Petty GMS continues to take as many steps forward in as little time as possible in its quest to be successful in the NASCAR Cup Series, and bringing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson into the ownership fold further is proof of that commitment.
Johnson is not only a part owner in the organization, but will get back behind the wheel for the first time since 2020 with a limited number of starts beginning with the Daytona 500. Perhaps most important, those at Petty GMS now have another resource to tap into with the talent and insight Johnson brings, also there for young drivers Erik Jones and Noah Gragson.
“His work ethic is amazing,” Petty GMS president Mike Beam told RACER about Johnson. “We start early in the morning and [this] morning, we were at breakfast meeting. I like that because Jimmie is way involved in it and that’s exciting for us. He’s going to make us better.
“What I’m excited about is him coming from a culture [of Hendrick Motorsports]; that’s pretty cool. He experienced it and it’s a lot easier to explain it to people when you’ve experienced it, and that’s where he’s at.
“When we first started talking to Jimmie, I knew Rick [Hendrick] had talked to him about [being] the 48 part owner for years, and I read that Justin Marks was talking to Jimmie and stuff like that. It’s very fortunate that Jimmie came to the shop and saw how simple we really were and how we could grow.”
The organization Johnson spent 18 seasons competing for – Hendrick – fielded four cars with hundreds of employees housed on a campus with multiple buildings. On the other hand, Petty GMS has 65 employees working on its two full-time Cup Series teams.
Beam is just fine doing more with less, joking that he doesn’t know what those organizations do with all those people, and it just seems like more headaches. But as Beam said, when it comes to Johnson, he brings a wealth of knowledge about a winning culture.
“Our future is very bright,” Beam said. “I told all the employees at new year’s the only thing that can really work against us is us. We’re about in the same place we were last year waiting on cars, and luckily all our trucks are ready to go.
“We knew our limitations getting going but to win a race was pretty col. Especially the Southern 500. I said that day, exactly that day, it’s been  years since Richard [Petty] won and 28 years since me and Bill [Elliott] had won the Southern 500. That same day. It was Junior’s [Johnson] last Cup win. It was very cool. Very emotional, especially for Richard and Dale [Inman]. I was so happy for them. And all the petty fans, of course.”
Beam and Petty go way back. It was the Petty family who brought Beam back to racing after he quit to work at a tire store after getting married to his wife Nancy in late 1978. Beam worked as an engine tuner alongside Maurice Petty and served as crew chief for Kyle and Richard.
“When we started this deal (Petty GMS) … he said, ‘All I want to do is just run well,’’ Beam said of his friend Richard. “I said, ‘OK, I got it. Us too. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to try to run well, I promise you.’”
Petty’s win came on Sept. 4 1967, while Beam won with Elliott on Sept. 4 1994. Jones pulled off the impressive feat on Sept. 4 of last year.
The latter was the first win for the Petty GMS group in their debut season. Maury Gallagher founded his program in late 2021, intending to field one car before the opportunity to buy the majority of Petty’s operation came to be.
Jones returns to the No. 43 Chevrolet this season. Gragson moves into the series full-time in the No. 42 Chevrolet.
“We’ve got some really good people [and I’m] excited about our future with Jimmie, of course and Noah,” said Beam. “He’s a lot of fun; we enjoy him. I’m excited about our future because this is probably the best we’ve ever been with people – good people, nice people. Everyone gets along and is respectful to each other. We’ve gone through people at GMS who didn’t want to be a team player or believe in what we wanted to do.
“We’ve had two hard winters here. The deal with Petty came together at the last minute, and then this deal with Jimmie. Then throwing another truck in there. Luckily, we’re not going to race (the) ARCA (Menards Series).
“I tell people it’s never a dull moment. We had a lunch at the shop and I said, if you wanted to go somewhere to work and there are no changes, you’re probably not a good fit for this place. They always kid me, ‘Man, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we know we’re going to do something.’ I said, well, stay on the bus. We’ll figure it out.”