Jimmie Johnson targets Le Mans 24 Hours with Cadillac, AXR

Johnson, who has three times finished as runner-up in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, says that he’s “eagerly awaiting” the 2023 IndyCar schedule to see what is and isn’t feasible, given that the centenary Le Mans 24hr race will be held 10-11 June next year.

With GM having chosen Action Express Racing to run one of the new Cadillac LMDh cars next year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and at Le Mans, Johnson is eager to take advantage of his connections within the team. The #48 Ally Racing Cadillac, seen in IMSA’s Michelin Endurance Cups rounds, is a part-time Action Express Racing entry, that it runs alongside its full-time #31 Whelen Engineering entry.

Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud and Mike Rockenfeller finished runners-up at last year’s Rolex 24, and the Johnson/Kobayashi/Pagenaud trio went on to take seventh at Sebring 12 Hours, fifth at Watkins Glen 6 Hours, and fourth at Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.

This year Rockenfeller has taken over from Pagenaud (now with Meyer Shank Racing), but Rolex 24 fourth man Jose Maria Lopez had to become third man at Sebring as Johnson’s commitment to Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda at Texas Motor Speedway took priority. It paid off when he scored sixth on his IndyCar oval debut.

But it is those types of sportscar/IndyCar date clashes for 2023 that Johnson is eager to learn about as soon as possible before getting his hopes up.

“I’m still eagerly awaiting the [IndyCar] schedule,” he said today, while looking ahead to his second IMSA outing of the year, this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. “I’m pushing behind the scenes to Jay Frye (IndyCar president) and others to try to understand what the schedule might be.

“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. But I think so much hinges on the schedule being released to understand if I can, and from the 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 waiting for that first domino to fall… I feel like the interest is really high on both sides.”

Regarding his IMSA commitments for 2023, those potential schedule clashes are one topic for Johnson to consider, as is whether there will even be an ‘extra’ Cadillac LMDh car available for endurance rounds.

“I really think it’s schedule permitting and then the opportunity permitting,” said Johnson. “There’s such a shakeup next year within sports car racing, I’m not sure the dust is really settled yet to understand where opportunities might lie.

“I think in the next month or two there will be more clarity for myself and for a few others out there as well as the series really comes together and cars and seats and opportunities are out there.”

Asked if it’s a case of car availability, he replied: “That’s definitely a big player in it.”

On the subject of his bond with principal sponsor Ally, Johnson described it as “rock solid.”

He continued: “We’re still in this phase – whether it’s IndyCar or sportscar or any other ideas I have to go racing – people are just starting to talk about options. It’s usually end of summer, beginning of fall when paper starts moving around and people are looking to ink stuff and get it done.

“So, we’re early in the cycle and I’m certainly trying to keep my options open, and I know I have Ally’s support on and off the track whatever I choose to do. I certainly hope it involves more on-track.”

Johnson also confirmed that he intends for his 2023 season to include a full season in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“What I’ve been doing has been so much fun and enjoyable,” he said. “I continue to get better and certainly hope to do something similar next year.”

Cadillac LMDh prototype for 2023

Photo by: Cadillac Communications

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