Competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona and a potential full-season effort in the FIA World Endurance Championship are among the “bucket list” items for Jimmie Johnson, who has declared his intentions of expanding his racing horizons in 2021.
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who is set to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of this year, was present at this week’s NTT IndyCar Series pre-season test at Circuit of The Americas as a guest of Arrow McLaren SP.
Johnson began his motorsports career in off-road racing before making the transition to stock cars in 1998, where he has since become the most successful driver in the modern era, with 83 NASCAR top-series wins over a 19-year period.
His visit to COTA has been tipped as a precursor to potential one-off IndyCar road course drives next year, potentially with McLaren, which he holds a previous connection with through Fernando Alonso.
“Zak [Brown, McLaren Racing CEO] and I formed a friendship based on the [F1] car swap we did at Bahrain two Novembers ago and we stayed in touch,” Johnson told NBCSports.com.
“I kept in touch through his involvement in NASCAR and his marketing company. When he said he was coming over and invited me, I decided to come out.”
While at COTA, Johnson spoke on his desire for additional racing opportunities, including Le Mans and a potential full-season WEC campaign, as well as a return to the Rolex 24.
Johnson finished 2nd in the race in 2005 at the wheel of a Chevrolet-powered Crawford DP prior to another runner-up finish in 2008 in a GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Riley-Chevrolet DP.
“Sports cars is definitely an option,” Johnson said. “I finished second in the Rolex 24 twice and I’d love to have a chance to go back and stand on the top box. Le Mans has always been on my wish list.”
Johnson told AutoWeek that he could see himself “travel the world” with the WEC, which, along with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, would “probably” be his first focus.
“I could see a situation where the WEC series has an eight-race schedule, and there is a lot of weeks off with an eight-week schedule,” he said.
“I could travel the world, take my family with me, school, experience the world. I could see a neat opportunity there.
“Clearly, IMSA races here in North America, and that would be a lot of fun. Those divisions would be probably my first focus in ’21 or ’22.”
While no definitive plans are in place, Johnson said his past and present connections could help make his bucket list a reality.
Johnson has been a longtime Chevrolet driver in NASCAR, with a works-supported or customer Corvette program having been proposed for as early as the 2020-21 WEC season.
“I’m really open to the point of checking boxes,” he said. “That is what 2021 will be all about in and out of the car. There is a lot I want to do and balance my life with my family.
“At the end of last year when I knew I was done with 38 races a year, I got so excited.
“I have a lot of things I want to try, including IndyCar and sports car racing in 2021, and now I can consider those as my ‘bucket list.’”