Chip Ganassi Racing aspires to continue with four full-time entries in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Looking to 2023, its No. 8 Honda for Marcus Ericsson, No. 9 entry for Scott Dixon, and the No. 10 currently driven by Alex Palou are locked into place, leaving the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson as the only puzzle to solve for the defending series champions.
With a range of questions to answer on whether Johnson wants to continue as a full-time driver, drop down to an oval-only campaign, return in May as a one-off for the Indy 500, or step away completely after the season ends in less than two weeks, the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion’s desires are driving the fate of the No. 48 entry.
“We want to continue to run four, so we’re working on that,” CGR managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “Jimmie is still trying to create a plan going forward, so we certainly support him fully with what he wants to do. But in spite of all of that, we want to run four cars. There’s really an advantage to running more cars, and the way that you separate yourself from your competition is to have more information available for the race.
“I think we’ll continue with four for that very reason. We successfully did five at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a car for Tony Kanaan, and when you look at the amount of time that you have on the racetrack and the practice, the cloud of information you generate is essential to successfully running your program.”
Confirming the budget for the No. 48 car though its current or new sponsors is another item to be resolved, but Hull is confident the relationship with Johnson will move forward.
“I really think he wants to continue, and he’s a great asset to the sport,” he said. “And a bigger asset for Chip Ganassi Racing in the way that he approaches solving problems. That’s unique. He’s the type of talent you don’t want to let go of because it only detracts from the team.”
If, by chance, CGR downsizes to three full-season cars, the rival Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports team will be on the phone to Honda Performance Development to try and secure the No. 48’s former engine lease to place a third entry in the field.
Johnson heads into this weekend’s race in Portland holding 20th in the drivers’ championship and seeking to improve upon his best road course finish of his career, which came earlier this year at Mid-Ohio where he placed 16th. To date, the 46-year-old’s top IndyCar result was delivered in July where he raced to fifth at the closer to the doubleheader Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend on the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway oval.