RACING

Jimmie Johnson’s racing future is uncertain on many levels

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  • With only two races remaining this NTT IndyCar season, the question arises as to where Jimmie Johnson goes from here, or even if he will even be back next season.
  • Johnson turns 47 on Sept. 17, six days after this year’s IndyCar season wraps up at Laguna Seca.
  • Johnson is 20th in the IndyCar standings with two races remaining.

    In his second season in the NTT IndyCar Series and first full campaign competing in all races on the circuit, Jimmie Johnson showed gradual improvement from his rookie year.

    But with just two races to go this season, the question of where Johnson is coming from – whether he will even be back next season – remains uncertain on many levels.

    First, the simple part: Johnson turns 47 on September 17, six days after this year’s IndyCar season wraps up at Laguna Seca. He remains one of the oldest full-time drivers in the series (Helio Castroneves is 47).

    Everything else after that isn’t as easy to figure out. The end of the IndyCar season is less than three weeks away, but team owner Chip Ganassi has yet to sign the former seven-time NASCAR Cup champion to a contract extension for 2023 and potentially beyond.

    Even Johnson seems a bit surprised that he hasn’t signed a new contract yet.

    “We’re still working to get our program in place,” Johnson said ahead of last weekend’s IndyCar race near St. Louis. “I would love to get updates. I like to get things done pretty early in a season. I don’t know.”

    While Johnson has recorded the best five results of his brief IndyCar career this season – fifth at Iowa2 last month, sixth at Texas in March, 11th at Iowa1 last month, 14th on Saturday at St. Louis and 16th on last month at Mid-Ohio—it’s unclear if he’ll return for a second full season in 2023 or if he’ll eventually return to a part-time roster like he did in 2021 (12 starts in 16 races).

    106th edition of the Indianapolis 500

    Helio Castroneves is 20th in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings.

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    “In my mind, I’m living more of a full season,” Johnson said. “That will definitely always be the goal at this point.”

    But there are two other, even bigger issues that could stand in the way of a new deal first.

    First, how will Alex Palou’s situation, including Ganassi’s current lawsuit against Palou and his management team, end up? If Palou manages to redeem himself from the option year of his contract with CGR in 2023 to race for McLaren, which is racing CGR’s No. 10 Honda for title sponsor NTT Data (which happens to be the title sponsor of the series) ?

    And then there’s what might be the biggest issue of all: the status of Carvana, the title sponsor of Johnson’s #48 car.

    The Tempe, Arizona-based company’s stock price has fallen over the past year, dropping around 90% in value from its all-time high of $370.10 per share on August 10, 2021. , at Monday’s closing price of $35.96.

    With those kinds of losses, can Carvana still afford another year of a high-priced IndyCar sponsorship program — fetched $10 million this season, according to Sports Business Journal — going forward next season? To be fair, Carvana didn’t announce his sponsorship of Johnson for the full season until Dec. 15, 2021.

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    Jimmie Johnson is still looking for his first IndyCar podium.

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    When Automatic week contacted both Johnson representatives, as well as Chip Ganassi Racing on Monday, the only response we received was a statement from the team: “We currently have no announcements or updates planned, but we will be sure to let you know as soon as possible. like we do.”

    Johnson sits No. 20 in the IndyCar standings with two races remaining: Sept. 4 at Portland and the season finale Sept. 11 at Laguna Seca. That’s an improvement in the standings from where he was last season (26th, despite only competing in 12 of the year’s 16 races).

    Johnson has totally immersed himself in the IndyCar world and experience, surprisingly even taking a chance at his former racing series.

    “What I really appreciate about the IndyCar series and the culture here, the people of the sport, its promoters, its drivers, its teams, everyone generally wants to grow the sport and do whatever they can to develop it,” Johnson said. . “I didn’t feel like my last years in NASCAR were like this.

    “I felt like there was a lot of finger pointing, not participating in the growth of the sport, more rock throwing than anything else, pointing fingers that hurt it. Here, it feels like everyone is trying to develop the sport and do it right.

    Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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