Avondale, Arizona. On Friday, Jimmie Johnson became the owner of a NASCAR team, but it wasn’t the first time he’d been given the opportunity to get involved with the Cup.
Had he chosen this path earlier, the seven-time Cup Series champion thinks he could have worked alongside Jeff Gordon in managing Hendrick Motorsports.
During the first rounds of one of Rick Hendrick’s contract extensions, Johnson said that the team’s owner had floated the idea of a “lifetime” deal similar to Gordon moving into the role of chief operating officer of Hendrick Motorsports after becoming a minority partner in the team. during his career.
“Rick said, ‘Look, I’m willing to get creative if that’s what you want,’ and I just didn’t know what I wanted,” Johnson told NBC Sports after his Friday press conference at Phoenix Raceway to announce the his new role in Petty GMS Racing. “Dude, the old system just didn’t make sense and I decided not to take responsibility for the team. And then when charters came along, I thought maybe I should have done it.
“You look at where the cost of a charter is right now and you think, ‘Damn it! But you should have had a crystal ball.
Since the introduction in 2016, purchase prices in the charter system, which established a guaranteed value for 36 Cup teams in the de facto franchise system, have mushroomed. They were reportedly selling for $3-5 million apiece four years ago. Now, with NASCAR on the cusp of a new TV rights deal in 2025 and the charter contract due to be renewed next year, which could mean a restructuring with increased team revenue, the current charter rate is now estimated at $20-$30. million
Johnson said it changed his view of NASCAR team equity.
“Mine and many others,” he said. “There is a race of interested buyers who want to get into the sport and be a part of it.”
But his change of heart about becoming a team owner is more than just a transaction.
Over the past two IndyCar seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson unexpectedly appreciated and became fascinated with the business side of racing. His business team helped close many of the sponsorship deals that got him into IndyCar (supported by Carvana). while team owner Chip Ganassi pulled back the curtain on how to finance and manage a racing team.
“For the past two and two and a half years, I have had a different role and my office has had a different role,” Johnson said. “I’m surprised how much I really enjoy the business side of this business. So I think it’s part of the evolution for me. I think the possibilities have also changed.
“Of course it makes more sense with the charter system and who knows where these new negotiations and revenue sharing will go. But a lot is moving in the right direction. A new car for a team like the Petty GMS helped them in the end, and this is obviously the main goal of NASCAR. I still think there is a lot of work to be done to really achieve the goal that NASCAR has set and that (team owners) would like to see.
“But it’s moving in that direction, and then you have a valuable charter system. Logically, it makes more sense in combination with my type of ownership that I have owned for the last couple of years. Because it wasn’t on my radar before.”
As Johnson embarks on an unexpected chapter in his storied career, here are some burning questions (and analysis) about the seven-time Cup Series champion’s return to NASCAR next season:
Q: After choosing the races he will serve, what will be Johnson’s first job at Petty GMS?
BUT: Since “it benefits the team in so many ways”, the first hurdle will be integrating his sponsorship portfolio into NASCAR.
The next step for Johnson will be to figure out where he fits in the Petty GMS organizational hierarchy. Although the team uses two cars, it is a relatively lean management structure with team president Mike Beam, competition director Joey Cohen, and crew chiefs Dave Elenz and Chad Norris making major competitive decisions. Beam said Johnson would be able to make an immediate and major impact on Petty GMS, which was created 11 months ago and won its first win since Eric Jones on the South 500.
Johnson is also credited as a mentor to 20-year-old teammates Jones and Noah Gragsonbut he also won’t have their Next Gen car experience.
While he may be seeking their advice on the track, Johnson said he could probably offer Petty GMS and its drivers the most help with public image and sponsorship.
“There are a lot of things in business where I need to be helpful,” Johnson said. “One area that I feel very comfortable and confident in is operations and competition. The team did an amazing job. Mike Beam and Joey Cohen won with a brand new team in Year 1. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on there and I’m just going to sit back and watch these guys do their thing.”
