When Jimmie Johnson climbs into the No. 84 Chevrolet on Sunday, May 28, it will be the first time at an intermediate track since the 2020 season. This will not be an ideal scenario for the seven-time Cup Series champion as he takes on the Coca-Cola 600 without any practice time in the Next Gen car.
As Johnson explained during a media session on May 27, he has some issues with the current testing rules in NASCAR. He acknowledged that he is “under-prepared” for his third start of the season as rain washed out practice and qualifying sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was also unable to get any testing time away from the track.
“It is sad to me that in today’s world, we can’t go test to get ready for a race,” Johnson said. “And then a practice and qualifying session rains out and you get zero track time, you have to depend on the simulator.
“We’re very low on the totem pole with resources and sim time — I get 30 laps of sim time to get ready for a race. It’s a 600-mile race and we’ll make the best of it. But just logically, as I think through how big our sport is, how big this race is, how big the opportunity is — it’s just crazy that I can’t get properly prepared for this race.”
Johnson Has Previous Success at CMS in Different Car Eras
Make no mistake, this will not be Johnson’s first start at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has extensive experience at the Concord track and a considerable amount of success. His eight wins are evidence of this fact.
The problem for Johnson is that all of this experience was in previous generations of the Cup Series car. He has no traditional oval experience in the Next Gen car.
Johnson had practice time at Daytona International Speedway, but this was for a race with a different package. He then took on Circuit of the Americas with the new short track package, and he headed to the garage on the first lap after getting collected in a multi-car incident.
When Johnson decided to get back into the Cup Series car, he had multiple reasons. One was to pursue bucket list events in which he could compete while having fun.
The other reason was to help Legacy Motor Club grow as an organization. This is why he signed up for races at Circuit of the Americas and the streets of Chicago.
With no track time before the green flag waves to start the Coca-Cola 600, Johnson will not be able to compare notes with Noah Gragson or Erik Jones before one of the biggest races on the schedule. Instead, he will have to work on gaining his own knowledge about the track throughout the Crown Jewel race.
Legacy MC Will Have Different Options in 2024
The NASCAR testing rules are unlikely to change in the near future, but there will be some other changes that could benefit Legacy MC ahead of and during the 2024 Cup Series season.
Once the new year begins, Legacy MC will move over to the Toyota Racing Development family. The organization will join Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing as the only ones running Toyota entries in the Cup Series.
Toyota Racing Development has the smallest lineup in the Cup Series, which could benefit Legacy MC. There could be more opportunities for sim sessions, which would only help Johnson, Jones, and Gragson prepare for key events on the schedule.