If Jimmie Johnson finds himself in an NTT IndyCar Series entry after retiring from NASCAR, it will bear the name of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Coming off what both hailed as a successful IndyCar test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in July, the driver and team owner have reached a formal agreement where both parties will explore the opportunity to run the seven-time Cup champion in a Honda-powered Dallara DW12 on road and street courses in 2021.
Provided a budget can be secured, Johnson would join CGR’s five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who stands a decent chance of becoming a six-time title winner by the end of the year, to form one of the most successful duos in the sport’s history. Although the team has not confirmed its full lineup for 2021, the return of Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, along with Dixon and Johnson, would push CGR out to four cars for the first time since 2017.
After working with the NASCAR star and getting a feel for his driver and personality, an enthusiastic Ganassi likened Johnson to a legendary NFL quarterback who worked with CGR in the 1990s on behalf of Target.
“You know who he reminds me of? Joe Montana,” Ganassi told RACER. “He has this infectious thing about him. Dixon has it. Montana has it. And Jimmie has it. When you’re around them, they lift you up. You feel like you want to work for them. Its something very few champions and winners have, and he has it. You want guys like him on your team.”
For Johnson, the open acceptance to extend his career at CGR has been revitalizing.
“When I tested Chip’s IndyCar earlier in the year, it only lit the fire more,” Johnson said. “I found that I wanted to do it more than ever before. Scott (Dixon) was just incredible to work with, and in a short time I found out very quickly why Chip and his teams have won 12 IndyCar championships. As part of a natural progression, I wanted to publicly show the alignment with Chip Ganassi Racing to kick the sponsorship program into high gear. The goal is to run the full road and street program and today is a very important first step in accomplishing that goal.”
The next and final step will involve both sides pursuing the budget to make Johnson a CGR IndyCar driver.
“The goal right now is for us to run Jimmie in an IndyCar for at least the next couple of seasons, and we want to show people we’re serious about the program,” Ganassi said. “We felt it was important to get the partnership done and start putting the financial building blocks in place to make this a reality. Jimmie’s record speaks for itself and we feel a championship-level driver of his caliber can only make our team better.”