Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, will make his Legacy Motor Club debut in the upcoming Daytona 500. However, because his team has a non-chartered entry, he is not guaranteed a spot in the race. In this article, we’ll discuss Johnson’s chances of qualifying for the Great American Race and the process for non-chartered drivers to earn their spots.
Johnson’s Return to NASCAR
After spending two seasons in IndyCar, Jimmie Johnson decided to return to NASCAR Cup Series in 2023 as a part-time driver with Petty GMS Motorsports. He also became a co-owner of the team, which was rebranded as Legacy Motor Club. Johnson retired from Cup Series competition after 20 seasons, all with Hendrick Motorsports, following the 2020 season. But his return is almost complete, with the 47-year-old set to be back behind the wheel for Daytona 500 qualifying on February 15 and one of the two Bluegreen Vacations Duels qualifying races on February 16.
Non-Chartered Entries in the Daytona 500
Johnson’s chance of qualifying for the Daytona 500 is uncertain because of the non-chartered entry of his team. Of the 42 cars on the entry list, only 36 have chartered entries and are locked into the season opener. The race officials have capped the field at 40 cars, so only four of the six drivers who are behind the wheel of non-chartered entries will be able to qualify for the race.The other drivers set to drive non-chartered cars in an attempt to qualify for the Great American Race are Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Conor Daly, Austin Hill, and Travis Pastrana.
Qualifying Process for Non-Chartered Drivers
Non-chartered drivers must go through a different qualifying process to earn their spots in the Daytona 500. The first step is the single-car qualifying session, where each driver has one timed lap to determine their starting position. The two fastest drivers among the drivers of non-chartered cars in the single-car qualifying session lock into the race.
The remaining four drivers must compete in the two Bluegreen Vacations Duels qualifying races, which are 150-mile races consisting of 60 laps. The driver who finishes highest among the drivers of non-chartered entries in each Duel race also locks in their spot in the Daytona 500.
If a driver qualifies for the Daytona 500 utilizing both methods, then one of their spots goes to the next fastest driver of a non-chartered car during the single-car qualifying session, not necessarily the next highest finisher among the drivers of non-chartered cars in that driver’s Duel race.
Jimmie Johnson has a chance to qualify for the Daytona 500, but his team’s non-chartered entry makes it uncertain. He will have to rely on his team’s performance in the single-car qualifying session and the Bluegreen Vacations Duels qualifying races to earn his spot in the Great American Race. We’ll have to wait and see if Johnson and Legacy Motor Club can secure their place in the season opener.