Jimmie Johnson ‘pushing behind the scenes’ to race 24 Hours of Le Mans next year

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Jimmie Johnson still is “pushing behind the scenes” on plans to make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in 2023 with the Next Gen Camaro fielded by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports.

The seven-time Cup Series champion said Tuesday morning he “eagerly” is awaiting confirmation of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, which is expected to have an open weekend to allow for crossover to the famous endurance race in France.

“I want to go to Le Mans; it would be an amazing experience to go with Hendrick and Action Express and the way this whole partnership works,” Johnson said. “But I think so much really hinges on the schedule being released to understand if I can, and also from a team standpoint, what drivers would be at the top of their list, so I’m thankful to have had a few conversations with them, and I know that there’s interest. I certainly have a ton of interest to do it. We’re just still waiting for that first domino to fall.

“I feel like the interest is really high on both sides. We haven’t been able to talk anything more formal because the schedule’s not out.”

Since announcing the project in March, team owner Rick Hendrick prominently has mentioned Johnson as a prime candidate for the expected Garage 56 entry at Le Mans next year.

The program will be overseen by Hendrick vice president of motorsports Chad Knaus, and the crew chief for Johnson’s seven Cup titles also attended this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago. The race drew several executives from IMSA, Chevrolet and Hendrick (including Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gordon, who also is on Hendrick’s list of potential drivers) for meetings about the Garage 56 entry, which IMSA president John Doonan told NBC Sports will be approved in January.

Johnson still is firming up his racing schedule for 2023, but he hopes it will include the same lineup as this year – a full IndyCar season and an endurance race schedule in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series. Last month ahead of his Indy 500 debut, Johnson said it probably would be a few months before he would know more about the possible return of sponsor Carvana with his No. 48 Dallara-Honda in IndyCar.

With the premier prototype DPi class being replaced with the new LMDh platform in the rebranded GTP category next year, there is some question about whether there will be enough chassis available for part-time programs such as the No. 48 Ally Cadillac that has been fielded for Johnson by Action Express the past two years.

“I really think it’s schedule-permitting, opportunity-permitting,” Johnson said. “There’s such a shake-up next year within sports car racing, I’m not sure the dust has really settled yet to understand where opportunities might lie. I still think in the next month or two, there’ll be more clarity for myself and a few others out there. Just as this series really comes together and we know cars and seats and opportunities that are out there.”

Johnson quashed a recent report that he might be considering ovals only in IndyCar next year.

“I’m not sure where that has come from; it has not been in any discussions I’ve had or thought processes I’ve had,” said Johnson, who is in his first full IndyCar season after running road and street courses in 2021. “What I’ve been doing has been so much fun and enjoyable. Continue to get better. Certainly hope to do something similar again next year.”

Jimmie Johnson ‘pushing behind the scenes’ to race 24 Hours of Le Mans next year originally appeared on NBCSports.com