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From Italy to Iowa to the simulator and finally to the Finger Lakes, there is no rest for NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. He will be heading to Watkins Glen this weekend for one of the last two scheduled IMSA sports car shows.
He then turned his attention to planning his schedule for 2023, which Johnson hopes will include a spot in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet plan to take the stock car to Le Mans next June in a special Garage 56 class designed to showcase the innovation of NASCAR’s new Next Gen model. The prestigious endurance race is scheduled for June 10-11, or two weeks after the Indianapolis 500.
Johnson wants to be part of the lineup but his participation, he said, depends on the 2023 IndyCar schedule-an indicator that the seven-time NASCAR champion is still planning a third season of open-wheel racing.
Johnson this week pushed for a “behind-the-scenes” push with IndyCar president Jay Frye to make sure the series was not during Le Mans.
“I want to go to Le Mans. But I think it’s too much of a schedule -based release to understand if I can,” Johnson said. “I know that there’s interest. I certainly have a ton of interest to do it. We’re just waiting for your first domino to fall.”
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Johnson, who has driven for Rick Hendrick for nearly two decades, believes he is on the list of candidates at Le Mans.
“I feel, the interest is really high on both sides,” he added. “We can’t talk more formally because there’s no schedule yet.”
With everything in limbo, Johnson turned to the dog days of his current racing schedule. IndyCar rode five consecutive weeks before the two -week break, allowing Johnson to take his wife and two daughters to Italy for a quick vacation.
But the 46-year-old will have to return for a test Monday at Iowa Speedway, a rare oval Johnson has never experienced. He darkens his eyes and sips coffee at a media session this week explaining how his next stop is the simulator to prepare for Six Hours of the Glen this weekend, the third of four IMSA endurance races Johnson has developed. on his schedule in an alliance between Hendrick, Action Express Racing and sponsor Ally.
Johnson missed Twelve Hours of Sebring in March because it clashed with IndyCar’s stop at Texas Motor Speedway, his open-wheel debut in an oval, hence his return to No. 48 Cadillac this weekend is a reunion of teammates Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi.
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He had a brief stint in the chair at Watkins Glen last year and isn’t sure how much he will be used by Chad Knaus, his former NASCAR crew chief and head of the No. 1 IMSA program. 48, on Sunday.
“A six -hour race with three drivers, not a lot of driving time, period,” Johnson said. “I think the time I spend in the car ultimately depends on my speed.”
Johnson doesn’t know what his schedule will look like in 2023 but he hopes it will include another full season of IndyCar and, at the very least, IMSA endurance races.
His return to IndyCar is largely dependent on funding. Johnson found Carvana on his own to back his transition from NASCAR champion to IndyCar rookie, and only ran road and street courses last year. He added ovals this season, and made his Indy 500 debut last month.
Although he was considered a threat to win his first 500, he was eventually destroyed and finished 28th. He continued to struggle on road and street courses, which led to a report dismissed by Johnson that he would only run ovals next year.
“I’m not sure where that came from. It’s not yet in any of the discussions I’ve had or the thought processes I’ve had,” Johnson said. “What I’m doing is so much fun and enjoyable. Keep on improving. I’m definitely looking forward to doing the same thing again next year.”
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Anything he does in 2023 will come down to sponsorship, scheduling and rule changes in 2023 planned for sports car racing. The prototype DPi class will be replaced by a new LMDh class that will make the top IMSA category eligible to dive at Le Mans.
But along with the change the concern is there won’t be enough initial chassis and components for partial-scheduled teams.
“We’re still on stage with IndyCar, sports car or any other idea I have to dive into racing.” It’s usually the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn when the paper starts to move and people are looking for ink. stuff and do it. We’re just early in the cycle, and I’m definitely trying to keep my options open. “