors of people wanting to get into the sport.”

“I’m honored and grateful to be a part of this.”

His car number and sponsors — and possibly the current Petty GMs name — are all works in progress for Johnson, who turns 47 in September.

On his bucket list is the Coca-Cola 600, a race he’s won four times, and NASCAR would like to qualify him for the 2023 All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina.

Johnson also said he wanted to do “The Double” with the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 on the same day, but Chip Ganassi is on hold as he reshapes the organization Johnson left after two seasons. However, even if the Indy 500 ride is real, the All-Star Race conflicts with the Indy 500 standard. And, it’s now part of the Chevrolet team, which in theory prevents it from competing with Honda’s team Ganassi.

Johnson made his Indy 500 debut in May and although he did well on IndyCar ovals – he skipped them the first season – the road and street courses were a struggle and he admitted to being burnt out by the end of the season. He He said he was coming back from full-time racing and was looking at a bucket list of about 10 events. Possibly including the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a NASCAR representative.

When it came to that decision to leave in late September, Johnson said he had no idea what he wanted to do next.

It took Johnson six weeks to return to NASCAR through negotiations with a management company shared by Johnson and Eric Jones, the Petty GMs driver he inherited.

Johnson said he had no discussions with Hendrick Motorsports about ownership opportunities when the GMS deal was combined with Blue. He warned Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon of his plans. Johnson spent 20 years driving for Hendrick, winning 83 Cup races in 48 Chevrolets.

“This is a great day for our sport. Jimmy is one of the greatest champions of racing of all time, and I know he will apply the same mentality to his role as a team owner,” Hendrick said in a statement. His name on the roof of the Chevrolet at the Daytona 500 will be very special to many people. It will be a change and a big challenge, but we welcome his return to NASCAR and look forward to the next chapter of a truly remarkable career.

Johnson’s seven championships ties him with Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, both Hall of Famers. He made the announcement Friday with GMS founder Maury Gallagher at Phoenix Raceway, where he will retire from NASCAR after the conclusion of the 2020 season. Hendrick Motorsports’ torch was passed that day when Chase Elliott won the title – Johnson finished fifth among the non-franchise competitors – and Johnson began chasing his IndyCar dream. He hasn’t raced in NASCAR since the 2020 finals.

Now he wants to get back in and a big piece of the action. He met Petty GMs, Gallagher, chairman of Allegiant Air, and a two-car team fronted by Petty.

Jones gave “The King” his 200th win in the famous No. 43 car in September, and before that deal was made, the team decided to dump Ty Dillon for the firebrand Noah Gragson next season.

The speed with which the deal was completed was a surprise to Gallagher and Johnson, and Gallagher told the AP that Johnson, like Brad Keselowski, bought a stake in the team at RFK Racing and would not be the main driver.

Gallagher told the AP “I’m more of a background guy. I would like Jimmy and Richard to be the face of the company, helping with the economics and operations is a huge bonus.

GMS has grown over the course of a decade from a track series team to Richard Petty Motorsports and the first-year Cup organization that bought the 85-year-old Hall of Fame name. Although Jones was a contender and winner at Darlington, he did not qualify for the final and Gallagher GMs said he was overshadowed by Justin Marks, who owns Trackhouse Racing in his second season with Ross Chastain as a driver in Sunday’s championship race.

AP Head Racing: And

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