Though one-off events are possible, including the Indianapolis 500, Jimmie Johnson has decided to focus on his family.
September 9th, 2022.
Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press posted a brief, yet important 84-second video on her Twitter, @JennaFryer.
A question of uncertainty had been answered.
Jimmie Johnson confirmed Carvana’s return.
Jimmie Johnson says Carvana has agreed to back whatever racing he does in 2023 pic.twitter.com/DAcATwm9c7
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) September 9, 2022
It was a moment that followers of motorsports had been waiting for. A sigh of relief that the seven-time NASCAR champion would not be riding off into the sunset.
At the same time, Jimmie Johnson announced that the Arizona-based car retailer would be sponsoring him personally and not strictly limiting Johnson’s endeavors.
The key phrase being: “…whatever path I choose to have…”
Johnson told Fryer:
“(Carvana) see(s) such a high value in being a part of the IndyCar Series, cars that I’m driving, series I’m involved with, that ultimately, whatever path I choose to have in ’23, they’ll support me.”
While the video gave fans a sense of assurance from a sponsorship perspective, it brought to light a new question of uncertainty surrounding Jimmie Johnson and his future as an automobile racing athlete.
The main question being:
Will Jimmie Johnson return to the IndyCar Series for the 2023 campaign?
We received that answer 17 days later.
Through the 8th episode of Carvana Racing’s YouTube series, Johnson made his plans loud and clear:
He will be stepping away from full-time competition entirely.
Hearing this, the initial reaction is one of sadness. Sentiments showcased throughout the motorsports landscape:
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) September 26, 2022
I wish it wasn’t so! A highlight of my career to work along side you mate. Looking forward to seeing what you do next! 💪🏻🐐 https://t.co/KpeLRYuXeY
— Scott Dixon (@scottdixon9) September 26, 2022
A shame to see @JimmieJohnson step back from fulltime racing. Had shown some big steps forward in Indycar this year but totally understandable that he’s taken the decision he has. Unquestionably one of the greatest racers of his generation.
— Will Buxton (@wbuxtonofficial) September 26, 2022
While I am happy for Johnson at the end of the day, a sadness reigns over in the sense that the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion may never see his true potential as an IndyCar competitor realized. While his statistics have showcased him as the furthest from a bust, the feeling is that there is still more for him to accomplish as a full-time competitor in IndyCar.
In a 2021 interview with Graham Bensinger, Johnson discussed what led him to pursue his lifelong dream of driving an IndyCar.
“Being in an open-wheel car, a high downforce car, just blew my mind when I had the chance to drive (the McLaren-Renault Formula 1 car at the Bahrain International Circuit in November of 2018)…got me thinking about driving open-wheel cars…the experience of a single-seater was where I found my energy to pursue (major league open-wheel racing)”
With the biggest smile on his face, Johnson said that he was “…all about it” when asked if it would continue past 2022. The viewer can watch the interview and feel that aforementioned energy as if it were passed on directly to them.
For a professional athlete, the transition from one form of competition to another is a journey. Some journeys prove more successful than others.
The world of motorsports is no exception.
One could look at the smoother transitions from when Nigel Mansell jumped from Formula 1 to IndyCar and made history in 1993. When Jacques Villeneuve went to Formula 1 and Williams upon capturing some of IndyCar’s most coveted prizes. Tony Stewart’s transition from the IRL to NASCAR, and Scott McLaughlin’s transition from Supercars to IndyCars.
Other transitions have not necessarily posted results of peaches and cream, but have showcased the willingness to take the steps toward automobile racing greatness.
Examples of this included Sebastien Bourdais’s transition from Newman/Haas in Champ Car to Toro Rosso in Formula One. Danica Patrick’s transition from the IndyCar Series to the NASCAR Cup Series. The same is said for Jimmie Johnson as he made the transition from one form of competition to another.
The feeling is that there was still more for him to accomplish in IndyCar, especially when he’s still considered hot property.
At the end of the day, this was Jimmie’s decision. What gives one the right to stand in the way of his happiness? It is with hope, that the history books do not shine upon his lone full-time IndyCar campaign as a failure because it was the furthest thing from it.