But he’s also looking to a future as a talent scout to recruit potential clients for a team that also races trucks and has ambitions to expand into other series.
“I have never worn this hat before,” Johnson said. “Now I have to start watching support races with different eyes. I really haven’t thought about it yet.”
Question: How often will Johnson attend races solely as a team owner?
BUT: Outside of the selected races he will compete in, Johnson will not appear at the track on a weekly basis. After a full season of IndyCar, in which he often felt pulled in too many directions, he is trying to spend more time at home with his wife and two daughters.
He also lives about an hour from the team’s store in Statesville, North Carolina and plans to commute to work regularly.
“I think I’m trying to achieve work-life balance,” he said. “At first, I feel like I will be more efficient at home, and probably within a week I can do more than just stand on the race track. So everything will be determined by itself and then we’ll see.
“I am not one of those who sit still. I must say that I probably don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into and I mean it in a very positive way. I know this is my home and the industry I grew up in and I know that all my knowledge, resources and contacts apply to this industry. So I’m in the right place for this. But I just don’t know how long it will take. I think it’s really a big unknown.”
Q: Will the name of the team change due to the new co-owner?
BUT: While Maury Gallagher remains the team’s primary owner, with seven-time champion Richard Petty as chairman, it will likely be rebranded to reflect Johnson’s addition. With the tumultuous deal closed in less than two months, there was no time to decide on a new moniker, but Johnson’s Petty GMS debut at the 2023 Daytona 500 seemed like the perfect time to open up.
“If you have good ideas, we need to deal with a lot of names,” Johnson said with a laugh. “We will find a solution. I don’t know what it is, but definitely being a stakeholder on the team is something we’re working on. Again, it all happened so fast that we don’t know where it’s going to go yet.”
Question: Will Johnson eventually become the main owner of the team?
BUT: Gallagher and Petty have said they intend to hand over the reins to Johnson in the future.
“From my point of view, this is a big, big step not only for one year, but I look further into the future,” Petty said. “If Jimmy comes in and fulfills his deal, I am 85 years old, so I won’t be here for another 15 or 20 years and then Jimmy can take over. “
Johnson protested when asked if this was his plan. “Long term, I just don’t know what it looks like,” he said. “We’ve literally had weeks of this happening and I know I have a lot to learn on the possession side.”
Q: Will the team switch to Hendrick Motorsports engines and an alliance with Johnson’s former team?
BUT: Petty GMS gets its engines from Richard Childress Racing but the deal has been pushed back to next season. Hendrick is the Cup’s other Chevrolet engine supplier, and Johnson said he wants to explore options with his former Cup team (for whom he drove from 2002 to 2020).
“It seems very logical,” he said. “Where she goes, I don’t know. The team already has a relationship with RCR and there’s a lot to think about here, but if I can help it’s part of my involvement with this team, be it a tech alliance, building a relationship with a manufacturer, helping bring new staff into the store, because I there. That’s why Maury was so interested.
“This is definitely the option we will use. Sitting here in November, I have no idea how this will pan out. I hope to move the conversation to the relationship that I have, if that improves our position at GM. I feel like in the position I’m taking on, I need to use all the resources I have to help this team grow and take it to the next level.”
Q: How well did Johnson know Petty GMS owner Maury Gallagher?
BUT: Prior to recent talks, Johnson had not met his new business partner in person, but noted the success GMS Racing has achieved by winning truck series and ARCA championships.
“I saw his drivers get out of the trucks and speak so highly of Maury,” Johnson said. “I have always respected him, although I have not had the opportunity to shake his hand or get to know him better. He always made that impression on others by doing the right thing and being committed to the program. Actually runs like a family racing team. All of this is true as I continue to learn about him, spend time with him and understand his vision of where he wants to be in a short period of time.”
Johnson mentioned that there were other opportunities to get…